Interest rates are trading near historical lows, but they’re rising. Since July, the yield on the 30-Year US Treasury has soared 42%. Last March, it dropped to a low of .99%. Now it’s yielding 1.88%, an increase of 90%. Rising rates from all-time lows is not a rousing endorsement to buy bonds.
Despite the low rates, bonds belong in a diversified portfolio. Bonds are safe and consistent, and they offer stability not found in other investments like stocks, gold, or Bitcoin. Also, bonds are negatively correlated to stocks, so when stocks fall, bonds rise. During the market correction last March, interest rates dropped 36% as investors purchased US government bonds. As rates fell, the iShares 20+ Treasury Bond ETF rose 15%, while the S&P 500 dropped 12%.
Bonds are a source of funds. When stocks fall, bonds rise. You can use your bonds to buy stocks – buy low and sell high.
Another reason to buy bonds is to match the maturity with your purchase. If you’re buying a new home in two years, then buy bonds with the same maturity – two years.
My career launched more than thirty years ago in Pasadena, California, as a stock-broker hired by Dean Witter. I was young, with no connections, so my primary tool for prospecting was the telephone. I cold-called morning, noon, and night looking for new clients. One of the investments I used for calling was the 30-Year US Treasury bond. At the time, they were paying more than 8%, guaranteed. My pitch was simple: “Hello, Mrs. Jones, this is Bill Parrott from Dean Witter in Pasadena. We are currently offering a guaranteed investment paying more than 8%. Would you like to hear more about it?” I couldn’t give them away because most people thought interest rates were going to rise. Well, they were wrong, and interest rates dropped more than 87% over the next three decades. If they bought the bonds, they could have enjoyed thirty years of 8% guaranteed income, and their bond would be worth $143 today, a gain of 43%.
Since interest rates are rising, bond prices are falling. The price of a 30-year bond will fall 22.4% if interest rates rise 1%, so my recommendation is to keep your maturities short – less than five years.
Bye, bye, and buy bonds!
January 12, 2021
Bill Parrott, CFP®, is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process so our clients can pursue a life of purpose. Our firm does not have an asset or fee minimum, and we work with anybody who needs financial help regardless of age, income, or asset level. PWM’s custodian is TD Ameritrade, and our annual fee starts at .5% of your assets and drops depending on the level of your assets.
Note: Investments are not guaranteed and do involve risk. Your returns may differ from those posted in this blog. PWM is not a tax advisor, nor do we give tax advice. Please consult your tax advisor for items that are specific to your situation. Options involve risk and aren’t suitable for every investor.
Data Sources: YCharts