Understanding Investments

Course No. 5724
Professor Connel Fullenkamp, Ph.D.
Duke University
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Course No. 5724
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What Will You Learn?

  • Learn the basics of how the stock market works.
  • Discover the key characteristics of bull and bear markets - and how to make money in both.
  • Explore stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, and more, and learn when and how to use these key financial instruments.
  • Learn how to work with a financial advisor to develop your personal investment plan.
  • Examine the ins and outs of online investing.
  • Apply important strategies for managing diversification and risk in your portfolio.

Course Overview

What are your most important financial goals? Sending your kids to college? Buying a new home? Retiring early? Having the freedom to not worry about whether you can afford to buy a new car or go on vacation? It's your financial resources that are the determining factor in how you're able to answer these and a host of other questions. And few things are as important in determining just what those financial resources are as your understanding of where and how to invest.

Investing, and the skills to succeed at it, play critical roles in building and maintaining your financial resources. And investment opportunities are available to everyone. No matter where on your financial timeline you may be—whether you're just starting out, approaching retirement, or somewhere in between—there is no question that improving and enhancing your investment skills can have a positive impact on your financial life and in turn, your life goals.

Understanding Investments helps you do just that. In 24 lectures, it introduces the fundamentals of investing to those new to the subject while broadening and deepening the knowledge of more experienced investors. Taught by Professor Connel Fullenkamp, an award-winning educator from Duke University who regularly consults in the world of international finance, these lectures clearly explain the various kinds of financial markets, the different kinds of investments available to you, and the pros and cons of each. Even more important: The course shows you how to evaluate each of these in terms of your own financial situation.

Essential Knowledge for Newcomers and Experienced Investors

If you're a newcomer to investing, Understanding Investments will give you the confidence—and specific tools—to

  • get your feet wet in the investment world and begin building your investment portfolio, even if you have to start small;
  • better understand the recommendations and advice of more experienced investors and financial advisors;
  • develop your own personal investment plan; and
  • move toward realizing your plan's goals with as little anxiety and fear as possible.

And if you happen to be that more experienced investor, this course will

  • introduce you to some advanced investment strategies and opportunities;
  • show you how to stay on top of your portfolio, and
  • adjust its direction as economic conditions—or your own plans—change.

In addition to making you a more knowledgeable and confident investor, Understanding Investments will also help you make sense of the financial news that makes up an increasing share of what you read in our newspapers, watch on television, or discover on the Internet. And it will also help you better grasp the financial condition and performance of the company at which you work, which can be invaluable in making key career decisions.

Using case studies, actual trading examples, and visual aids—including charts, graphs, and even the step-by-step construction of a simple financial planning spreadsheet—Professor Fullenkamp makes every point clear, so that no previous knowledge of the subject is required. You'll learn how the world of money works in plain English, with the only insider jargon being the specific terms you need to know in order to safely navigate the investment marketplace and understand what is being offered to you.

Learn How to Invest with Confidence and Success

In Understanding Investments, you learn the essential information every investor needs to know, including

  • the basics of the stock market;
  • investment options like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, as well as other instruments like exchange-traded funds (or "ETFs") that go beyond these standard choices;
  • how to read and understand stock quotes and indexes;
  • tools and simple calculation techniques for researching companies you may be considering as potential investments;
  • the ins and outs of online investing;
  • what dividends and stock splits are really meant to accomplish;
  • the characteristics of bull and bear markets;
  • the importance of regularly reassessing your financial goals;
  • the management of diversification and risk, including the keys to avoiding the most common ways in which these two key factors are commonly misunderstood; and
  • the importance of a well-thought-out plan for continuing to invest after retirement.

In addition, Professor Fullenkamp makes a point of discussing some of the latest findings in behavioral economics so you can grasp the psychological forces investors face in various investment situations. These forces may well be helping to drive any decisions you make, and understanding their presence is an important defense against being driven in the wrong direction, even to the point of inadvertently sabotaging your investments.

For example, we've all seen the fortunes made by those lucky enough to be in on the initial public offerings—or IPOs—of companies that went on to become enormous successes. And most of us would plead guilty to dreaming of getting in on the ground floor of the next startup that goes on to become a Coca-Cola or an Apple or a Microsoft.

But if you ever have the opportunity to invest in a startup, you'll be grateful for the tools Professor Fullenkamp gives you to wade through the complexities and psychological hazards. He shows you how to objectively evaluate a startup, determine its possibilities for success, and decide—with as little emotion as possible, and with full awareness of what psychological forces might be at play—whether it warrants a place in your portfolio.

Invest with Minimal Fear and Maximum Confidence

You'll be using the same skills this course has been designed to give you when you evaluate any investment opportunity—skills that will allow you to invest with as little fear and as much confidence as possible. And, as your professor notes, that's the whole idea.

"Because investing looks complicated and risky, most people don't feel well-prepared to make investment decisions,"Professor Fullenkamp says. "And when we don't feel prepared to make decisions, we put them off, if we can. And it's so easy to put off investing decisions, because there's no real deadline.

"But putting off investing is one of the biggest mistakes that people make with their personal finances. It turns time, which can be one of your best allies, into your worst enemy."

By showing you a way around this mistake, Understanding Investments can be, long before you ever stride into that financial marketplace, the smartest investment you make.

Please note: This course is not intended to provide explicit financial or investment advice. All investments involve risk: Past performance does not guarantee future success. You acknowledge that any reliance on any information from the materials contained in this course shall be at your own risk.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    How to Stop Worrying and Start Investing
    In this introduction to investing, learn some of investing’s fundamental ideas and the basic impediments that can interfere with sound investment decisions. Also, learn that there are ways to protect yourself, and that the path to becoming a sound investor is available to anyone willing to learn. x
  • 2
    How Investors Make Money
    Can anyone actually beat the performance of the stock market? Grasp what the Efficient Market Hypothesis and the debate over its validity can reveal about the answer—and how your own opinion can shape your investment strategy. x
  • 3
    Starting with Stocks
    Learn why stocks, though often not the best place for a newcomer to begin investing, can be the best means of learning about investing. Explore key ideas like dealers vs. brokers, the different kinds of buy-or-sell orders, and what stocks really are. x
  • 4
    The Basics of Bonds
    In this first lecture about bonds—with the focus on a “buy-and-hold” strategy—grasp the variety of available bonds and the features most important to an investor: who issued them, whether they are secured, and the timing of payments. You also learn how to “ladder” your holdings for a consistent income stream. x
  • 5
    Introduction to Mutual Funds
    Mutual funds are one of several types of so-called “pooled investments,” which allow small investors to hold securities they perhaps couldn’t afford individually. Explore how these pooled investments work, with the focus on the most popular type, the open-end mutual fund, and learn what to look for in a summary prospectus. x
  • 6
    What Are Exchange-Traded Funds?
    Learn how this relatively new option for investors differs from mutual funds and about the advantages they may have over mutual funds for those making investments outside of tax-advantaged plans such as 401(k)s. You also learn what depository receipts are, and the key role they play in ETFs. x
  • 7
    Financial Statement Analysis
    In the first of three lectures introducing standard tools for analyzing and selecting stocks and other possible investments, learn how to read a typical financial statement. Grasp the meaning of concepts like income statements and balance sheets, and learn what they can tell you about a company’s strengths and weaknesses. x
  • 8
    P/E Ratios and the Method of Comparables
    Your skills broaden as you gain an additional tool for drilling down into a company to evaluate its investment potential. This lecture introduces the concept of valuation models, beginning with the popular Method of Comparables, which uses ratios like price-to-earnings, or P/E, to value stocks. x
  • 9
    Fundamentals-Based Analysis of Stocks
    Add another stock-pricing model to your toolbox—the Dividend Discount Model. You learn that such fundamentals-based models rest on two ideas: that an investment’s price should depend only on what it will pay you, and that future cash is worth less than present cash. x
  • 10
    Startup Companies and IPOs
    The glamour of initial public offerings can obscure their realities. This lecture explains how most IPOs are done, the “Dutch auction” method that is sometimes used instead, and what you need to know if you get the opportunity to participate in an IPO. x
  • 11
    Why Should You Care about Dividends?
    Interpreted correctly, dividends can be an extremely revealing indicator of a company’s value. Explore not only dividends, but several other ways by which companies can reward their shareholders, including preferred stock, dividend reinvestment programs, and stock splits. x
  • 12
    Using Leverage
    Although using leverage—borrowing a portion of the purchase price of an investment—can offer tempting rewards, the level of risk can be high. Explore how leverage works as you learn about margin requirements, short sales, and how leverage impacts both potential profits and potential losses. x
  • 13
    Choosing Bonds
    Gain the analytical tools to intelligently navigate the wide ocean of choices faced by anyone contemplating an investment in bonds. This lecture guides you through the three critical issues that can help shape your selection: default risk, inflation protection, and how your earnings may be taxed. x
  • 14
    Bond School
    Although bonds are often part of a buy-and-hold investment strategy, they can also be as actively traded as stocks, with just as great a risk. This lecture explains the descriptive terms, jargon, pricing, price-yield relationships, and standard practices you can encounter in the potentially confusing marketplace for bonds. x
  • 15
    Picking Mutual Funds
    Today’s marketplace contains an amazing variety of mutual funds from which to choose. You can navigate this often-bewildering array of choices with confidence as you learn the key categories of differentiating them, including assets, goals, balance of growth vs. value, and diversification. x
  • 16
    Investing in Foreign Assets
    With about $80 trillion of investment opportunities outside the United States, foreign investment can be a tempting option. Learn how the rules for diversifying into these investments are changing, and what you need to know to help ensure that your foreign investment decisions are as sound as possible. x
  • 17
    Options Are for Everyone
    Explore the world of stock and index options and how you can put them to work for you at very low or even zero risk. Learn about call options, put options, strike prices, and how to use the return-enhancing technique known as the covered call strategy. x
  • 18
    Real Estate and Commodities
    Do real estate and commodities belong in your portfolio? And if they do, what are the best instruments for putting them there? This lecture offers a realistic view of these questions, including a look at real estate investment trusts, or REITs, and commodity-focused ETFs. x
  • 19
    Cycles and Market Timing
    What role should three key cycles—price cycles in financial markets, the business cycle, and the interest rate or credit cycle—play in your investment decisions? Learn how these cycles work and the best way to protect yourself against their fluctuations. x
  • 20
    Deciding When to Sell
    Selling an investment—whether a winner or loser—can be emotionally difficult. In addition to learning why this is so, grasp the different reasons that selling is often the right decision, and learn some techniques that can help offset emotional influences. x
  • 21
    Risk, Return, and Diversification
    The cliché is that high risk brings the potential of high returns. But you learn in this insightful lecture that the cliché isn’t true as you explore the two ways risks are classified and the very different expectation of potential rewards that come with each. x
  • 22
    Time Value of Money
    In addition to understanding some basic ideas, you need some key skills for smart investing. This lecture teaches you how to perform the simple calculations that will enable you to compare returns across different investments, project their future value, and estimate a reasonable price to pay for them. x
  • 23
    Financial Planning
    Zero in on the whole point of investing: reaching a particular goal or goals you’ve decided on. This lecture uses the calculating tools you’ve already learned to show you how to plan for your retirement, but its techniques can be applied to any financial goal you set for yourself. x
  • 24
    Taking Charge of Your Investments
    Now that you understand the many investment products out there, it’s time for practical decision making about turning your financial planning into financial reality. Grasp how to shape your investment choices to match your retirement plans and how to turn those investments into income for living expenses when you do reach retirement. x

Lecture Titles

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What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
Soundtrack Download Includes:
  • Ability to download 24 audio lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 224-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 224-page course synopsis
  • Photos, tables & charts
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Connel Fullenkamp

About Your Professor

Connel Fullenkamp, Ph.D.
Duke University
Professor Connel Fullenkamp is Professor of the Practice and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Economics at Duke University. He teaches financial economics courses, such as corporate finance, as well as core courses, such as economic principles. In addition to teaching, he serves as a consultant for the Duke Center for International Development. Prior to joining the Duke faculty in 1999, Professor...
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Reviews

Understanding Investments is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 155.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Emphasizes traditional mathematical approach Prof Fullenkamp offers a good perspective of the available kinds of investing - stocks, bonds, options, etc. - including the application of mathematics to choosing specific investments. Most investors (above 90%, in one recent report), for better or worse, do no use these methods. Instead, they employ 'modern portfolio theory,' finding the 'right balance' of asset classes and rarely doing any kind of predictive mathematics on individual equities. But, I have to say, I really enjoyed Prof F's intro to the traditional math, even if I'm not likely to try it out.
Date published: 2019-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative knowledge The instructor seems to be very careful not to mislead you, and very knowledgeable.
Date published: 2019-10-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too difficult for me, as a novice Very good, but requires concentration; I could not bike in the mountains & focus on it at the same time; so I only listened to 7 lectures
Date published: 2019-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learn the Basics & You Get Inspired to Learn More This a great course that Dr. Fullenkamp is adept at instructing. I learned a great deal- the goal of such a course.
Date published: 2019-08-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Comprehensive for beginners; lots of useful info. Definitely worth the price paid. Lots of math & formulas to work through. Good background info to help understand financial markets and products. Confirmed or corrected info I had acquired previously. Having the book and video is a great combination for re-checking data. Encouraged and empowered to work with my financial planner, after viewing. Only problems were skips in the final DVD. Instructor seemed more relaxed and motivated in last DVD. Overall, good job.
Date published: 2019-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good video. Very easy to understand. A good resource for the investor especially if you are new at it.
Date published: 2019-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Overview of Investments This course would be great benefit to the beginning investor since every type of investment is covered. The presenter goes into detail of each type of asset and it's proper place in a portfolio. I am a seasoned investor and even learned a few things about ETFs that I was not aware of, i.e. the tax advantages over mutual funds. This course would benefit the beginning investor the most but as I mentioned, there is something there for the experienced investor. Disclaimer, I bought this on sale and was worth the price I paid ($40 or $50).
Date published: 2019-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course to help understand investments I think many people are like me and wonder about investment opportunities they are missing out on. This course helps me understand the ones that fit my risk profile, the time l am willing to spend and the investments that, while rewarding, are too complicated for typical investors like me.
Date published: 2019-05-23
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