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What is an Interest Rate?

An interest rate is a simple financial principle that’s been around for centuries, whereby a borrower has to pay for money borrowed. The interest rate is agreed to between the lender and the borrower, and there may be provisions under which the rate could change over the course of  a loan. In simple terms, an interest rate is the cost of money. Continue reading...

What is Effective Annual Interest Rate?

Also known as the annual equivalent rate (AER), the effective annual interest rate is the actual annual interest rate on a bond or loan when it compounds more than once a year. The effects of compounding will make the AER higher than the annual interest rate if the security compounds greater than annually. Continue reading...

What is a Yield Curve?

A yield curve is an illustration of the current duration-to-yield relationship for bonds of the same credit rating but different durations. As a general rule, the longer the duration of the loan, the more risk you take on (since you don't know what might happen with that corporation in the future), and therefore, you demand a higher reward (i.e., higher coupon). The yield curve for any bond (not just the US Treasury Bonds) changes daily based on many economic and market factors. Continue reading...

How Do I Structure My Bond Portfolio?

There are three major ways to structure a bond portfolio: a ladder strategy, a barbell strategy, and a bullet strategy. A ladder strategy is structured by purchasing bonds of varying maturity dates, all at the same time. This means there will be several opportunities to make decisions at different dates in the future, so the owner of this portfolio keeps his or her options open to some extent, and has some liquidity over the course of the duration. A ladder might be used when rates are expected to stay about the same. 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...

What is Maturity?

Maturity is the amount of time an investment exists - once the security matures, it is paid off to the investor and concludes the transaction. Maturities are most commonly used in the fixed income context, with bonds having maturities consistent with when their principal is paid back to the investor. What is Yield to Maturity? How Do I Structure My Bond Portfolio? 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 Certificate of Deposit?

A Certificate of Deposit, commonly referred to as a CD, is a financial product that essentially pays risk-free interest (though typically at very low rates). CDs are typically offered by banks and credit unions, and usually span in duration from one month to 5 or 10 years. They are FDIC guaranteed up to $250,000, so customers may generally consider them risk-free. But because there is very little risk to purchasing a CD, they also typically pay very low annual interest rates. 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...

What is Duration?

Duration refers to the amount of time before a fixed income product will return the investment (principal and interest) to the investor. The bigger the duration number, the greater the interest-rate risk or reward for bond prices. For example, an investor should generally expect to receive better interest from a 30-year duration bond versus a 10-year, since the investor has to hold the note for longer to receive all interest payments and principal. Continue reading...

What is a Fixed Income Security?

A fixed income security is one designed to pay interest/coupon payments on a predetermined basis, or a fixed schedule. Fixed income securities are often used by late stage retirees who need safe, reliable income streams. Fixed income securities still have risk, such as interest rate risk where if interest rates rise the price of a fixed income security can fall. Examples of fixed income securities are U.S. Treasuries, municipal bonds, or CDs. Because fixed income products carry relatively low risk, it generally translates into relatively lower returns. 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 Does Debt Financing Mean?

Debt financing occurs when a company borrows money or secures financing through loans, with the obligation to repay the money (typically with interest). Generally, a corporation will engage in debt financing by selling bonds in the marketplace or to private investors, or with promissory notes or commercial paper. Generally the terms of the bond or the loan will have the company commit as collateral assets of the business, such as real estate, cash on hand, or fixed assets. Continue reading...

What does Arbitrage Mean?

Arbitrage is the practice of buying a security/product in one market and selling it in another, in an effort to capitalize on price difference. Arbitrage can take many forms in trading: buying a security in one market and selling it in another for a better price (market arbitrage); borrowing money in one currency at a lower interest rate in order to pay off debt in another currency with a higher interest rate (currency arbitrage); buying and selling the same security on different exchanges or between spot prices of a security and its future contract; and so on. Continue reading...

What is the Interest Coverage Ratio?

Also known as the debt service ratio, The interest coverage ratio is a measure of how many times a company can pay the interest owed on its debt with EBIT. To calculate it, you simply divide EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) by interest expense. A company with a low interest coverage ratio means it has fewer earnings available to make interest payments, which can imply solvency issues and could mean a company would be at risk if interest rates go up. Continue reading...

What is a derivative?

What is a derivative?

A derivative is a security which monetizes the risk or volatility associated with a reference asset. Derivatives derive their value from speculation surrounding an underlying or reference asset. The reference asset could be another security, an interest rate, or an index, for example, but there are also derivatives based on future weather patterns. Derivatives come in many forms; examples include options, swaps, and futures. Some derivatives trade on exchanges and some are Over-the-Counter (OTC). Derivatives might be used for speculation or hedging. 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 is the Barbell Strategy for Structuring my Bond Portfolio?

A barbell strategy avoids intermediate-term bonds and equally invests in very short term and very long term durations. The barbell strategy divides a sum, for instance $10,000, equally among bonds with short durations and bonds with long durations. If the interest rates will go up sharply, the proceeds from your short-duration bonds will be reinvested into new bonds with much higher coupons. If the interest rates drop sharply, the proceeds from the bonds with shorter durations will be reinvested at a much lower coupon, but on the other hand, your long-duration bonds will rise sharply in price. Continue reading...

What is the Ladder Strategy for Structuring My Bond Portfolio?

The ladder provides the bondholder with a degree of freedom and some liquidity to take part in possibly improved interest rates in the future. The ladder strategy distributes your funds uniformly among bonds with various durations. For example, if you have $10,000, you buy one bond with a duration of one year, one bond with a duration of two years, etc. If the interest rates go up when the shorter-duration bonds expire, you will be able to reinvest this money with a higher coupon rate (of course, keep in mind that your longer-duration bonds would have fallen in price). Continue reading...

What is a Federal Credit Union?

Federal Credit Unions are essentially banks that are owned by their clients instead of publicly traded or what-have-you. Instead of being part of the FDIC, they have the National Credit Union Association (NCUA). They tend to be able to offer higher interest rates on savings and lower interest rates on loans than banks can, due to their mutual-ownership structure. Credit Unions operate as non-for-profit businesses, which can allow their management to use 457 retirement plans, but they are not associated with the Federal government. They do, however, charter under federal regulations, as opposed to state banks. Continue reading...