Is there a hard threshold? Do high risk investments such as penny stocks qualify as gambling? Do low risk investments? Annuities? Bonds? CDs?

This comment got me wondering.

Is it more to do with the venue? Stock markets and real estate vs casinos and the lottery?

Were the MIT Blackjack Team gambling or investing?

Or Jerry and Marge Selbee?

Is this just another semantic hotdogs are sandwiches discussion or is there an agreed threshold?

  • Admiral Patrick@dubvee.org
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    25 days ago

    Any time you spend money on the chance to make money, it’s gambling, IMO.

    Lottery ticket? Gambling. Buying stock? Gambling. Sports betting? Buying into a poker game? Believe it or not, gambling (which is the only gambling I’ll personally do since the game is still enjoyable even if I lose).

    • fine_sandy_bottom@discuss.tchncs.de
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      23 days ago

      "Gambling " is so meaningless in this context.

      I gamble with my life when I drive to the shops.

      When you put your money in the bank, theres’ a chance you’ll make some interest, there’s a chance you’ll make a little more interest. Does that make it gambling?

    • BombOmOm@lemmy.world
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      25 days ago

      Spreading out stock purchases across the market guarantees returns over the long run.

      Buying one stock is gambling, buying a wide spread of stocks (or an index fund that does so) and holding them for years is investing.

      • ccunning@lemmy.worldOP
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        25 days ago

        I agree in principle, but technically it’s really just very low risk.

        Buying into a total market index fund at 90yo could be considered high risk since it’s not unlikely for the market to go down with no time for you to recover.

        But does that make it gambling?

        • Moneo@lemmy.world
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          25 days ago

          Inflation exists, you’re gambling every day on whether or not your money has the same value tomorrow, or even any value at all. Like you said, this conversation can easily break down into semantics.

        • Num10ck@lemmy.world
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          25 days ago

          diversification is a proven investment strategy to minimize risk versus expected reward. the goal of investing is to try to achieve financial goals while minimizing exposure to losses. gambling generally doesn’t use goals or risk assessment or loss minimizing strategies. but im sure you could come up with definitions that blur this stuff.

        • BombOmOm@lemmy.world
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          25 days ago

          The key phrase is ‘over the long run’ and ‘holding them for years’. That 90yo wants to have long-ago moved their investments into bonds because, as you point out, a stock market downturn may not come back up before they die. Waiting out a downturn takes years and they are drawing down on their investments regularly.

      • rah@feddit.uk
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        25 days ago

        Spreading out stock purchases across the market guarantees returns over the long run.

        No it doesn’t.

        • Steve@communick.news
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          25 days ago

          It really kinda does.
          At least as close as anything can be guaranteed in this world.
          Buying into a broad market index fund (S&P500 or wider) and staying in for decades, will absolutely grow in value faster than inflation.

          The key here is time.
          Anything can go up or down on a daily, monthly, or even yearly basis; The longer your time horizon is, the more all that volatility gets evened out into a steady gentle climb upward. So much so that if you pick any 25 year period over the last 200 years, you won’t find a single instance where the total value of all traded stocks was worth less at the end than at the start.

          Because when you’re investing in the whole market, you’re investing in the whole society itself. And society is always doing everything it can to grow, produce, and consume more. That’s what humans do. Random forces may slow or stop that, for a time; But as long a humanity exists, it will still be true.

          • listless@lemmy.cringecollective.io
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            25 days ago

            At least as close as anything can be guaranteed in this world

            Turns out “close to guaranteed” is in fact, not “guaranteed.”

            So much so that if you pick any 25 year period over the last 200 years, you won’t find a single instance where the total value of the all traded stocks was worth less at the end than at the start.

            Here’s my 25 how did they do:

            • Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.
            • Washington Mutual Inc.
            • General Motors Corporation
            • Enron Corporation
            • WorldCom Inc.
            • CIT Group Inc.
            • Chrysler LLC
            • Thornburg Mortgage Inc.
            • Conseco Inc.
            • MF Global Holdings Ltd.
            • Energy Future Holdings Corp.
            • Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)
            • Toys “R” Us Inc.
            • Sears Holdings Corporation
            • Blockbuster Inc.
            • Eastman Kodak Company
            • American Airlines (AMR Corporation)
            • Frontier Communications Corporation
            • Hertz Global Holdings Inc.
            • JC Penney
            • Peabody Energy Corporation
            • RadioShack Corporation
            • Remington Outdoor Company
            • Pier 1 Imports Inc.
            • Purdue Pharma L.P.

            (hint: they’ve all filed for bankruptcy at some point)

            Again, look at the Nikkei from the 1990’s - that’s an entire index that was flat for 30 years. Hard to put off retirement for 30 years waiting for that index fund to pay off.

            Don’t bother dying on this hill, son, there’s plenty of other, nicer hills to die on.

            • Steve@communick.news
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              25 days ago

              “All traded stocks” isn’t “Any traded stock”.
              It’s all of them collectively.

              Nikkei from the 1990’s - that’s an entire index that was flat for 30 years.

              The 1990’s was only 10 years. And that’s also just Japan, which again isn’t “All Traded Stocks”.

            • Moneo@lemmy.world
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              25 days ago

              I don’t disagree with the general point of, “there’s no guarantee”. But I think you can make an argument that taking the safest course available to you is not gambling.

              When talking about longer time frames you have to account for inflation, holding on to your money instead of investing it is a risk in itself, which makes this entire conversation about semantics.

          • rah@feddit.uk
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            25 days ago

            kinda does

            “Kinda” meaning not actually.

            as close as anything can be guaranteed

            So not guaranteed then.

              • rah@feddit.uk
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                25 days ago

                I’m glad you’ve realised that what you wrote was incorrect.

      • Admiral Patrick@dubvee.org
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        25 days ago

        Lol.

        Buying one lottery ticket is gambling. Buying 1,000 different lottery tickets is investing. Got it.

        • HobbitFoot @thelemmy.club
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          25 days ago

          Unironically yes.

          If you can expect your money back on buying thousands of lottery tickets, you are making an investment.

        • BombOmOm@lemmy.world
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          25 days ago

          Buying enough lottery tickets to guarantee a payout just ensures you lose money as the house always takes a cut. Investing, unlike the lottery, has the benefit of not being a zero sum game. There is wealth generated and buying something like an index fund and holding for years puts you in the group making a profit along with everyone else.

          Example: If you bought VTI (an index fund) just before the 2008 crash (and subsequently lost a bunch of value during the crash), you would still be up 257% today. And that isn’t some outladish example; do the same with the S&P 500 and you are up 279% today. Purchasing for the long term and with a wide array of stocks is investing.

          Edit: And in both of those examples you would be earning dividends the entire time as well, which is not part of the quoted %.

      • dhork@lemmy.world
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        25 days ago

        It’s technically not a guarantee, it is certainly possible for the entire market to take a dump at once. Over the long term – decades – it has been profitable to invest in the US stock market even counting these downturns. Like they say in all the stock prospectuses, though, past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

        Still, I’ll take my chances with the market. At least if it goes to zero, I’ll have a lot of company at the homeless shelter.

          • Habahnow@sh.itjust.works
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            25 days ago

            We can’t know for sure, but its historically been the case. In addition, the expectation for infinite growth stems a lot from continued research and development. We continue to make processes more efficient making products cheaper and easier for more people to buy. You can say that the econmy will stop growing at some point, but we just don’t know when that may happen.

    • tea@lemmy.today
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      25 days ago

      So emojis like this are the internet equivalent of the cockney rhyming slang, innit? I immediately translated that, but someone, in one hundred years with no knowledge of 2020s meme culture will think it’s complete gibberish.

      • Cosmo@lemmy.world
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        25 days ago

        Can confirm. I am from the year 2124, and I do not understand the meaning of this message.

  • Wanderer@lemm.ee
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    25 days ago

    If its fun or get rich quick. Gambling.

    If it’s some boring thing some adviser told you that you are sick of, that you then told your family and they are sick of it. You just going to leave it and forget about it. Then it’s investing.

  • listless@lemmy.cringecollective.io
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    25 days ago

    It becomes gambling when you are going on gut feelings without researching what you’re doing.

    If you have an investment strategy that financial advisors approve of, let’s say investing 70% in a US index fund, 20% bonds and 10% high risk mutual funds that you don’t touch for years or decades, that’s investing.

    If you’re just randomly picking stocks, buying and selling in order to make a quick buck because of some guy screaming at you on television without any real research into a company other than a few google searches, that’s gambling.

    I want to remind everyone that there is no guarantee that the market / index funds continue to go up. It hasn’t happened in the US market, but look at the Nikkei over the last 30 years - if you had invested in the 90s you would only now be getting some of your money back - that is a long time.

    • Habahnow@sh.itjust.works
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      25 days ago

      I feel you have literally picked the single most unique example for markets not going up. You make it seem like the US’s market will need to experience the same thing eventually, and I don’t think most people would agree with that assertion. Japan’s economy is a very strange and unique case.

      • listless@lemmy.cringecollective.io
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        24 days ago

        You make it seem like the US’s market will need to experience the same thing eventually.

        You make it seem like it didn’t already: The US market didn’t reach its 1929 peak again until 1954. 25 years is a long time to hold out on withdrawing your retirement investments.

        Here’s two other modern markets:

        The Athens Stock Exchange had peaks in the 2000’s that haven’t recovered.

        Ukraine’s stock market has ceased operations since the invasion.

        These events are rare, but not unheard of.

    • anon6789@lemmy.world
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      25 days ago

      This is the closest answer to what I’d agree with. It’s a shame the other top comment turned into something of a squabble, because I agree with a lot of what was said there as well.

      Investing always comes with some risk. Buying land or a house is typically considered a safe investment in most of the world. But that house/land can undergo a natural disaster and be ruined. Putting money into anything not insured (FDIC in the US, for example) carries a non-zero percentage of risk.

      At what point does that risk cross over into gambling? I’d say when you exceed your personal risk assessment level. I have what is typically considered a higher risk portfolio. I am in my 40’s, 90+ % invested in stocks, with a definite tilt to growth stocks. I have been in that same position since I started investing at 16 in a Roth IRA. I’ve been through a few financial crisis periods and have always held firm to my belief that in my investing timeframe that my strategy is sound. Never sweated it for a second, even when my balance was small, so as it went negative before I could afford to actively contribute much to building my balance. Now I am very solid into 6 figures, and I only earn average for my state, which is 58k, but that is fairly recent.

      To get the type of growth I feel I need with the pay I get, I went in knowing I would have to assume more risk. So I did a lot of work to understand the safest methods to get that growth in exchange for the volatility that can be involved in that investment approach. I was willing to accept that risk, and I stand by it decades later. If I started playing with riskier fund choices, that’d be gambling. Some mega-big growth funds can be very tempting. But the fees for those funds are guaranteed while the gains are not. So chasing an extra 1 or 2% isn’t worth that added risk to me. Things like options and stock shorting I don’t understand well, so I stay away from them since I don’t understand the associated risks. That stuff is gambling, where you can’t count on yourself to have at least a sensible margin of control over what happens.

      If you are new to investing or feel confused, I always suggest the Boglehead’s Guide to Investing. It’s not trying to sell you anything and explains things in pretty easy to digest terms and tells you how to develop a simple investing strategy that you can stick to and be a relatively hands off investor. It used to be free online, but I think that’s caught up in the Hachette vs Internet Archive lawsuit, so you can check out their Getting Started wiki which is an abbreviated version of the book, plus some new and updated stuff.

  • Steve@communick.news
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    25 days ago

    Short term intent is gambling. Long term is investing.
    If you’re trying to make money today, this week, the next quarter, year. You’re gambling.
    If you buy into something, intending to stay in it for a long time (think years and decades) you’re investing.

    • Takumidesh@lemmy.world
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      25 days ago

      This is a bad outlook, there are plenty of low risk investment strategies that are meant as income generation, and it’s generally what you should switch to as you start needing to cash in on your savings, these are things like laddered tbills and dividend stocks.

      You can go slightly riskier doing things like wheeling options if your tolerance is higher.

      Investment profiles differ for a reason and the term of the investment is just part of the strategy.

      I should add that ‘buy and hold’ does not make something not a gamble.

      If I told you I bought a random crypto currency or penny stock with no future or fundamentals and plan to hold on to it for 10 years because I just know it’s gonna hit big, would you not consider that a gamble?

      • Steve@communick.news
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        25 days ago

        Yes. I’d call that an investment in crypto. A risky investment is still an investment.

        Maybe we just define the terms invest and gamble differently.

        I would say investment is giving your money / time / energy into something with the expectation / belief / hope that eventually in the long run, that thing will become what you want.

        Gambling on the other hand, is putting money / time / energy into something with the expectation / belief / hope that it will eminently get you something you want.

        Either could be high or low risk. They may not pay money out at all.
        You make an investment in teaching your kids to drive, so they will be more independent and capable in the future.
        You make a gamble on teaching your kids to drive, that they won’t get them selves into a wreck tomorrow.

        Gamble = Short term
        Investment = Long term

        • Takumidesh@lemmy.world
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          25 days ago

          But term is all relative, long term means something different for everyone.

          A four week t-bill has the same term as a hugely out of the money long call on a meme stock, and yet one is a tried and true investment strategy and the other is very clearly gambling.

          The difference isn’t the time, it’s the risk profile.

          • Steve@communick.news
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            25 days ago

            That’s what I mean by using different definitions.
            I don’t use the terms gamble or investment exclusively as an evaluation or indication of risk; More as a term of intent.

            While I might not call a four week t-bill a gamble, I certainly wouldn’t call it an investment at all.
            I’d be more inclined to call a savings account an investment; as a savings account can be used for more long term financial planing of one’s future.

  • GingaNinga@lemmy.world
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    25 days ago

    I’d argue investing is gambling with varying degrees of risk depending on what what you are putting your money into. Even if that risk is very low there is always a chance something crazy happens and you lose everything.

    • Takumidesh@lemmy.world
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      25 days ago

      Ultimately it gets to the point of, is the risk higher than the risk of money in a bank account.

      Given that (at least in the us) money sitting in a checking account is 100% risk with guaranteed negative returns (over time inflation will outpace interest), there are investments that can generally be considered safer (bonds, tbills, etc) than just holding dollar bills.

  • r00ty@kbin.life
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    25 days ago

    I’d say that it is always gambling because there is risk involved.

    But I would say that both traditional gambling and investments have the same threshold for problematic behaviour, and that is when you spend more money than you can afford to lose. That is regardless whether you win or not.

    • UPGRAYEDD@lemmy.world
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      25 days ago

      I do t consider bonds or CDs as gambling. They are guaranteed unless the entire financial institution dies, in which case your investment in ammo matters more than money.

      • r00ty@kbin.life
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        25 days ago

        I’d go further than that and say that deciding to leave the house or not, are both gambles.

        But in the context of spending money with the only net result being you lose money, make money or retain the same money with no other goods or services provided in return. Then gambling is the primary attribute of that spend.

        Bookmakers and investments meet that criteria, your other purchases are not.

  • bss03@infosec.pub
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    25 days ago

    IMO: When you do it for the entertainment/feeling/rush, it’s gambling. When you do it for the returns, it is investing. I also think the other poster that mentioned investing as being interested in the success of the endeavor, that would exclude shorting and I think might be a useful distinction.

    Casino games and sports betting all have lower expected value (probabilistic value) than their cost, so they are not something you can do for returns (you have better expected returns by not participating).

    There are plenty of people that are misinformed, dishonest, or stuck finding a bigger fool that will sell you a gamble by calling it an investment, and expected value is not guaranteed value.

    • Moneo@lemmy.world
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      25 days ago

      If you’re talking about stock picking, hard disagree. Emotion has nothing to do with it whether or not it’s gambling.

      If picking stocks was anything but a gamble portfolio managers wouldn’t have such a god awful track record.

      • bss03@infosec.pub
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        24 days ago

        Just because you are wrong about your expected value calculations (or were right but the actual return was on the lower end of the range) and have made a bad investment doesn’t change the fact that it was an investment because you were doing it for the returns.

        In short, performance doesn’t matter for this distinction, at least IMO.

        • Moneo@lemmy.world
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          24 days ago

          You can dress it up in whatever language you want but when nobody is able to consistently beat the market it looks a hell of a lot like gambling.

          • bss03@infosec.pub
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            17 days ago

            The DJIA (e.g.) isn’t “the house”. It isn’t something you are competing with in that your losses are its/their gain. You are misunderstanding both investing (in general and the stock market specifically) and gambling when you make that confusion/analogy.

            Not beating the market but having positive returns is only “losing” when infinite exponential growth is the goal. Beating the market but having negative returns is not “winning”.

  • olafurp@lemmy.world
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    25 days ago

    Well, investing is technically always a gamble including buying assets like a house or gold. A better question would be “When does gambling become investing” and in my opinion that’s when the expected return is positive.

    Expected return for most crypto is negative, some are positive but they’re always a gamble.

    MIT team took an approach that has guaranteed success if played enough times by using math. It’s not gambling, just playing a game.

    Stock markets are always a gamble and investment, but buying index fund stock is less of a gamble than selecting individual stock because it’s less risk.

    Another question to ask is “when does a gamble stop being a gamble?” and that’s broadly when the potential downside is very unlikely. Think buying treasury bonds, housing after housing crash, stocks after stock crash etc.

    People also have very different views on “What is very unlikely to go down” so depending on who you ask stock, crypto and real estate can all be both gamble and not depending on which person is looking at it.

  • pantyhosewimp@lemmynsfw.com
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    25 days ago

    None of the answers I’ve read so far actually answer your question with basic facts.

    When you invest then you are buying a tangible financial instrument: a share of a company or a treasury bill or a municipal bond and so on. There is the expectation that over time, the value of your financial instrument will increase in value but this is not guaranteed. The lack of guarantee is the risk. Some instruments are riskier than others. The level of risk does not define gambling.

    When you walk into a casino and bet money on roulette, what are you buying? You are buying nothing more than a fleeting chance at winning more money. It is entertainment by thrill. There is no tangible thing that you own from gambling.

    Investing is one way that companies can raise capital to expand their business. Business expansion can lead to greater employment and higher standard of living. For investing to work as an economic system there must be liquidity. Someone must be willing to buy your financial instrument later at a higher price or some town must still be collecting taxes to pay back your bond years later.

    Hopefully you can see now why investing is encouraged and supported in society and gambling is either illegal or merely tolerated.

    • LwL@lemmy.world
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      24 days ago

      Shorting, crypto trading, options are all gambling. Long term investments are usually not.

      One is hoping that the price will go a certain way in the short term. The other is giving a company money so they hopefully turn it into more money. that is the difference, nothing to do with casinos.

  • Carrolade@lemmy.world
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    25 days ago

    Neat question. Hotdogs are sandwiches imo.

    That said, some types of investment provide additional advantages over simply appreciating in value. A stock can pay dividends, a house can be lived in, stuff like that. Could probably draw a distinction there. Additionally, some investments are guaranteed, like a savings bond. Could probably draw another there.

    If I had to draw some clean line somewhere, I’d probably try define gambling as situations where you’re not intended to be able to “win money” on average, where investments are. The line is drawn via intention though, not anything quantitative. So, pretty inherently fuzzy.

    • bss03@infosec.pub
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      25 days ago

      Cube theory clearly established that hot dogs are tacos. It’s all based on the location of structural starches.

  • Bear@lemmynsfw.com
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    25 days ago

    There’s no agreed threshold. Everything we do in life requires some risk, like driving a car or using the stairs. Some safe things are bad for you and some risky things are good for you.

  • /home/pineapplelover@lemm.ee
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    25 days ago

    It’s always a gamble. What matters if it’s high risk or low risk. If you put it straight in a bank, I guess you’re gambling the entire economy isn’t going to be in shambles. If you’re gambling in companies, you’re gambling they’re gonna be successful.