Aging Into Bonds

William Ehart

Bill is a Washington, D.C., area journalist and an experienced individual investor. Much of that experience has been of the "school of hard knocks" variety. He enjoys sharing what he's learned to help people cut through the market noise and understand why they should invest, how simple it can be and how to avoid common mistakes. Bill is a graduate of George Washington University and the father of two grown children.

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Aging Into Bonds

William Ehart  |  Dec 28, 2023

REMEMBER WHEN YOU got that first AARP card in the mail? I must have been 50, not at all ready to begin thinking about senior discounts, and slightly offended. That was 12 years ago.

Well, I’m feeling that way again. You see, the grim reaper—oops, I mean retirement—is getting close. That means it’s time to reduce my exposure to stocks, while boosting my holdings of income-oriented investments. It’s a strange feeling for someone who has spent his life investing almost exclusively for capital appreciation.

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Yielding Results

William Ehart  |  Dec 21, 2023

I INVEST FOR GROWTH, not income. That will likely change as I get closer to my 2028 planned retirement. For now, I diversify my portfolio mainly with cash and short-term bonds with the goal of stability, not yield. Yet this article is about the yield I receive.

Why focus on yield? Some say everyday investors overemphasize the importance of dividends, and maybe that’s true of me. But with much of the U.S. stock market richly valued—and now that I’m only five years from retirement—I feel pretty good about my portfolio’s yield,

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Some Gain, Less Pain

William Ehart  |  Oct 13, 2023

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST threat to your retirement?

For young adults, we know a key pitfall is failing to invest in stocks because they’re so afraid of the market’s short-term ups and downs, thus unwittingly risking impoverishment later in life.

But for those of us nearing retirement, the market’s ups and downs can start to matter more than stocks’ long-term inflation-beating performance. An ill-timed market crash or a run of bad annual returns could ruin our retirement plans.

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Someone Likes Value

William Ehart  |  Oct 3, 2023

DON’T LOOK NOW, but value is beating growth—just not here in the U.S.

From May 31 through Sept. 29, iShares MSCI EAFE Value ETF (symbol: EFV), which invests in developed foreign markets, is up 5.6%, while iShares MSCI EAFE Growth ETF (EFG) is down 6.5%. That brings the year-to-date performance of the two funds to 9.6% for the iShares value fund and 4% for the iShares growth fund. Meanwhile, the style-neutral iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (EFA) is up 6.9% in 2023.

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Reader Beware

William Ehart  |  Sep 28, 2023

I ONCE DREAMED OF writing for one of the high-profile personal finance magazines—but that was before I had a rude awakening about the “journalism” they sometimes committed.
As a mid-career business journalist at a respectable daily newspaper, teaching myself about investing, I had looked up to these magazines, then in their heyday, and viewed them as a career possibility.
My worlds came together one day when a top magazine ran a story touting the stock of the electric utility that served my area.

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Bad News Bonds

William Ehart  |  Aug 29, 2023

EXPERTS HAVE LATELY been recommending that investors shift some money from short-term bonds—which offer the highest yield these days—to longer-term issues, whose prices are more sensitive to interest rates.

Had I followed this advice—and I almost did—I’d have quickly lost money in what’s supposed to be the safe part of my portfolio. Bonds did indeed rally from their October 2022 lows, but have pulled back since early May. Vanguard Intermediate-Term Treasury ETF (symbol: VGIT) was down 4.2% from its May 4 peak through last Friday,

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Own Worst Enemy

William Ehart  |  Aug 3, 2023

IF YOU’RE LIKE ME, you’re always tempted to do something with your portfolio.

How should I invest if inflation stays high? What if interest rates come down? Am I well-positioned for that? Do bonds offer a better risk-reward than stocks right now and, if so, should I adjust my long-held stock-bond mix?

There’s been recent research and commentary, including two pieces from HumbleDollar’s Adam Grossman that you can find here and here,

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Cheapskates Win

William Ehart  |  Jun 2, 2023

NEW MORNINGSTAR research on bond funds echoes what the late Jack Bogle preached—and proved—for decades: Costs are the greatest predictor of fund performance, not stock or bond selection prowess. In investing, you get what you don’t pay for, said Bogle, Vanguard Group’s founder and creator of the first index mutual fund.

There’s a school of thought that claims it’s easier for active bond fund managers to beat their indexes than it is for their stock fund colleagues.

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Was That It?

William Ehart  |  Feb 7, 2023

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL for mega-cap tech, meme stocks and cryptocurrencies. And the bond market is starting to party again, too. True, the financial markets have pulled back in the two trading days since Friday morning’s strong jobs report. Still, year-to-date performance has been startling.
Investor’s Business Daily reported recently that just 10 stocks, including Apple, Amazon, Tesla, Alphabet (parent of Google), Nvidia, Microsoft and Meta (parent of Facebook), have accounted for half of the S&P 500’s 7% year-to-date rally.

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Not My Game

William Ehart  |  Dec 4, 2022

INVESTING CAN AND should be simple—and yet sometimes I make it so hard. Blame it on my ego and a faulty belief in my ability to pick winners among exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and, once in a while, individual stocks.

Problem is, I’ve had a few things go my way this year. Now that know-it-all feeling is rearing its ugly head again—“hey, I can pick stocks and sectors”—even though it’s hurt me badly in the past.

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Actively Subtracting

William Ehart  |  Nov 11, 2022

A NEW RESEARCH report confirms that there are darn few reasons to consider an actively managed fund over an index fund—and, indeed, this year’s bear market has made the case for active funds even weaker.
Remember active fund managers, those stars of TV and magazines in days of yore? Purportedly, they could beat their relevant indexes by buying the best-performing stocks and bonds, shifting sector and country weights, and sidestepping market pitfalls. That notion seems almost quaint today—because it’s been proved so thoroughly and repeatedly wrong.

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Don’t Sweat It

William Ehart  |  Aug 11, 2022

BEING MECHANICAL and unemotional is a poor way to live life. But when investing, it just might make you richer.
Through this year’s stock market turbulence, I’ve been even keeled. My reaction to the plunging bond market has been more agitated, as I wrote about here and here. The fact is, while I’m convinced the stock market will rebound, I don’t have the same belief in bonds.
Armed with my faith in stocks, I’ve adopted a mechanical approach to investing,

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Get Shorty

William Ehart  |  May 16, 2022

SOMEBODY OUT THERE is buying and holding longer-term bonds—but you probably shouldn’t. Yes, they’ll notch big gains if interest rates fall, but perhaps suffer even bigger losses if the upward trend in rates continues.
To be sure, investors in almost all bonds have been hit this year, with the iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (symbol: AGG) down 9.6% in 2022 through May 13. Shorter-term funds have fared better but are also in the red,

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Taking a Punch

William Ehart  |  May 9, 2022

BOXER MIKE TYSON observed that, “Everybody has plans until they get hit for the first time.”
Well, the bond market has me black and blue and gnashing my teeth. Have Treasury bonds lost their diversifying power in these inflationary times? For decades, they’d mostly held their ground or gained during stock market routs. Not this year.
My longstanding plan has been to invest in conventional short- and intermediate-term Treasury funds to cushion volatility and as a source of money to add to my stock funds when the market tanks.

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What Price Evil?

William Ehart  |  Mar 3, 2022

MUCH HAS BEEN written about the virtues and pitfalls of index funds that weight stocks based on their market value. In theory, every company’s stock market value reflects the collective wisdom of market participants. Apple the biggest stock in the world? Must be for good reasons, the thinking goes, so it should get a big index-fund weighting.
Well, the market cap of Russia in the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (symbol: VWO) as of Oct.

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