How To Invest In Bonds | Bankrate

Bonds are generally considered an all-important component of a diversify investment portfolio. They bring income and diversification to a portfolio, while typically carrying less hazard than stocks. With the right set about, you can get adenine much output as you would typically get from certificates of down payment ( CDs ) or economy accounts ( and often more ), though you may have to endure the fluctuation of adhesiveness prices and some extra risk to do so. here ’ s a look at how bonds work and the different types of bonds that are available. We ’ ll besides go over some utilitarian bond-buying strategies and discuss the pros and cons of investing in bonds .

What is a bond?

Bonds are an agreement between an investor and the bond issuer – a company, government, or government representation – to pay the investor a certain measure of interest over a specified time human body. When the bond matures at the conclusion of the menstruation, the issuer repays the shackle ’ sulfur star to the bondholder. A adhere is one means to finance a business and it ’ s a type of debt security.

The payments on a bind come in two major types – fixed rate and floating rate. On a fixed-rate attachment, the issuer agrees to pay a stipulate total of interest, and that ’ s all an investor can expect to receive. On floating rate bonds, which are less common, the payment adjusts higher or lower in treaty with the prevailing pastime rate. A adhesiveness will typically pay matter to on a regular schedule, much quarterly or semi-annually, though sometimes annually. A bail ’ mho payment is called a coupon, and it will not change except a specified in the terms of the attachment. On a fixed-rate bond, for case, the coupon might be 5 percentage, so the bondholder would earn $ 50 annually for every $ 1,000 in face prize of bonds, a typical cost for a alliance. If the price of the chemical bond goes up, the bondholder even receives only that fixed requital. however, in this case the bond ’ s yield – its coupon divided by the adhesiveness ’ mho price – actually falls. similarly, if the bond ’ south monetary value falls, the bond ’ s concede rises, evening though the coupon remains the like. Unlike stocks, where prices are driven in the long terminus by a ship’s company ’ south growth and profitableness, chemical bond prices are heavily influenced by the apparent motion of sake rates, the bond ’ s time until maturity, the creditworthiness of the borrower and the overall opinion of investors .

How to buy and sell bonds

It ’ s possible to buy bonds directly from the issuer. While that makes sense in some situations, ordinary investors more frequently buy and sell bonds using one of the following methods :

  • Buying individual bonds through a brokerage account: You can buy bonds through most brokers just like you would stocks. Fees vary greatly, though, and navigating all the options can be confusing, with potentially dozens of choices of bonds per company. In addition, you’ll need to analyze the company to be sure that it will be able to pay its bonds.
  • Buying bond mutual funds and ETFs: You don’t need to make decisions about specific bonds to purchase when you buy a bond mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF). Instead, the fund or ETF company chooses them for you and often categorizes them according to their type or duration.
  • Buying bonds directly from the U.S. Treasury: The U.S. federal government allows you to buy Treasury bonds directly through a service called Treasury Direct. This allows you to avoid a middleman and, thus, avoid fees you might normally pay a broker.

ETFs can be a big choice for investors because they allow you to promptly fill gaps if you ’ re trying to diversify your portfolio. For exercise, if you need short-run investment-grade bonds, you can simply buy an exchange traded fund with that exposure. And the same goes for long-dated or medium-term bonds, or whatever you need. You have many options. ETFs besides offer the benefit of diversification through exposure to a mix of bond types, and they normally charge first gear fees and are tax-efficient. Bonds can easily be bought and sold through a broke. You may besides have to pay a commission to a agent, or the agent might make a “ markdown, ” reducing the price to cover the cost of the transaction. If you ’ re looking to cash newspaper government savings bonds, you can redeem them after you ’ ve held the bond for at least 12 months. In that font, they can be redeemed at your local bank. If you sell the alliance or adhesiveness fund for more than your leverage price, you ’ ll owe capital gains taxes on the profit .

Types of bonds

Most bonds purchased by average investors fall into two categories : Bonds issued by governments and those issued by corporations. But government-sponsored agencies such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac besides issue a type of shackle called mortgage-backed securities .


Bonds issued by the U.S. federal government, for example, are referred to as Treasurys. They are considered a relatively low-risk investment. The yield on Treasurys tends to be relatively low, but they ’ re backed by “ the wax religion and credit of the United States, ” meaning that the federal government guarantees them. The U.S. government is considered among the best credit risks in the world, and its bonds, by convention, are considered risk-free, though nothing is ever sincerely risk-free. In contrast, bonds issued by alien governments may be considered less safe but may offer the likely for higher yields .

Savings bonds

The federal government besides issues savings bonds, a kind of bond that allows individuals to save immediately with the government. Savings bonds function differently from standard Treasuries, and they do not pay out the roll up interest until you redeem the alliance .

Municipal bonds

normally referred to as “ munis, ” municipal bonds are a type of government chemical bond issued by state or local anesthetic governments. The independent advantage of munis is that the returns they generate are exempt from union taxes and, in some cases, from state of matter and local taxes excessively .

Corporate bonds

These are bonds issued by large companies, both domestic and alien. They pay a wide scope of concern rates depending on the creditworthiness of the borrower and adulthood. Longer-term bonds typically offer a higher return than short-run bonds. These bonds are normally divided into two categories :

  • Investment-grade bonds are issued by companies that have earned a credit rating of at least triple-B from the credit-rating agencies.
  • High-yield bonds (formerly known as junk bonds) are issued by companies with lower credit ratings, which means they present a higher risk. But in exchange, these bonds also offer a higher yield than their investment grade counterparts.

Mortgage-backed securities

Government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offer a special type of attachment called a mortgage-backed security, or MBS. These companies create bonds whose payments are derived from the mortgages that back them. So an MBS may have tens of thousands of homeowners supporting the requital of the bonds through their monthly home payment. Bonds issued by Fannie and Freddie are not guaranteed by the government, though bonds issued by government means Ginnie Mae ( and by other firms qualified by Ginnie Mae ) are backed by the federal government .

Advantages and disadvantages of bonds

Bonds offer benefits that make them a valuable counterpart to stocks in most investment portfolios. While stocks tend to offer higher returns, bonds offer other advantages :

  • Steady income: Bonds tend to offer relatively predictable returns, including regular interest payments.
  • Diversification: Bonds perform differently as investments than stocks, which helps to reduce the long-term volatility of a portfolio. (Here’s why diversification is valuable.)
  • Lower risk: Bonds generally offer a higher degree of security than stocks, though some bonds are riskier than others.

But those advantages are balanced with the succeed disadvantages :

  • Lower risk, but lower return: The trade-off for less risk is less return. So bonds are typically a “slow and steady” investment, in contrast to stocks.
  • Price depends on interest rates: The short-term price of bonds relies on interest rates, which investors can’t control, and investors generally have to take whatever rates the market offers or get nothing, creating substantial reinvestment risk.
  • Principal not guaranteed: Unlike CDs where principal is guaranteed by the FDIC, a company or government can default on a CD, leaving the investor with nothing.
  • Heavily exposed to inflation: Because bonds pay a fixed return (unless they’re floating-rate bonds), their value can decline precipitously if inflation moves up substantially.

These are a few of the most significant downsides to bonds, but the asset class has performed well in the U.S. over the last few decades as concern rates have continued to fall .

Basics of a bond quote

While stocks normally come in one kind — the common stock — bonds from the lapp company can have many unlike terms, including the interest rate, the maturity and early items called covenants, which may limit how indebted the borrower can become or stipulate other conditions. A shackle quote incorporates some of these items a well as giving you the last trade price. Prices are quoted as a percentage of the bond ’ s full prize ( par value ), which is normally $ 1,000.

Let ’ s spirit at an case from Apple, which has dozens of break bonds outstanding. You can search by issuer to find a list of the ship’s company ’ s bonds, and here ’ s one Apple alliance selected at random :

APPLE INC NOTE CALL MAKE WHOLE 2.85000 % 08/05/2061

The list provides some clue as to the adhesiveness ’ s provisions, and the broker besides provides the bond ’ randomness rate from the credit-rating agencies, the adhere ’ s yield, the bid and ask prices from investors arsenic well as holocene trade prices for the security. A bond quotation mark includes the name of the issuer, here Apple, angstrom well as the coupon on the bond, 2.85 percentage. It includes the maturity date of the chemical bond, August 5, 2061. The “ call make whole ” feature allows the company to redeem the bond early on american samoa long as it pays investors the net show value ( today ’ s rate of the future pastime payments ) of the shackle at maturity. This chemical bond is rated abdominal aortic aneurysm by Moody ’ randomness and AA+ by Standard & Poor ’ sulfur. On the Moody ’ s and S & P scales, the adhere ranks among the highest tiers, making it investment-grade. The rate means that Apple is judged as having very good recognition and that this adhere is considered very safe. A chemical bond ’ south rate is identical authoritative in determining how much sake the company will pay on it. A lower evaluation will cost the company more in interest payments than a higher evaluation, all else equal .

Popular bond-buying strategies

If you ’ rhenium buy bonds for income, then one of your chief concerns is sake rates and where they ’ re going – up, down, or sideways. If rates rise, then the prize of your bonds falls. If rates fall, then the prize of your bonds rises. But bond investors are besides concerned with reinvestment hazard, that is, will they be able to earn an attractive return when their adhere matures ? indeed, bond investors are constantly trying to optimize the current income from their bond portfolio versus the income that they might be able to earn in the future. The postdate strategies are among the most popular :


With this scheme, an investor buy bonds with stagger maturities ( say, bonds that mature in one year, two years, three years, four years, and five years ). then when a bond matures, it ’ south reinvested in a longer maturity at the top of the run. This scheme is utilitarian when you want to minimize reinvestment risk without sacrificing besides much return today. If rates rise in the future, you ’ ll be able to capture some of that rise .


With this strategy, an investor buy short-run bonds and longer-dated bonds but doesn ’ metric ton buy medium-term bonds. This scheme allows the investor to capture the higher yields on long-run bonds while still maintaining some entree to cash with a series of lower-yielding short-run bonds. however, long-dated bonds can fluctuate a bunch if interest rates rise .


In this scheme, the investor buy bonds over a menstruation of time that mature at approximately the same time. For exercise, if you know you have a bad expense in five years, you can buy a five-year bond now, and then a four-year adhesiveness when you have more money next class. In three years, you can add a biennial bond. then at the goal of the original five-year time period, you ’ ll have all the money available at the same time when you need it. In each case, the strategy should reflect your predict needs american samoa well as your expectations about how the market and matter to rates will perform over time .

Are bonds a good investment?

Whether bonds are a good investment depends on several factors, including your risk tolerance, time horizon and investment goals. Bonds tend to be less bad than stocks, but that means they broadly come with lower average returns. That is specially true for U.S. Treasury bonds. In other words, bonds have lower risk, which means less likely honor. however, that doesn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate base bonds are necessarily a bad investment. Bonds besides tend to be less explosive than stocks, which means they can help smooth the ride of a bumpy store market. Stocks have outperformed bonds over time, but if dips in the stock certificate grocery store could cause you to sell your investments, bonds will help make those dips less pronounced on your portfolio overall. last, if you are nearing retirement, it is a good estimate to have a meaning adhere stead in your portfolio. This is because grocery store cycles can last several years. therefore, if the stock market starts to decline and you are close to retirement, your stocks may not have time to recover. That could jeopardize your retirement date, forcing you to work more years than expected. The park wisdom is to add more bonds to your portfolio as you inch closer to retirement. In doing therefore, you reduce your risk over time, locking in a comfortable, financially batten retirement .

Do bonds go up when stocks go down?

bond yields can sometimes increase when stocks go down, but there is no rule saying that must be the case. If this does happen, though, it is normally because the economy is slowing, frankincense increasing the attractiveness of dependable investments like bonds. In summation, a slowing economy much leads to lower concern rates. When sake rates fall, older higher-rate bonds become more valuable. The inverse is besides true : rise interest rates means lower-yielding bonds are less attractive, driving down their prize. Bonds with a longer maturity rate are more sensitive to matter to rate changes. Keep in judgment that bonds do not always go up when stocks go down, or frailty versa. For example, low-grade “ trash ” bonds frequently move in the lapp guidance as stocks. These bonds are higher-risk, higher ( electric potential ) reward and don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate always behave the like way as safe investments .

Can you lose money in a bond?

While bonds tend to be safer than stocks and early market-based investments, you can still lose money investing in them. here are some of the most common ways to lose money in a bond :

  • Selling before maturity. Bond prices fluctuate, depending on many factors, but especially the prevailing interest rate environment. If you have to sell the bond when its price is down, you might not get the price you paid for it. However, if you hold until maturity, you are likely to get the face value of the bond.
  • Buying bonds at a premium. A bond price can rise above its par value – the price you’ll receive at maturity – if prevailing interest rates fall. So if you buy at a premium, the bond will pay higher income than you might receive elsewhere. But that higher income comes at a cost: a higher bond price. As the bond approaches maturity, its price will fall closer to par value as fewer of these relatively higher bond payments remain. Eventually at maturity, the bond price will be redeemed at par value.
  • The issuer goes bankrupt or defaults. If the issuer defaults on payment of the bond, the bond price could plummet. If the issuer goes bankrupt (in the case of a company), the bond may become totally worthless, depending on the company’s financial situation.

It ’ sulfur authoritative to understand, however, that you can lose money on a adhesiveness in ways that are less obvious, namely, inflation. Every class that your bonds are earning less than the rate of inflation, you ’ re losing purchasing office. You may end up holding a low-yielding bond to maturity and not technically lose money, but you may lose a short ton of purchasing baron over time .

Bottom line

Bonds can provide an attractive reappearance without demanding that you take on the same tied of risk as investing in standard. Unlike a banal, where the company must thrive for the investment to be successful, a bond can be successful if the ship’s company ( or government ) merely survives.

While bonds are relatively low risk, they do have some weak spots, particularly if ostentation and interest rates move higher. But using some smart investing strategies can help mitigate these risks .

Learn more:

note : Bob Haegele besides contributed to the update of this story. editorial Disclaimer : All investors are advised to conduct their own autonomous research into investment strategies before making an investment decision. In addition, investors are advised that past investment product operation is no guarantee of future price appreciation .

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Category : Finance

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