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What are Municipal Bond Funds?

Municipal bonds funds invest exclusively in tax-advantaged municipal bond issues. Municipal Bond Funds invest in issues of municipal debt, often with the intention of using its tax advantages. Bonds held in a ‘muni fund’ might be state or local issues of general obligation or revenue bonds. Gains on muni funds are not taxable at the federal level, and if a person resides in the state in which the bond was issued, they can most likely avoid state or local taxes on gains as well. Continue reading...

What is a Bond?

A bond is a contract which “binds” the lender to the debtor, where an individual investor is generally the lender and the debtor is the company or government which has borrowed funds. When a company or government entity needs more capital, whether to fund operations or a specific project, it can borrow money from investors instead of from a banking institution. Where there is a risk of the investor not being repaid, the interest rate will be proportionally higher. The simplest way a bond works is with set payments at set intervals that gradually repay the debt and interest owed to the investor over a set amount of time. Continue reading...

What is a Callable Bond?

A callable bond, also known as a “redeemable bond,” is one where the issuer has the ability to pay off the debt prior to its maturity date, with certain conditions. Which the issuer has the right to redeem prior to its maturity date, under certain conditions. The primary reason that an issuer would choose to “call” a bond is that interest rates have declined since the bond was issued. By calling the bond, the issuer generally has to opportunity to refinance that debt at a lower rate. Once called, the issuer will notify the creditor and pay off the debt, typically with a slight premium added to close the deal. Continue reading...

What is a Convertible Bond?

A convertible bond, also known as convertible debt, is debt that can be converted to equity (in the form of common stock) at the discretion of the bondholder. There are typically windows that an investor can choose to convert the bond to equity, which an investor may choose to do if they have confidence the company will continue to perform well. Because a convertible bond has the option to convert to stock, it typically offers a lower interest rate since the conversion capability itself has value. Continue reading...

What is a Bond Coupon?

A bond coupon is the interest rate that a bond issuer agrees to pay to the bondholder, representing the interest earned from owning the bond. Bond coupons are fixed at the time the bond is issued and remain constant throughout the bond's life. The fixed nature of bond coupons makes them an attractive investment for investors seeking predictable income streams. Continue reading...

What are Bond Ratings?

The possibility of a company or municipal government defaulting on their bond obligations, usually by going bankrupt, is a real one. For this reason, all bonds are rated according to the financial stability of the issuer. A look at the history of corporate and municipal debt will illuminate the fact that the possibility of the issuer being unable to pay its obligations to bondholders is a very real one. There is an established system of bond ratings that gives a rough estimate of the bond's reliability. Continue reading...

What is Income Risk?

Income risk is the chance that an investment which is used for income will fluctuate in an unfavorable way if the interest rate environment or market conditions change. Some mutual funds and ETFs are branded as income funds when they use lots of corporate bonds that generate regular income payments, but they are often sensitive to interest rate changes. The Federal Reserve Board and the market can affect changes in the interest rate environment as times goes on. Continue reading...

What is a Bond Ladder?

A bond ladder is a portfolio of bonds that have different maturities, that may range from months to years in difference. A bond ladder is designed to reduce interest rate risk and create predictable income streams. An investor will build a bond ladder often in an effort to reduce interest rate risk and also to create predictable income streams, where coupon payments happen at different times and principal is also returned in various intervals. Continue reading...

What Types of Bonds Are There?

Bonds are divided into a several categories, and it is possible to get substantial diversification within a bond portfolio alone. Bonds may be categorized into several types. There are investment grade bonds which are conservative and safe, high-yield bonds which are relatively risky and profitable, floating rate bonds whose coupon rate is not fixed, zero coupon bonds which only pay at maturity, and foreign bonds, and so on. Continue reading...

What is an Income Bond?

Income bonds are issued by companies and they will only pay a coupon or interest rate if the company generates adequate earnings to do so. Non-payment of a coupon or interest rate does not necessarily mean that the company is in default. The principal amount plus some interest is due to the bondholder at maturity. Income bonds are sometimes issued by companies who are experiencing hard times and cannot guarantee a coupon payment to bondholders. Continue reading...

How Do I Find the Best Mutual Fund?

It requires a great deal of due diligence, but investors should understand that past performance is not indicative of future performance. Focus on experience. In the stock market, as with most things in life, hindsight is 20/20. There are countless lists on the internet with titles like “The Best Mutual Fund Families” and “50 Winning Mutual Funds.” It is important to understand that the names on those lists are a function of hindsight and not foresight. Continue reading...

What is a Corporate Bond?

A corporate bond is a debt security issued by a public or private company to raise capital. They are generally issued in multiples of $1,000 or $5,000, and the issuing company must agree to pay a certain interest rate typically determined by their creditworthiness and earning history/potential. Often times the corporation issuing the debt must use their physical assets as collateral, and it is often found that corporations are more likely to issue debt during an environment when interest rates are low, so they can borrow at attractive rates. Corporate debt that matures in less than one year is called ‘commercial paper.’ Continue reading...

Who is a Bond Trustee?

A bond trustee is an institution which has the fiduciary responsibility of administering and enforcing the terms of the bond indenture. A bond indenture is the contract between the bond issuer and the bondholder. A trustee has the resources to manage the distribution of the funds to the bondholders, to keep up with and distribute the required bookkeeping and statement information to the interested parties as well as regulators like the SEC. If there is a violation of the contract, the trustee must report it and act in the best interest of the wronged party. Continue reading...

What is Bond Yield?

Bond yield is a measure of the return on investment for bonds, and there several kinds of yield that can be computed. Yield on a bond is the amount of interest that it pays annually, as a percentage of the amount invested — at least, this is the most common type of yield discussed, which is known as Current Yield. If a bond pays quarterly or monthly income to the investor, these payments are totaled up and divided by the amount invested. Continue reading...

What is Bond Insurance?

Bond insurance is a contract that protects the issuer and the holder of bonds from the risk that bond payments will not be made. Bond issues from the corporate or municipal world, or from derivative sources as with asset-backed securities and CDOs, come with the risk of default-- that is, that payments will not be made on time. The major credit ratings agencies (CRAs) assign a risk of default to each bond issue with proprietary analysis methods and ratings. Continue reading...

What is the Bond Market?

You might not know it, but the Bond Market is about twice the size of the Stock Market. It’s true; in the US and internationally, the bond market, which includes municipal bonds, corporate bonds, government bonds, v, etc, has almost twice the amount invested in it than the Stock Market. Within these categories, there are many subsets. Bonds are widely used by individual investors as well as corporations and governments. Continue reading...

What is a CUSIP?

CUSIP is basically like a Dewey Decimal number for stocks and U.S./local government bonds. CUSIP stands for Committee on Uniform Securities Identification Procedures. CUSIPs are alphanumeric identifiers of certain types of securities, but most commonly used for stocks and bonds. The first six characters identify the issuer and use letters; the seventh and eighth characters (which can be alphabetical or numerical) identify the type of issue; and the last digit is used as a check digit. Continue reading...

Keywords: stocks, bonds, CUSIPs,

What can I find out about hedge funds?

Hedge funds have historically been very secretive. They still mainly fall under Regulation D and private-placement laws, but their reporting requirements have been slightly expanded after the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010. Now, they are a little more transparent, but not fully. Up until the Dodd-Frank Act, it was basically impossible to know what hedge funds were investing in and who was involved. Hedge fund managers and their investment banks were under no obligation to report the holdings, and they generally avoided leaking any information about their market positions for fear of damaging their advantages. Continue reading...

What is a Zero Coupon Bond?

A Zero Coupon Bond is one that does not make interest payments - the bondholder only receives the face value back at time of maturity. The bond purchaser typically pays a deep discount for the bond, and the gain made over the life of the investment is the difference between the amount paid for the bond and the face value returned to the investor when the bond matures. What is a Bond Coupon? Is There Anything Else I Need to Know About Bonds? Continue reading...

Is There Anything Else I Need to Know About Bonds?

There will always be more to learn in the investment world: innovation is always happening and the products will change along with market conditions. Bonds are no exception. The bond market is huge — actually larger than the stock market, if you can believe that — and there are literally hundreds of economic, market, and tax-related factors which influence the decisions of which bonds to buy. You must look at the yield curve, duration, rating of the issuer, your own cash flow needs, expected changes in the interest rate environment, changes in the overall health of the economy, tax implications, account in which you're buying bonds, and so forth. Therefore, structuring fixed income accounts is a task which is perhaps better left to professional advisors. Continue reading...