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
Video Download 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
Video DVD
CD Soundtrack Includes:
  • Audio tracks are taken directly from the video
  • Your 12 CDs include all 24 lectures of this course
  • 224-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio 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 138.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Makes the seemingly complex simple I've invested for many years through 401k's, mutual funds, etc. but never had a full understanding of what drives the market, the nuances of different products, etc. This course made it all crystal clear and has given me the knowledge and confidence to execute a solid investment and retirement strategy.
Date published: 2018-02-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from three courses I purchased three courses and haven't had a whole lot of free time to dive into them. What I have read and watched have been quite good. The best part is, they're there when I get time to spend with them. So far, I'm quite happy with the courses.
Date published: 2018-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A good basic course for investors I actually purchased this course a year and a half ago, and just this winter got around to it. There is no question this course should be considered by anyone, except the professional and experienced investor, as an excellent starting point for understanding the world of personal investing. Each lecture has been well organized, and excellently presented. There is no question of the expertise of the presenter, as well as the enthusiasm he has for the subject. After some general introductory lectures, he devotes whole lectures to various types and forms of investments; he has the intellectual honesty in telling the pro's and con's of each type of investment instruments as well as his personal preferences. His last lectures help in forming an investment plan, including planning for retirement. The only, and minor, criticism I should interject is that in a late lecture he reflects on IRA's, 401k's, etc., in which he states that they are not taxed until funds withdrawn. However, this tax statement, at least in PA, ignores that income is taxed by the State and local governments the tax year in which earned (i.e. there is no avoiding paying local taxes on income until retirement). But this is a specific case, and obviously one has to consult with any tax expert or preparer. I unhesitatingly recommend this course, for both content and presentation.
Date published: 2018-02-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from larning spanish I bought this and another set and thought I could play it in my car while driving or on my computer when I wanted too. How ever I learned that was not the case and I returned both sets.
Date published: 2018-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great information. Inspiring. Purchased a month ago. Truly enjoying material. Did order more courses, tremendous savings.
Date published: 2018-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it! So much straight-to-the-point information. No advice, no sales.
Date published: 2018-01-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Comprehensive and helpful Professor Fullenkamp gave an excellent overview of investing in the markets. The subtleties of investing would require the investor to dig further and become very familiar with the macro investing scene (company news) as well as the implications of the micro scene investment. For example, his promotion of Covered Call Option investing is the only "safe" recommendation he advances for options. "Put selling" is another relatively safe option, but unmentioned.
Date published: 2018-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Cornell Funellenkamp narration is excellent and his professional advise honest. It’s Value for money.
Date published: 2018-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Finally, a Great Economics Professor! Many years ago, I took various Finance and Economics classes. Now, I am less worried about investing, because this professor presented the material in a clear format with good examples. People who know a lot about investing may not learn as much as I did. Yet, I asked a seasoned investor to watch the lecture about options, and he learned something new! Also, this professor seems like a nice person who is willing to talk with anyone about investments. Some professors in this field think they are better than everybody, but this professor seems both intelligent and down-to-earth at the same time. Thank you for a Great Course!
Date published: 2017-12-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very informative Great lecture series. I listen to the CDs while driving. The one thing that could be improved is a complete printing of the visual materials that are shown in the video version. I expected this to be included in the guide book, but no such luck.
Date published: 2017-12-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A very good overview This course is an excellent attempt to provide the viewer education regarding different investment choices and their pros and cons. After viewing this course, I feel more confident in my investment decisions. The only area where I feel the course is lacking is that more guidance is needed regarding the proportion of stocks vs bonds and domestic vs foreign asset allocation for people in different age groups. But overall a great course and good value for the money.
Date published: 2017-12-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good basic introduction This is a very good introduction to investing. Personally I would have liked a little more in depth coverage of analysis techniques -- but don't let that detract from the fact that this is a good starting point. This is NOT for people who already have a good basic understanding. It IS for people who may be familiar with some areas but not most areas of investment.
Date published: 2017-12-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Dated material and in 4:3 video format I am very disappointed with the program. Investing has changed dramatically in recent years, and the age of the material really diminishes the value of the program to me. The 4:3 video format is also very annoying in today's world of wide-screen LCD's. Unfortunately, I will be returning the program for a refund.
Date published: 2017-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent Tutorial I bought Understanding Investments a month ago and use it as a guide in helping to further my ability to be self-directed with our IRA & 401(k). Although it took me a while to take the leap from fee based money management and convincing the wife to do the same upon her retirement next year (Dec./2018), this course is highly recommended to build a solid foundation and to develop better comprehensive investment skills.
Date published: 2017-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love My Course Love this course. The instructor is excellent. Great improvement on my game. Gave me ideas that I can use.
Date published: 2017-10-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understanding Investments I am an experienced investor, but this course was useful in broadening my knowledge and filling in some gaps. This course is useful for beginners as well as those with considerable experience in the area.
Date published: 2017-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Informative. I do invest in both my IRA and in a broker account. I found this course interesting and informative. The instructor brought out a lot of factors and information which was new to me. He also put others in better perspective for me.
Date published: 2017-10-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very intelligent discussion and easy to follow Half way through and find that I went straight to the options discussion. Really got me up to speed on this tool.
Date published: 2017-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Easy to Understand but Comprehensive I fall asleep trying to read investment books, but Professor Connel Fullenkamp's presentations kept me paying attention. He has a personable style that keeps one engaged even as he covers a range of material in each lecture. I found the depth and breadth of the course sufficient that I feel I can confidently evaluate investment alternatives (stocks, bonds (treasury, corporate, municipal), mutual funds, ETFs, even options). And I feel confident that I can talk to a financial planner intelligently. There is even presentation of a simple spreadsheet that can be used to value investment planning suggestions. This course is a good first investment!
Date published: 2017-07-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well covered all aspects of financial markets. It is my guide for investments.
Date published: 2017-07-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Review of understanding investments I bought this course for my engineering son for his birthday. He is getting into investing and I thought this would be a great introduction. While I am happy with the material, I am disappointed by the price. I bought the course as a gift but two weeks afrer receiving delivery, the Memorial weekend price was dropped by $150. Not very nice customer service.
Date published: 2017-05-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Understanding investment Due to traveling for work, have not had the opportunity to start the program. Look forward to starting when I get home in a few weeks. It looks interesting
Date published: 2017-04-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great course but need a CC(subtitle) It is a very good course for investment. However the video would be much better with the CC(subtitle). If you can make the subtitle file for people to download, it would be very grateful.
Date published: 2017-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Primer Although college educated, I never studied business, finance, or economics in school. For months I had been perusing all sources for a primer on investing since I developed a personal interest in the subject. For the money spent, I found this course to be perfect for review of the topics that I only partially understood, and for educating me about subjects about which I needed to learn more. I acquired new comfort studying financial forms and online corporate data that I never before accessed. I thought the material was well presented and this course was just what I was seeking.
Date published: 2017-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good info for novice Professor Fullenkamp has a pleasant voice and practical teaching style. I'm learning alot and putting things together that I previously couldn't comprehend by just reading various articles I came across. The course has a sensible progression.
Date published: 2017-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thorough review of Investment options I bought this two months ago to increase my comfort in managing my investments. I got everything I paid for. The course does a good job of educating on the basic investment options and then demonstrates how to implement a financial plan. I am adjusting my investment choices because of this course.
Date published: 2017-03-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent intro to investing. As a beginning investor Fullenkamp took each area and explained it to the depth necessary to provide good working knowledge of each area in the lesson plan. I appreciated this depth of exposition as further drilling down requires application of mathematics and what I was looking for was the overview.
Date published: 2017-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love them, instead of watching mindless television!
Date published: 2017-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A lot of good information As a novice and someone who needed help in understanding and who to invest and grow my retirement. This course has been a big help understanding what i need to do and learn. Have not got through all the course's yet as i keep repeating them to understand and take notes.
Date published: 2017-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent print material Book material was very well structured resulting in an intrigue that maintained interest.
Date published: 2017-02-20
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