When Should I Invest in Bonds?

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When investing in the bond market, you can benefit from predictable interest payments by lending a sum of money due to be repaid by the borrower on the maturity date. You can purchase individual types of bonds such as municipal, corporate and U.S. Treasury bonds, or you can opt for bond funds or bond exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Ultimately, your investment objectives, important deadlines and market conditions determine when is the best time to buy bonds. Therefore, it's important to consider your situation and understand bond characteristics that affect your decision.

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When You Want Predictability

While the stock market can be unpredictable with constant changes affecting prices, it's easier to know your total return on bonds. The bond's face value is the principal you have returned upon maturity, while interest rates determine your coupon payments, which often occur twice annually through maturity. Also, looking at bond prices makes it easy to tell what you're exactly paying when you buy the bond.

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At the same time, there's some flexibility. Bondholders wanting the most predictability can choose offerings with fixed rates to get a stable fixed income from the investment. However, those concerned with interest rate risk might opt for less predictability with variable rates.

Consider also​: Difference Between Bondholders & Shareholders

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When You Prefer Less Risk

If your financial situation doesn't allow for the volatility and greater potential of loss that comes with stocks, bond investments might suit your needs since there's less risk. For example, you might be closer to retirement age and have a lower risk tolerance than someone just starting to save in their 20s. The specific risk depends on the type of bond, however, as well as its credit rating from an organization like Standard & Poor's.

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For example, going with federal government bonds is safest since they're of the highest investment grade. Munis from local and state governments can also be low risk. Corporate bonds, however, can offer higher yields than others, but credit risk can widely vary.

To have a less risky investment portfolio, consider opting for highly-rated bonds and always researching the bond issuer thoroughly. Also, don't forget the importance of diversification to help with getting an acceptable return while controlling risk; this can involve investing in mutual funds and stocks alongside individual bonds.

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Consider also​: The Differences Between AAA vs. BAA Corporate Bond Yields

When Market Conditions Suggest It

Inflation rates and interest rate changes can affect whether it's a good time to add to your bond portfolio. That's because these factors affect bond prices as well as the acceptability of the return to investors.

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When inflation rates are high and interest rates are low, bond investors may go toward investments with higher returns since safer bonds may not keep up with inflation. This is especially true for long-term bonds like U.S. Treasury bonds. Instead, you might opt for high-yield bonds with more risk or choose stocks.

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If your financial situation doesn't allow for the volatility and greater potential of loss that comes with stocks, bond investments might suit your needs since there's less risk.

On the other hand, if inflation is low and interest rates are higher, bonds can appear more appealing if you find the return acceptable and the stability preferable. It can be particularly advantageous if interest rates later fall and you're still earning a more competitive fixed rate. However, it still helps to seek professional investment advice and understand that market conditions can always change.

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Consider also​: How to Calculate the Current Market Price of a Bond

When Important Deadlines Approach

Along with considering specific situations that prefer bonds, you'll find some deadlines that can affect the availability of individual bonds or affect your investment date.

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For example, the U.S. government offers Treasury bonds during certain times of the year, after which you'd need to seek them on the secondary market instead. Similarly, if you wanted to get newly issued corporate bonds or municipal bonds on the primary market, you'd need to know when they'll be offered so you can have a chance before other investors buy them all.

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In addition, if you want to invest in bonds in a retirement account, the timing affects your contribution limits and any available tax deduction for contributions. For example, for your contributions to count for the 2022 tax year, you'll need to invest no later than Dec. 31 for 401(k) contributions and no later than the tax day in 2023 for IRA contributions. Otherwise, bond investments made would count for the next tax year instead.

Consider also​: Difference Between Traditional & Contributory IRA

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