Mississippi State studies investment perceptions of stocks versus trees


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Posted: 3/11/2002


When it comes to investments, most Mississippi landowners feel more secure with their money in wood chips rather than blue chips.

A recent survey by Mississippi State University's Forest and Wildlife Research Center and Social Science Research Center asked landowners about their acceptable rates of return for stocks, bonds and other financial instruments compared to trees planted as an investment.

More than 800 individuals who own at least 20 acres of land and have harvested timber during the last five years were interviewed.

"Landowners were asked the lowest rates of return they considered acceptable for three non-forestry investments and for trees planted for harvest after five, 15 and 25-years," said Steve Bullard, project investigator and professor of forest economics. "Of the 829 interviewed, only 98 believed forestry investments were more risky than non-forestry investments."

Funded by the Mississippi Forestry Commission, the survey indicated that the majority of landowners in Mississippi find forest investments lasting at least 15 years to be competitive with the returns they receive from stocks, bonds and mutual funds. The landowners surveyed indicated that the overall average rate of return considered acceptable for stocks, bonds and mutual funds is 10.8 percent.

In comparison, their acceptable average rates for forest investments before adjusting for inflation are 8 percent for five years, 11.3 percent for 15 years, and 13.1 percent for 25 years.

The survey indicated that five-year forest investments have lower minimum rates of return than stocks, bonds or mutual funds, while the 25-year return rate of 13.1 percent is higher.

"Our study shows that shorter-term forestry investments are preferred by the state's landowners--a reflection of the greater risk and uncertainty involved with long time periods," Bullard said. "The study also clearly showed, however, that landowners consider non-commercial benefits of forests in their investment decisions. "

Many invest in reforestation because of their desire to be good stewards of the land while earning a competitive return on investment, he added.