In general, each investment product will fall into one of four main categories called “asset classes”. Each asset class has different characteristics and level of complexity. Each earns money differently, and has different fees, risks and tax considerations. The pamphlet Investments at a Glance (pdf) provided by Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) provides more detail about the products in each asset class.


Below you will find an outline of the asset classes:

Cash and Cash Equivalents 

These investments are like cash because they are generally safe and give you quick access to your money. They may have relatively low rates of return because they are less risky than other kinds of investments.

Product examples in this asset class:

  • Canada Savings Bonds
  • Treasury-bills (T-bill)
  • Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GIC)

Fixed Income Securities  

Fixed income securities are like a loan – you lend your money to a government or company for a certain period of time and in return they promise to pay you a fixed rate of interest throughout the life of the security.

Product examples in this asset class:

  • Bonds
  • Debentures
  • Mortgage-backed securities (MBS)


When you buy stocks or “equities” you become a part owner in a business. You have certain rights as a shareholder depending on the type of stock or share that you purchase. These can be risky but they can also provide a higher potential return if you are willing and able to take on the higher level of risk.

Product examples in this asset class:

  • Common shares
  • Preferred shares
  • Rights and warrants

Investment Funds 

Investment funds are a collection of investments from one or more asset classes. When you buy an investment fund, you’re pooling your money with many other investors. This allows you to invest in a variety of investments for a relatively low cost and leave the investment decisions to a professional manager.

Product examples in this asset class:

  • Exchange-traded funds,
  • Segregated funds
  • Mutual funds

Alternative Investments 

These are some of the most complicated types of investments. They have higher-than-average risk in return for higher-than-average potential returns. They are typically meant for very knowledgeable or affluent investors who can afford to take higher risk and get specialized advice.  The fees may also be higher because these investments involve more hands-on research and on-going monitoring.

Product examples in this asset class:

  • Hedge funds
  • Trading foreign currencies (FOREX)
  • Options
  • Futures

Downloadable Resources

Introduction to Investments

Read this document to learn about different kinds of investments and how they work.

Investments at a Glance

(CSA) This guide tells you about different kinds of investments and some things to keep in mind when you’re considering an investment.

Learn more about Investing at our Tools & Resource Page

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