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,
I’VE BEEN GIVING salient and sagacious financial advice to HumbleDollar readers for coming up on two years. Before that, I’d shared my wisdom for as long as I can remember with family, friends and—in a few cases—complete strangers. Sometimes, though, you need to listen.
Recently, I attended a presentation given by Carlson Financial, where various personal finance issues were discussed while I ate a complimentary eight-ounce filet mignon. One of the issues raised: When determining the total cost of a financial advisor,
BOXER MIKE TYSON observed, shortly before he bit Evander Holyfield’s ear, that, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
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.
IF PAST YEARS ARE any guide, about 40,000 shareholders will be in Omaha, Nebraska, today for Berkshire Hathaway’s 2022 annual meeting. I first went 35 years ago.
While working as a financial advisor in the mid-1980s, I began to read about the investment success of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. At the time, Berkshire’s stock sold for around $2,700 a share. Yesterday, it closed at $484,340.
I bought one share—and then booked a flight to Omaha for the 1987 stockholder’s meeting.
WITH THE MARKETS in a tizzy this year due to roaring inflation and the war in Ukraine, I’ve been kicking myself for not listening to my gut. At issue: an investment decision I made last fall.
When I left the corporate world in September, I took with me the 401(k) balance I’d built up over my five years with my former employer. I’d been aggressive with my investment choices in that 401(k), stashing half the account in Vanguard Small-Cap Growth Index Fund (symbol: VSGAX) and half in Vanguard Mid-Cap Index Fund (VIMAX).
MY MOST SUCCESSFUL investment is one that I tried to throw in the trash.
I own 126 shares of Anthem, a large health insurance company. I believe I got my shares on April 30, 2002. That’s when Anthem bought Trigon, a small insurer based in Virginia that my family used for health insurance.
In 1996, Trigon began the process of converting from a policyholder-owned company into a stockholder-owned company. It went public in 1997.
WITH THE RELEASE of March’s Consumer Price Index, we now know that a risk-free investment yielding 9.6% will be available as of May 2. I’m speaking, of course, about Series I savings bonds from the U.S. Treasury, which have lately been all the rage. To take advantage, all you need to do is open an account at TreasuryDirect.gov. Last year, it took me all of 10 minutes to open my account.
I first wrote about I bonds back in October 2021.
MY FATHER WAS BORN in 1936 in Brooklyn. He attended Erasmus High School, earned a degree in chemical engineering from Brooklyn Polytechnic High School and then went on to study dentistry at New York University. He was a strong bridge player and loved tennis, golf and—most of all—downhill skiing. Just about everything my father wanted to do, he did well. But he wasn’t without flaws.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, my father had a stockbroker friend through whom he bought shares,
THE RECENT CARNAGE in bonds has been unusually fierce. The Bloomberg Aggregate Bond Index is down more than 7% year-to-date. Unfortunately, this may be the tip of a very large iceberg. I believe we may be standing on the precipice of a multi-decade bear market for bonds.
The reason for my concern can be summed up in one word: inflation. It’s the great enemy of bond investors—and yet, despite an inflation rate that’s at four-decade highs,
JERRY SEINFELD tells a story about visiting the post office and noticing a wanted poster on the wall. He looks at the poster and checks the guy standing behind him. “If it’s not him,” he says, “I feel I’ve done my part.”
I own some individual stocks, so it’s that time of the year when I vote my proxies. I do the best I can at trying to understand the issues. Sometimes, I wonder whether I’ve really accomplished anything.
WHEN I TAUGHT at the University of North Florida, I always sought to arm my finance students with the best tools of the trade. College textbooks are notoriously expensive, so I aimed to provide some great free resources. Few things get me more pumped than when I come across an impressive financial website—one that doesn’t charge.
One of the most frequent questions from students: What sites do I visit every day? I would often share stories in class about various writing assignments and investment projects I was working on,
AS YOU MIGHT GUESS, my favorite Seinfeld episode is “The Stock Tip.” It starts with a conversation between George and Jerry.
“My friend Simons knows this guy Wilkenson,” George says. “He made a fortune in the stock market. Now he’s got this new thing.” George goes on to explain that Wilkenson has millions invested in a company called Centrax.
He urges Jerry to invest along with him, though the details are thin.
AS INTEREST RATES head higher, where should bond investors turn?
A lot of ink has been devoted to Series I savings bonds—for good reason. The initial yield, which applies to bonds bought through April, is north of 7%. Come May 1, it might go even higher if the inflation rate continues to climb. The recent energy price surge wasn’t fully reflected in February’s Consumer Price Index, so the coming months’ reports could be even more alarming.
ARISTOTLE WROTE THAT, “It is a part of probability that many improbable things will happen.” Investors certainly understand this. For better or worse, we know that the market has frequent ups and downs. On average, the S&P 500 has dropped 10% or more approximately every 18 months, and it’s dropped more than 20% about every four years.
Unfortunately for investors, another fundamental truism also applies: We dislike losses disproportionately more than we like gains.
“MARGIN OF SAFETY” is a concept with deep roots in finance, going back at least as far as Benjamin Graham’s Security Analysis, first published in 1934. The idea: Investors should never be too confident in any analysis and should leave the door open to the possibility that their analysis might be right but not precisely right.
Suppose you’re interested in buying Microsoft stock. And suppose that, after analyzing it,