Financial Focus: Should you own bonds when interest rates rise?
Journal-Advocate (Sterling, CO)
As you know, the stock market has attracted a lot of attention – and for good reason, as we've seen considerable volatility almost from the beginning of the year. But if you own bonds, or bond-based mutual funds, you might also have some concerns. However, it's important to understand why bonds should continue to be an important part of your portfolio.
To begin with, let's look at what's happened with bond prices recently. Inflation has heated up, leading the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to help "cool off" the economy. And rising interest rates typically raise bond yields — the total annual income that investors get from their "coupon" (interest) payments. Rising yields can cause a drop in the value of your existing bonds, because investors will want to buy the newly issued bonds that offer higher yields than yours.
And yet, despite this possible drop in their value, the bonds you own can still help you make progress toward your financial goals. Consider these benefits of bond ownership:
Income – No matter what happens to the value of your bonds, they will continue to provide you with income, in the form of interest payments, until they mature, provided the issuer doesn't default — and defaults are generally unlikely with investment-grade bonds (those rated BBB or higher). Your interest payments will remain the same throughout the life of your bond, which can help you plan for your cash flow and spending.
Diversification – As you've probably heard, diversification is a key to successful investing. If you only owned one type of asset, such as growth stocks, and the stock market went into a decline, as has happened this year, your portfolio likely would have taken a big hit — even bigger than the one you may have experienced. But bond prices don't always move in the same direction as stocks, so the presence of bonds in your portfolio — along with other investments, such as government securities and certificates of deposit — can help reduce the impact of volatility on your holdings. (Keep in mind, though, that by itself, diversification can't guarantee profits or protect against all losses in a declining market.)
Reinvestment opportunities – As mentioned above, rising interest rates and higher yields may reduce the value of your current bonds, but this same development may also offer you some favorable reinvestment opportunities. If you own bonds of varying durations — short-, intermediate- and long-term — you should regularly have some bonds maturing. And in an environment such as the current one, you can reinvest the proceeds of your expiring short-term bonds into new ones issued at potentially higher interest rates. By doing so, you can potentially provide yourself with more income. Also, by owning a mix of bonds, you'll still have the longer-term ones working for you, and these bonds typically (but not always) pay a higher interest rate than the shorter-term ones.
It might not feel pleasant to see the current value of your bonds drop. But if you're not selling them before they mature, and you take advantage of the opportunities afforded by higher yields, you'll find that owning bonds can still be a valuable part of your investment strategy.
This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. Edward Jones, Member SIPC. Ann Bowey is an Edward Jones financial advisor in Sterling.
Before investing in bonds, you should understand the risks involved, including credit risk and market risk. Bond investments are also subject to interest-rate risk such that when interest rates rise, the prices of bonds can decrease, and the investor can lose principal value if the investment is sold prior to maturity.