Below is a simple chart of Investment categories by risk and reward. It is in the shape of a pyramid. With Investments at the top of the pyramid an individual can expect the greatest returns but because of the risk associated with these investments an individual can also experience the greatest risk of loss. Volatility is the key. If you knew exactly when to invest in high risk areas and exactly when to sell, then you should experience the highest returns.
When planning for retirement you should fully fund the tax-deductible and tax-deferred savings plans that are available to you as an individual and through your employer. First on the list should be plans where the employer makes contributions and/or matches your contributions. Next should be any IRA’s that you qualify for. As you climb the investment pyramid, it becomes increasingly important to seek help from an expert.