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  • Writer's pictureJim Parks, CFP, AIF

What are bonds?

Bonds are loans that investors make to governments, companies and other entities. When an investor buys a bond, they agree to lend their money for a specific period of time. In return, the issuer of the bond agrees to pay interest and return the investors’ principal when the bond matures.

Bonds are a part of many investment portfolios because they:

  1. Offer a source of income, and

  2. Help manage overall portfolio risk.

Generally, bonds are thought to be safer than stocks; however, they are not risk-free. Bonds have interest rate risk, which means the value of a bond changes over time, depending on how attractive its interest rate is to investors. For example:

Bond values fall when rates rise. If interest rates move from 3 percent to 5 percent, and new investors will earn a 5 percent interest, then the value of bonds offering 3 percent are likely to drop. The opposite is also true.

Bond values rise when rates fall. If interest rates move from 5 percent to 3 percent, and new investors will earn a 3 percent rate of interest, the value of older bonds offering a 5 percent return are likely to increase.

The risk and reward profile of a specific bond depends on a variety of factors, including:

The length of time until the bond matures. When a bond “matures,” the issuer is expected to repay the money it borrowed. Maturities may range from one month to 30 years. Bonds with shorter maturities tend to pay less interest because the chance that interest rates will change significantly is lower.

The creditworthiness of the borrower. Creditworthiness reflects whether the borrower is expected to pay interest and return principal in a timely way. Independent rating agencies – Fitch, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s – review the financial and credit histories of governments and companies that are issuing bonds, and then assign ratings. There are two broad rating categories:

  • Investment grade (AAA/highest quality, AA/high quality, A/strong quality and BBB/medium investment grade), and

  • Below-investment grade (BB/low investment grade, B/highly speculative, CCC/substantial risk, CC/high probability of default, C/default in process and D in default).

There are many nuances to bond investing. If you have questions, please get in touch.

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Private Advisor Group, a registered investment advisor. Private Advisor Group and Parks Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial.


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