Suppose that you recently learned that a long-lost relative died and left you a large sum of money. You know little about financial matters, so you consult Mary Jordan, a financial advisor, to help you decide what to do with the funds. She tells you that you have two choices: You can consume it or you can invest it.

Consumption and Investment

In consuming your new fortune, you would spend the money on goods and services, such as a trip around the world, expensive meals, a lavish wardrobe, or any other expenditures that bring about immediate gratification. Consumption expenditures, by definition, are enjoyed immediately and have no future value.

In investing the fortune, you would spend the money on items that provide little in the way of immediate gratification. Rather, they generate returns of additional money at later dates. In essence, investments trade current consumption for more consumption at a later date. Examples include investing in stocks and bonds, real estate, or rare art objects, or simply placing the money in the bank.

Where to Invest?

You decide to invest the money, and with a little direction from Mary, you begin to explore investment alternatives. You find that investments come in a number of different forms, however, and you quickly become overwhelmed, confused, and frustrated. Just as you are about to give up your search and put all your money in the bank, a man by the name of Martin Wagner knocks at ...

Get Financial Accounting: In an Economic Context now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.