Understanding Investments

Take control of your financial destiny with this comprehensive and easy-to-understand guide to the basics of investing taught by a professor of Economics.
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Learn how to invest with skill and confidence to attain your financial goals with the 24 timely and informative lectures of Understanding Investments. Economist and Professor Connel Fullenkamp explains the fundamentals of investing to those new to the subject while broadening and deepening the knowledge of more experienced investors. He clearly explains the various kinds of financial markets, the different kinds of investments available to you, and the pros and cons of each-and shows you how to evaluate each of these in terms of your own financial situation and goals.


Connel Fullenkamp
Connel Fullenkamp

I love that the The Great Courses gives me a chance I wouldn't otherwise have to teach people who love to learn. I really enjoy the challenge of putting together courses that are engaging and useful!


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 Fullenkamp was a faculty member in the Department of Finance within the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame. Originally from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Professor Fullenkamp earned his undergraduate degree in Economics from Michigan State University. In addition to receiving the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, he was named one of the university's Alumni Distinguished Scholars. He earned his master's and doctorate degrees in Economics from Harvard University, where he was also awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Professor Fullenkamp's areas of interest include financial market development and regulation, economic policy, and immigrant remittances. His work has appeared in a number of prestigious academic journals, including the Review of Economic Dynamics, The Cato Journal, and the Journal of Banking and Finance. He also does consulting work for the IMF Institute at the International Monetary Fund, training government officials around the world. He is a member of the IMF Institute's finance team, whose purpose is to train central bankers and other officials in financial market regulation, focusing on derivatives and other new financial instruments. In recognition of his teaching excellence, Professor Fullenkamp has received Duke University's Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award as well as the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business Outstanding Teacher Award. Along with Sunil Sharma, Professor Fullenkamp won the third annual ICFR-Financial Times Research Prize for their paper on international financial regulation.

By This Professor

The Economics of Uncertainty
Understanding Investments
Financial Literacy: Finding Your Way in the Financial Markets
Crashes and Crises: Lessons from a History of Financial Disasters
Understanding Investments


How to Stop Worrying and Start Investing

01: 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.

31 min
How Investors Make Money

02: 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.

30 min
Starting with Stocks

03: 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.

28 min
The Basics of Bonds

04: 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.

28 min
Introduction to Mutual Funds

05: 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.

31 min
What Are Exchange-Traded Funds?

06: 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.

30 min
Financial Statement Analysis

07: 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.

29 min
P/E Ratios and the Method of Comparables

08: 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.

31 min
Fundamentals-Based Analysis of Stocks

09: 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.

30 min
Startup Companies and IPOs

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.

30 min
Why Should You Care about Dividends?

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.

29 min
Using Leverage

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.

29 min
Choosing Bonds

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.

29 min
Bond School

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.

30 min
Picking Mutual Funds

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.

29 min
Investing in Foreign Assets

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.

31 min
Options Are for Everyone

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.

28 min
Real Estate and Commodities

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.

29 min
Cycles and Market Timing

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.

29 min
Deciding When to Sell

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.

29 min
Risk, Return, and Diversification

21: Risk, Return, and Diversification

The cliche is that high risk brings the potential of high returns. But you learn in this insightful lecture that the cliche isn't true as you explore the two ways risks are classified and the very different expectation of potential rewards that come with each.

30 min
Time Value of Money

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.

31 min
Financial Planning

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.

28 min
Taking Charge of Your Investments

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.

30 min