What is a stock portfolio?

Discover how a stock portfolio works, plus some key things to consider before you start investing.

If you’re saving for retirement then, chances are, you already have a stock portfolio. It’s an investing term to describe your total wealth from stocks and shares. It could include individual share holdings and investment funds such as ETFs and investment trusts.

What is a stock portfolio?

A stock portfolio is an investing term to describe all your stocks and shares and investment funds.

It’s part of your broader investment portfolio. As well as stocks and shares, your investment portfolio could include all sorts of treasures such as commodities, bonds, cash or investment property. A portfolio is sometimes also known as your investment holdings.

How does an investment portfolio work?

An investment portfolio is a tool to help you grow your future wealth and achieve your financial goals. Your investment will hopefully increase in value and earn you income over time.

Think of your investment portfolio as a bit like a house you are building. Every time you add to your wealth you are building the house and getting a little bit closer to reaching your investment goals.

Your investment portfolio will grow in several ways including the following:

  • Capital growth: this is when your investments increase in value.
  • Dividend income: this is when companies pay shareholders a small slice of their profits.
  • Rental income: you’ll receive this from tenants if you own an investment property. You can reinvest this rental income by paying off the mortgage or buying other investments.
  • Interest: you’ll receive this on cash investments.

How to manage my stock portfolio?

There are loads of different ways to manage your investment portfolio. Here are some of the main options.

  • You can manage your own investment portfolio and research your own investing decisions.
  • You can hire a financial adviser or other financial professional to manage your portfolios on your behalf.
  • You can use a robo-advisor to prepare an automatic portfolio based on your investing preferences.
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Where can I see my stock portfolio?

You can see your portfolio if you log in to your pension provider, share dealing platform or stocks and shares ISA provider. If you have several different investment platforms then it’s a good idea to keep a record of your total investment wealth. This will make it easier when it’s time to complete your tax return or when you need to make investing decisions.

What are the common types of investment?

There are as many different types of investment as you can shake a stick at. These all, taken together, form your total investment portfolio.

Here are some of the most common types:

  • Workplace pension scheme
  • Private pension scheme
  • Stocks and shares ISA
  • Share dealing portfolio
  • Individual share holdings
  • Cash savings
  • Buy to let property

Do I need an investment portfolio?

Yes. You do need some sort of investment portfolio to provide an income in retirement and help you achieve your future financial goals. But what you invest in is up to you. You can build an investment portfolio to suit your needs.

How to build a stock portfolio?

There’s no right way to build a portfolio. The main thing is to get stuck in and start investing.

You can pick individual shares or you can go for investment funds or ETFs. Many investors decide to start with a simple index tracker fund. That means you’ll be invested in the whole stock market rather than in just a few companies. You also won’t have to make any complicated investing decisions as the fund will be invested across a wide range of companies.

Are all portfolios different?

Every investor is different and their investment portfolio and investing strategy can be built to suit their aims and needs.

Short-term investors who are saving up for a house deposit may decide to invest in cash, because they will need the money soon. They don’t have time to wait for the stock market to bounce back from a crash.

Long-term investors may choose to invest heavily in stocks and shares. Shares tend to outperform cash over a long time period, although prices are usually more volatile in the short term.

What to consider when building a stock portfolio

There are a few things to keep in mind when creating a portfolio as each investor is different and has different investing needs. You should think about your tolerance to risk and whether your portfolio is diversified.

Here are some of the things you should consider:

  • Diversification: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket but spread your investments across several companies, sectors, geographies and types of asset. This way you won’t be affected too badly if one company fails.
  • Time horizon: This is the amount of time until you need to access your investment portfolio. If you’re 30 years away from retirement you can probably afford to take more risk than if you’re retiring in a few years.
  • Risk tolerance: This is affected by your time horizon and your attitude to risk. If you’re super worried about losing money in a stock market crash then you may have a lower risk tolerance and decide to invest in fewer stocks and more bonds.
  • Investing principles: Some investors decide to invest in sustainable investments or avoid investing in certain industries or geographies.

What is diversification?

Diversification is when you spread your investment portfolio between lots of different types of stocks and investment assets. For example, you could divide your investment between stocks, bonds, property and commodities.

Diversification is super important because it will lower your investment risk. You’ll be less affected if one company fails or if a particular market sector is performing badly.

It’s also possible to diversify your portfolio within a certain asset class. For example, you could invest 100% in stocks but pick a large range of stocks in different countries and market sectors such as pharmaceuticals, technology and energy.

What is risk tolerance?

Not everyone is a thrill-seeker and everyone has a different risk tolerance. But having some risky investments in your portfolio can be a good thing. In general, risky investments have the potential to grow more over time.

Here are some factors to consider when thinking about your attitude to investing risk:

  • How long is your time horizon? Are you investing for a few years or do you have a long time to wait for your investments to bounce back from a stock market slump.
  • How worried are you about investment volatility? Many investors don’t mind a bit of stock market volatility as long as their investment portfolio grows in the long run. But if you’re a nervous investor you might prefer a larger amount of less risky investments such as cash and bonds.

Which investments are the most risky?

Some investments are more risky than others, but judging the most risky types of investment is difficult as it depends on so many factors. Generally these are considered to be high-risk investments:

  • Smaller companies
  • Crowdfunding or peer-to-peer lending
  • Alternative investments including crypto or NFTs
  • Any non-diversified investments, for example a large shareholding in one company

Why all investment portfolios are different

Zoe Stabler

Finder expert Zoe Stabler answers

The beauty about investment is the amount of choice available. Your investment portfolio will look different to mine and no 2 investment portfolios will be exactly the same.

You can pick investments to suit your circumstances and your attitude to risk and you can shape your investment portfolio to suit your preferences and needs. If you don’t know where to start then take a look at our article on how to pick stocks for beginners.

Bottom line

Starting a stock portfolio is the first step to building your investment wealth. It’s a good idea to sit down and think about your circumstances, when you will need to access your investment and your attitude to risk.

Also consider how you can diversify your portfolio and make sure your investments are spread out across many sectors and geographies. Then it’s time to get down to the fun part: picking your investments.

Frequently asked questions

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Written by


Alice Guy is a Suffolk-based finance writer, a busy mum of 4 older kids and a self-confessed personal finance geek. She trained as a chartered accountant with KPMG London before working for Tesco Plc as a business analyst. She loves to write about budgeting, saving, investing and building wealth. See full bio

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