Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

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abuss368
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by abuss368 »

midareff wrote: Mon Jul 06, 2020 7:00 pm
abuss368 wrote: Mon Jul 06, 2020 6:53 pm
midareff wrote: Mon Jul 06, 2020 6:52 pm
abuss368 wrote: Mon Jul 06, 2020 6:48 pm I am continuing to simply invest in Total Bond Index. It has done the job every year.

In my opinion any short or intermediate investment grade bond fund that is low cost and diversified will provide safety and income to a portfolio.
Safety yes, some NAV fluctuation depending on credit makeup and duration... income, that's getting harder to find.
No doubt and frustrating. I would like to avoid going further out on the tree branch towards corporates (or a higher equity allocation)!
I understand..... keep in mind those corporates are are one of those "any" intermediate bond funds you cited. Remember, corporate bonds are superior to equities (paid first) in a bankruptcy and are we really ready to sign off on the disappearance of corporate America? Ten year Treasury at .674% of a 6 year duration corporate fund distributing > 2.5% .. then deduct inflation and pay tax on them. Pick your poisons carefully.
Very valid and excellent points indeed.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by redfan11 »

dcw213 wrote: Sun Jul 05, 2020 10:35 pm I have changed my fixed income strategy significantly in light of the current rate environment. In my opinion there is very little upside buying something like total bond fund in this environment and a whole lot of downside (obviously I do not know this but am assuming rates will not go substantially negative).

I have been maxing out annual savings bonds (Series I and EE) for years with some feelings of regret and now am happy I have been. I will continue to. I have taken advantage of retail CDs and have a decent amount of these from 2018 and 2019 yielding 3.5%.

My big change is that I sold all bond funds (except small amounts in some target date funds in 529s) and started using options. For a chunk of what would normally be my bond allocation I moved to a brokerage and am selling cash secured puts on the S&P 500 with rolling expiration dates. I sold them at strike prices that are deep out of the money (on average about -25% from current valuation) and received about 8%-9% annualized premium. My thought process is that I am ignoring the next to nothing yield available in bond funds and instead am being paid for my commitment to rebalance to stocks in the event there is a large drawdown. I feel like this works for me with the portion that I was struggling with. Of course I acknowledge the risks of this and they seem appropriate to me in the current environment with a chunk of savings bonds and 3.5% CDs in hand.
The current premium for writing -25% put givens an annualized 1.02% (if you roll the options every 30 days), which will be taxed at the the highest marginal tax rate. I tried doing this on individual stocks, and was able to earn more, but more time intensive. Unfortunately, its just too cumbersome..What platform do you use to do this? Im just sticking to 70/30 allocation as thinking about this is making me sleepy and I get confused after a few mins....
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by whodidntante »

^^^ Yeah, implied volatility is at normal levels right now. I will not be selling any index puts.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by bobcat2 »

Some things to consider when real interest rates are zero or less.

- Plan to work more years (at least plan to work 44 yrs) and save more per year. This could include working PT in retirement.
- When the children leave the nest allocate that spending to retirement savings. (Same for when mortgage is paid off.)
- Consider when job hunting that an employer offering a DB pension is offering an extremely valuable benefit.

Become a prudent borrower. When interest rates are low it's better to be a borrower than a lender.
- Own your residence; don't rent. Lock in a LT low fixed mortgage rate.
- When retired take out a reverse mortgage and consider downsizing.
- Delay Social Security benefits and DB pension benefits.
- Consider deferred life annuities. Their pricing is less affected by interest rates than immediate life annuities. Consider immediate life annuities once you are over 75.

BobK
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by bigskyguy »

bobcat2 wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 10:29 am Some things to consider when real interest rates are zero or less.

- Plan to work more years (at least plan to work 44 yrs) and save more per year. This could include working PT in retirement.
- When the children leave the nest allocate that spending to retirement savings. (Same for when mortgage is paid off.)
- Consider when job hunting that an employer offering a DB pension is offering an extremely valuable benefit.

Become a prudent borrower. When interest rates are low it's better to be a borrower than a lender.
- Own your residence; don't rent. Lock in a LT low fixed mortgage rate.
- When retired take out a reverse mortgage and consider downsizing.
- Delay Social Security benefits and DB pension benefits.
- Consider deferred life annuities. Their pricing is less affected by interest rates than immediate life annuities. Consider immediate life annuities once you are over 75.

BobK
HELOC. We have held a home equity line of credit for years with our local bank (not a national institution), and recently re-upped with a more than doubling of our credit line. For us, the available sum to borrow is equal to what we could recoup from a reverse mortgage, with interest rates .25% above prime, and virtually no expense to continue ($75/year). We considered a reverse mortgage, but given the closing costs, our HELOC was for us a much better bargain. Not advocating borrowing at all. Indeed we are very much debt averse. We hold our HELOC as a reserve and emergency source of funds. Certainly cheaper than holding a credit card balance or other loan balance.
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Taylor Larimore
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Re: Bond Alternatives?

Post by Taylor Larimore »

Bogleheads:

For those searching for "Bond Alternatives," this recent Morningstar article may have the answer:

What's The Best Diversifier For Stocks?

Best wishes.
Taylor
Jack Bogle's Words of Wisdom: "But make no mistake: Each of these alternative asset classes carries its own outsized special risks, risks that investors are not required to assume."
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by Rex66 »

As interest rates remain low, insurance products are actually going to get riskier.

Except for variable products, they all are required to invest heavily in bonds/treasuries. They no longer have access or really better deals any more especially when you consider the costs for compliance and sales commissions. Index related products will perform slightly better or slightly worse than typical products bc 98% of the investment component is the same.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by The Man with the Axe »

Great question and an excellent discussion.

We have moved some of our fixed income funds into Gold. We are also holding more cash, in USD and other currencies.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by rob »

This is a limited option but I've been trying to fill up my stable value fund in an old 401k.... I know the stable value fund was decent (this year is 3%), so kept the account rather than rolling it over. That comes with different risks - single issuer in my case. It will also not last long - rates will continue to drop over time.
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Re: Bond Alternatives?

Post by bluerafters »

Taylor Larimore wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 11:00 am Bogleheads:

For those searching for "Bond Alternatives," this recent Morningstar article may have the answer:

What's The Best Diversifier For Stocks?

Best wishes.
Taylor
Jack Bogle's Words of Wisdom: "But make no mistake: Each of these alternative asset classes carries its own outsized special risks, risks that investors are not required to assume."
Thanks for the article Taylor.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by grobertj »

I've had similar concerns for quite a while. Vanguard has a Total Corporate Bond ETF. It's an ETF of ETFs with approximately equal part short, intermediate & long Corporate bonds. Since the Total Bond ETF is primarily focused on Treasuries, it would seem to me this would offer some additional diversification for fixed income investment. It has been available for very long, but the returns of it's benchmark look attractive.

Thoughts?

Another question I have for the group, since John Bogle recommended using SS in retiree's calculation of bond allocation, should we also use real estate? I own my home free and clear, and I could obviously get an equity load or a reverse mortgage.
The only constant is CHANGE!!
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Re: Bond Alternatives?

Post by Barkingsparrow »

bluerafters wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 1:57 pm
Taylor Larimore wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 11:00 am Bogleheads:

For those searching for "Bond Alternatives," this recent Morningstar article may have the answer:

What's The Best Diversifier For Stocks?

Best wishes.
Taylor
Jack Bogle's Words of Wisdom: "But make no mistake: Each of these alternative asset classes carries its own outsized special risks, risks that investors are not required to assume."
Thanks for the article Taylor.
Interesting. In my 401K, I moved from a non-Vanguard total bond market fund to VIPIX, and in my Vanguard TIRA I moved from total bond market to a split of short-term TIPS and intermediate treasuries. That said, I'm within 1-3 years from retirement so that influenced my decisions.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by ruralavalon »

grobertj wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 3:47 pm I've had similar concerns for quite a while. Vanguard has a Total Corporate Bond ETF. It's an ETF of ETFs with approximately equal part short, intermediate & long Corporate bonds. Since the Total Bond ETF is primarily focused on Treasuries, it would seem to me this would offer some additional diversification for fixed income investment. It has been available for very long, but the returns of it's benchmark look attractive.

Thoughts?
We use Vanguard Intermediate-term Bond Index fund (VBILX) ER 0.07%, about 1/2 government bonds and 1/2 corporate bonds.

grobertj wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 3:47 pmAnother question I have for the group, since John Bogle recommended using SS in retiree's calculation of bond allocation, should we also use real estate? I own my home free and clear, and I could obviously get an equity load or a reverse mortgage.
In my opinion, no. A home is primarily a place to live, not primarily a investment. How do you rebalance if necessary?
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by Broken Man 1999 »

Being 100% in tax-deferred investments, TIRAs, Roths, Series I-bonds, and a Vanguard VA, I would have to pay taxes to be able to get funds for EE and I-bonds. So that limits purchases for those particular investments.

I currently have far more Intermediate-term Treasury Index bond fund $$$ than the Short-term Treasury Index bond fund $$$. I don't need yield, but I also would like to keep the gains I currently have in the Intermediate-term Treasury Index funds.

So, I could exchange the Intermediate-term holdings to Short-term, that might preserve some of the gains.

Or, I could buy some brokered CDs, or throw some $$$ into the Federal Money Market fund. Or, perhaps throw some $$$ into an ultra-short term bond fund. Those moves would preserve the current gains better than remaining in Intermediate-term. Or, maybe some of each.

Nice thing is none of these opportunities create taxes for me.

Or, I could do nothing at all. And, doing nothing at all is my forte. :D

Broken Man 1999
Last edited by Broken Man 1999 on Sat Aug 08, 2020 5:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by 000 »

Cash + call options
Durable consumer goods
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by Northern Flicker »

whodidntante wrote: Sat Jul 04, 2020 11:20 pm I don't wish anyone losses but it would be interesting to see how a bond bear market would change the bond heavy allocations often recommended here. It's pretty easy to own a lot of an asset that mostly goes up.
Please define the phrase "bond bear market".
Risk is not a guarantor of return.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by Broken Man 1999 »

000 wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 5:05 pm Cash + call options
Durable consumer goods
On the durable consumer goods, do you mean via a sector fund, or personal purchases?

If the market continues in the up direction, I might even replace my perfectly adequate van with a Sprinter van. My current van has less than 100,000 miles on it, it is a 2008 bought new in 2009.

First world problem for sure.

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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by Northern Flicker »

In the institutional investment community, I think two things are commonly used to reduce bond allocations: 1) trying to maximize the risk mitigation that can be achieved through diversification across risky assets; 2) use of alternative investments.
Risk is not a guarantor of return.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by ruralavalon »

Broken Man 1999 wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 4:54 pm . . . . .
Or, I could do nothing at all. And, doing nothing at all is my forte. :D

Broken Man 1999
That's my plan too :D .
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by 000 »

Broken Man 1999 wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 5:16 pm
000 wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 5:05 pm Cash + call options
Durable consumer goods
On the durable consumer goods, do you mean via a sector fund, or personal purchases?

If the market continues in the up direction, I might even replace my perfectly adequate van with a Sprinter van. My current van has less than 100,000 miles on it, it is a 2008 bought new in 2009.

First world problem for sure.

Broken Man 1999
Personal purchases.

If one has free space in one's residence, buying more consumer goods one is already planning to consume in the future is a "free lunch" if the alternative is a negative real yield bond. This strategy does not scale (storage issues) and thus is unlikely to be arbitraged away.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by ruralavalon »

000 wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 5:19 pm
Broken Man 1999 wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 5:16 pm
000 wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 5:05 pm Cash + call options
Durable consumer goods
On the durable consumer goods, do you mean via a sector fund, or personal purchases?

If the market continues in the up direction, I might even replace my perfectly adequate van with a Sprinter van. My current van has less than 100,000 miles on it, it is a 2008 bought new in 2009.

First world problem for sure.

Broken Man 1999
Personal purchases.

If one has free space in one's residence, buying more consumer goods one is already planning to consume in the future is a "free lunch" if the alternative is a negative real yield bond. This strategy does not scale (storage issues) and thus is unlikely to be arbitraged away.
AHA, hoarding as the new investment strategy :wink:
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by 000 »

ruralavalon wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 5:40 pm
000 wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 5:19 pm
Broken Man 1999 wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 5:16 pm
000 wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 5:05 pm Cash + call options
Durable consumer goods
On the durable consumer goods, do you mean via a sector fund, or personal purchases?

If the market continues in the up direction, I might even replace my perfectly adequate van with a Sprinter van. My current van has less than 100,000 miles on it, it is a 2008 bought new in 2009.

First world problem for sure.

Broken Man 1999
Personal purchases.

If one has free space in one's residence, buying more consumer goods one is already planning to consume in the future is a "free lunch" if the alternative is a negative real yield bond. This strategy does not scale (storage issues) and thus is unlikely to be arbitraged away.
AHA, hoarding as a new investment strategy :wink:
If storage cost is free, it offers a 0% real return.

Probably how most of our ancestors "invested".

Something something about reversion to the mean.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by Broken Man 1999 »

Well, even before covid came calling, we had a stuffed pantry. Not hoarding, just that is what we have always done.

We have had enough TP and hand sanitizer through out the pandemic. I normally buy 96 rolls at a time. It's not like it goes bad or anything.

The two things we didnt have, when things went south, were masks, and wipes.

We have now laid in a store of masks, but still have not found Chlorox wipes. But we do have a few gallons of concentrated stuff we can use with paper towels and wash cloths.

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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by grobertj »

ruralavalon wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 4:32 pm
grobertj wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 3:47 pm I've had similar concerns for quite a while. Vanguard has a Total Corporate Bond ETF. It's an ETF of ETFs with approximately equal part short, intermediate & long Corporate bonds. Since the Total Bond ETF is primarily focused on Treasuries, it would seem to me this would offer some additional diversification for fixed income investment. It has been available for very long, but the returns of it's benchmark look attractive.

Thoughts?
We use Vanguard Intermediate-term Bond Index fund (VBILX) ER 0.07%, about 1/2 government bonds and 1/2 corporate bonds.

Got it!! I may use half Total Bond and half Corporate Bond. I prefer EFTs due to lower fees.
grobertj wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 3:47 pmAnother question I have for the group, since John Bogle recommended using SS in retiree's calculation of bond allocation, should we also use real estate? I own my home free and clear, and I could obviously get an equity load or a reverse mortgage.
In my opinion, no. A home is primarily a place to live, not primarily a investment. How do you rebalance if necessary?
I wouldn't treat it as a bond any more than I would an annuity. I just mean to use in the calculation of how much fixed income I need in my portfolio. Again, if necessary, I could get a reverse mortgage which is basically the same as an immediate annuity.
The only constant is CHANGE!!
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by ruralavalon »

grobertj wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 6:14 pm
ruralavalon wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 4:32 pm
grobertj wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 3:47 pm I've had similar concerns for quite a while. Vanguard has a Total Corporate Bond ETF. It's an ETF of ETFs with approximately equal part short, intermediate & long Corporate bonds. Since the Total Bond ETF is primarily focused on Treasuries, it would seem to me this would offer some additional diversification for fixed income investment. It has been available for very long, but the returns of it's benchmark look attractive.

Thoughts?
We use Vanguard Intermediate-term Bond Index fund (VBILX) ER 0.07%, about 1/2 government bonds and 1/2 corporate bonds.

Got it!! I may use half Total Bond and half Corporate Bond. I prefer EFTs due to lower fees.
There is an ETF share class, Vanguard Intermediate-Term Bond ETF (BIV) ER 0.05%.

ruralavalon wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 4:32 pm
grobertj wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 6:14 pm
grobertj wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 3:47 pmAnother question I have for the group, since John Bogle recommended using SS in retiree's calculation of bond allocation, should we also use real estate? I own my home free and clear, and I could obviously get an equity load or a reverse mortgage.
In my opinion, no. A home is primarily a place to live, not primarily a investment. How do you rebalance if necessary?
I wouldn't treat it as a bond any more than I would an annuity. I just mean to use in the calculation of how much fixed income I need in my portfolio. Again, if necessary, I could get a reverse mortgage which is basically the same as an immediate annuity.
I think of owning our home outright as reducing our income/spending needs, and not as any kind of investment.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by whodidntante »

Northern Flicker wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 5:11 pm
whodidntante wrote: Sat Jul 04, 2020 11:20 pm I don't wish anyone losses but it would be interesting to see how a bond bear market would change the bond heavy allocations often recommended here. It's pretty easy to own a lot of an asset that mostly goes up.
Please define the phrase "bond bear market".
Not sure if this is a serious question but I'll treat it like it was. Bonds are typically marked to market though there are a few exceptions. It would be characterized by falling bond prices for existing bonds and generally higher yields. Defaults and poor liquidity can lead to additional losses. In March, the steep losses in certain types of credit were caused by tepid demand, with a total lack of bids in some cases, and predatory bids in others. That's one reason the Fed announced their intentions to buy risk assets. They contnue to do so.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by Northern Flicker »

It was a serious question. It was not whether bonds can lose value. The phrase "bear market" conjures up the emotion of an asset class bloodbath. A bear market for stocks today is defined (arbitrarily) by the financial press as a drop of 20% or more from the peak. Treasuries or the total bond index have never seen such a drawdown-- nowhere even close.

The closest thing you can find is the loss in real terms during periods of robust inflation like the 1970's. And even that was a lengthy process so that it was not so severe for short and intermediate durations.
Last edited by Northern Flicker on Sun Aug 09, 2020 2:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by Stinky »

capjak wrote: Mon Jul 06, 2020 6:15 pm I have MYGAs, principle guaranteed by claims paying ability of the insurance company which is AMBest A+ rated and pays 3.5% annual interest tax deferred 7 year term and a 5 year term at 2.65%. Access to interest on a monthly basis if I want.
I agree that MYGAs can be an alternative to bonds or to CDs. Rates on MYGAs are favorable right now.

There are a range of MYGAs, for guaranteed rate periods ranging from 2 to 10 years, quoted on blueprintincome.com.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by bluerafters »

The Man with the Axe wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 11:56 am Great question and an excellent discussion.

We have moved some of our fixed income funds into Gold. We are also holding more cash, in USD and other currencies.
+1. I couldn’t stomach the high ER in everything but GLDM. I’m happy to let it sit and see how the 2020’s play out.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by hudson »

It's great reading about all of the fixed income alternatives; when I have time, I'll post a brief summary of all of the possible solutions brought up here...unless someone beats me to it. :)

For now, I'm going to stick with the classic safe fixed income solutions even though the yields make me hold my nose. I don't like the risks that come with the alternatives.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by LearningAlot »

rob wrote: Sat Aug 08, 2020 12:05 pm This is a limited option but I've been trying to fill up my stable value fund in an old 401k.... I know the stable value fund was decent (this year is 3%), so kept the account rather than rolling it over. That comes with different risks - single issuer in my case. It will also not last long - rates will continue to drop over time.
same here
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by grobertj »

What are your thoughts on using a Corporate Bond fund versus a Treasury Bond Fund. Corporate Bonds should return a higher yield. I know there's slightly more risk, but I doubt it's very high.
The only constant is CHANGE!!
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by Call_Me_Op »

grobertj wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 8:49 am What are your thoughts on using a Corporate Bond fund versus a Treasury Bond Fund. Corporate Bonds should return a higher yield. I know there's slightly more risk, but I doubt it's very high.
It's almost a philosophical argument. With treasuries, you know you will get your money back. With corporates, you do not. Is that trade-off OK with you for an additional 1% or so in yield?
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by dcw213 »

redfan11 wrote: Thu Aug 06, 2020 10:33 pm
dcw213 wrote: Sun Jul 05, 2020 10:35 pm I have changed my fixed income strategy significantly in light of the current rate environment. In my opinion there is very little upside buying something like total bond fund in this environment and a whole lot of downside (obviously I do not know this but am assuming rates will not go substantially negative).

I have been maxing out annual savings bonds (Series I and EE) for years with some feelings of regret and now am happy I have been. I will continue to. I have taken advantage of retail CDs and have a decent amount of these from 2018 and 2019 yielding 3.5%.

My big change is that I sold all bond funds (except small amounts in some target date funds in 529s) and started using options. For a chunk of what would normally be my bond allocation I moved to a brokerage and am selling cash secured puts on the S&P 500 with rolling expiration dates. I sold them at strike prices that are deep out of the money (on average about -25% from current valuation) and received about 8%-9% annualized premium. My thought process is that I am ignoring the next to nothing yield available in bond funds and instead am being paid for my commitment to rebalance to stocks in the event there is a large drawdown. I feel like this works for me with the portion that I was struggling with. Of course I acknowledge the risks of this and they seem appropriate to me in the current environment with a chunk of savings bonds and 3.5% CDs in hand.
The current premium for writing -25% put givens an annualized 1.02% (if you roll the options every 30 days), which will be taxed at the the highest marginal tax rate. I tried doing this on individual stocks, and was able to earn more, but more time intensive. Unfortunately, its just too cumbersome..What platform do you use to do this? Im just sticking to 70/30 allocation as thinking about this is making me sleepy and I get confused after a few mins....

You are correct - since I posted this I have closed out and looked to open new puts for the first time since I wrote a bunch a couple months back and the premiums are down. I did still write a few at more like -15-20% for an annualized premium rate of about 6%. You make good points about the taxes, but this strategy still works for me in the current environment vs a 1% risk free. As mentioned this is on no more than about 1/5 or so of my fixed income.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by whodidntante »

Northern Flicker wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 2:57 am It was a serious question. It was not whether bonds can lose value. The phrase "bear market" conjures up the motion of an asset class bloodbath. A bear market for stocks today is defined (arbitrarily) by the financial press as a drop of 20% or more from the peak. Treasuries or the total bond index have never seen such a drawdown-- nowhere even close.

The closest thing you can find is the loss in real terms during periods of robust inflation like the 1970's. And even that was a lengthy process so that it was not so severe for short and intermediate durations.
I'm glad you mentioned real returns. I don't need a lot of imagination to consider a 20% drop on a real basis. In fact, I consider that the base case. I.e., I expect to accumulate losses on a real basis by holding high quality bonds.

T-bills have been cut in half before on a real basis. I'm not a market historian so I don't know what the worst historical performance of aggregate bonds are. I think you need to start a lot sooner than VBTLX to get much out of the examination.
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Taylor Larimore
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by Taylor Larimore »

I'm not a market historian so I don't know what the worst historical performance of aggregate bonds are. I think you need to start a lot sooner than VBTLX to get much out of the examination.
Bogleheads:

Below is the "historical performance" of Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund:

YEAR--INFLATION--BOND INDEX--S&P 500 T.R. INDEX--MSCI EAFE T.R.INDEX
1976-------4.9%--------15.6%------------23.8%--------------------3.6%
1977-------6.7-----------3.0-------------(-7.2)-------------------17.5
1978-------9.0-----------1.4---------------6.6--------------------33.1
1979------13.3-----------1.9--------------18.4-------------------10.9 (Highest Annual Inflation Rate)
1980------12.5-----------2.7--------------32.4-------------------25.4
1981-------8.9-----------6.3-------------(-4.9)------------------(-2.5)
1982-------3.8----------32.6--------------21.6------------------(-0.3) (Highest Bond Index Return)
1983-------3.8-----------8.4--------------22.6-------------------24.8
1984-------3.9----------15.2---------------6.3--------------------3.5
1985-------3.8----------22.1--------------31.7-------------------51.4
1986-------1.1----------15.2--------------18.7-------------------65.8 (Vanguard Total Bond Market Inception )
1987-------4.4-----------2.8----------------5.2-------------------24.6
1988-------4.4-----------7.9---------------16.6-------------------27.8
1989-------4.6----------14.5---------------31.7------------------11.4
1990-------6.1-----------8.9---------------(-3.1)---------------(-22.8)
1991-------3.1----------16.0---------------30.5------------------12.4
1992-------2.9-----------7.4-----------------7.6----------------(-11.9) (Vanguard Total Stock Market Inception)
1993-------2.7-----------9.7----------------10.1------------------32.6
1994-------2.7---------(-2.9)----------------1.3--------------------7.6 (Lowest Bond Index Return)
1995-------2.5----------18.5---------------37.6-------------------11.8 (Highest S&P Index Return)
1996-------3.3-----------3.6----------------23.0--------------------7.2 (Vanguard Total International Stock Market Inception
1997-------1.7-----------9.7----------------33.4--------------------2.6
1998-------1.6-----------8.7----------------28.6-------------------19.1
1999-------2.7---------(-0.8)---------------21.0-------------------28.3
2000-------3.4----------11.6---------------(-9.1)----------------(-15.8)
2001-------1.6-----------8.4--------------(-11.9)----------------(-19.8)
2002-------2.4----------10.3-------------(-22.1)----------------(-15.3)
2003-------1.9-----------4.1----------------28.7-------------------40.4
2004-------3.3-----------4.3----------------10.9-------------------20.9
2005-------3.4-----------2.4-----------------4.9-------------------15.8
2006-------2.5-----------4.3----------------15.8------------------26.8
2007-------4.1-----------7.0-----------------5.5------------------11.6
2008-------0.1-----------5.2--------------(-37.0)---------------(-43.1) (Lowest U.S. and International Stock Returns)
2009-------2.7-----------5.9----------------26.5------------------32.5
2010-------1.5-----------6.5----------------15.1-------------------8.2
2011-------3.0-----------7.7-----------------2.1----------------(-11.7)
2012-------1.7-----------4.3----------------16.0------------------17.9
2013-------1.5---------(-2.0)---------------32.4------------------23.3
2014-------1.6-----------6.0----------------13.7-----------------(-4.5)
2015-------0.7-----------0.5-----------------1.4-----------------(-0.4)
2016-------2.1-----------2.6----------------12.0-------------------1.5
2017-------2.1-----------3.5----------------21.8------------------25.6
2018-------2.5---------(-0.1)--------------(-4.4)---------------(-13.4)
2019 ------2.3-----------8.7----------------31.5------------------22.7

Sources: U.S. Labor Department (CPI-U); Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index; Standard & Poors; and dfturner

Lessons learned:

* Past performance does not forecast future performance.

* The Aggregate Bond Index (benchmark for Vanguard Total U.S.Bond Market Index Fund) had only four negative years (all small) reflecting very low risk.

* In 2008 the S&P 500 Stock Index plunged (-38.5%). During the next 2 years it gained +41.52% (stay-the-course).

* Foreign Stocks enjoyed the highest annual return (1986).

* Table demonstrates the futility of using past performance to forecast future performance.

* Diversification is important.

* Inflation climbed from 4.9% in 1976 to 13.3% in 1976. During that period a combination of Total Bond Market and stocks beat inflation.

* Think long-term.

Best wishes.
Taylor
Jack Bogle's Words of Wisdom: "No analysis of the past, no matter how painstaking, assures future superiority."

"Simplicity is the master key to financial success." -- Jack Bogle
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by k b »

This provides a good summary of why holding bonds might make sense. Bonds provide an emotional hedge when things are actually happening, though they might not when you apply 20:20 hindsight.

https://awealthofcommonsense.com/2020/0 ... right-now/
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by ruralavalon »

k b wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 12:28 pm This provides a good summary of why holding bonds might make sense. Bonds provide an emotional hedge when things are actually happening, though they might not when you apply 20:20 hindsight.

https://awealthofcommonsense.com/2020/0 ... right-now/
Also I suggest reading:
1) Morningstar (8/20/2019), "The Best Diversifiers for Your Equity Portfolio".
2) Morningstar (7/8/2020), "What's the Best Diversifier for Stocks?"
3) The White Coat Investor, (9/23/2016), "In Defense of Bonds".
"Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler." - Albert Einstein | Wiki article link:Getting Started
Northern Flicker
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by Northern Flicker »

whodidntante wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 11:55 am
Northern Flicker wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 2:57 am It was a serious question. It was not whether bonds can lose value. The phrase "bear market" conjures up the motion of an asset class bloodbath. A bear market for stocks today is defined (arbitrarily) by the financial press as a drop of 20% or more from the peak. Treasuries or the total bond index have never seen such a drawdown-- nowhere even close.

The closest thing you can find is the loss in real terms during periods of robust inflation like the 1970's. And even that was a lengthy process so that it was not so severe for short and intermediate durations.
I'm glad you mentioned real returns. I don't need a lot of imagination to consider a 20% drop on a real basis. In fact, I consider that the base case. I.e., I expect to accumulate losses on a real basis by holding high quality bonds.
I don't get imagined returns very often. A 20% drop as the base case for real returns over say 10 years might well happen with long-term bonds, maybe it could happen with shorter duration bonds, but it is without historical precedent for short-term and intermediate term bonds.

A basket of goods costing $100 in 1969 would have costed $262.94 in 1982, per this inflation calculator.

A $100 slice of 3-month rolling t-bills in 1969 with reinvestment of interest was worth $298.92 in 1982 per this historical data.
Last edited by Northern Flicker on Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by 000 »

grobertj wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 8:49 am What are your thoughts on using a Corporate Bond fund versus a Treasury Bond Fund. Corporate Bonds should return a higher yield. I know there's slightly more risk, but I doubt it's very high.
Less useful for rebalancing as it usually drops more than treasuries during stock crashes.
Call_Me_Op wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 8:59 am It's almost a philosophical argument. With treasuries, you know you will get your money back. With corporates, you do not. Is that trade-off OK with you for an additional 1% or so in yield?
[emphasis mine]

We do not know this. In fact, with negative after-tax real yields, it is reasonable to assume that with treasuries one will not get one's money back.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by Stinky »

Northern Flicker wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:04 pm
whodidntante wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 11:55 am
Northern Flicker wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 2:57 am It was a serious question. It was not whether bonds can lose value. The phrase "bear market" conjures up the motion of an asset class bloodbath. A bear market for stocks today is defined (arbitrarily) by the financial press as a drop of 20% or more from the peak. Treasuries or the total bond index have never seen such a drawdown-- nowhere even close.

The closest thing you can find is the loss in real terms during periods of robust inflation like the 1970's. And even that was a lengthy process so that it was not so severe for short and intermediate durations.
I'm glad you mentioned real returns. I don't need a lot of imagination to consider a 20% drop on a real basis. In fact, I consider that the base case. I.e., I expect to accumulate losses on a real basis by holding high quality bonds.
I don't get imagined returns very often. A 20% drop as the base case for real returns over say 10 years might well happen with long-term bonds, maybe it could happen with shorter duration bonds, but it is without historical precedent for short-term and intermediate term bonds.

A basket of goods costing $100 in 1969 would have costed $262.94 in 1982, per this inflation calculator.

A $100 slice of 3-month rolling t-bills in 1969 with reinvestment of interest was worth $298.92 in 1982 per this historical data.
There would have been income taxes on the $198.92 of “gain” on the T-bills. So T-bills, net of taxes, wouldn’t have kept up with price inflation.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by vineviz »

Northern Flicker wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:04 pm
I don't get imagined returns very often. A 20% drop as the base case for real returns over say 10 years might well happen with long-term bonds, maybe it could happen with shorter duration bonds, but it is without historical precedent for short-term and intermediate term bonds.
Short-term yields are considerably more volatile than long-term yields, so broadly speaking a 20% drop in the yield on 2-year Treasuries is more likely than a similar drop in 20-year Treasuries.

Also, historically the yield curve has remained upward sloping even when real rates are negative. There are powerful theoretical reasons suggesting this should remain the case.
"Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections than has been lost in corrections themselves." ~~ Peter Lynch
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Re: Brighthouse Shield Annuities.

Post by reln »

Compass wrote: Sat Jul 04, 2020 6:19 pm I'm considering using these products in my traditional IRA to replace a portion, not all, of my bond mutual funds. These got a bad rap on our forum when comparing them to no load index stock mutual funds mostly because they don't pay dividends. But the commenters did not discuss them as an alternative to bond mutual funds. With interest rates near zero, any bond mutual funds probably will loose within 6 years as rates can only go up. This seems like it could solve that problem by transferring all of the bonds in a my traditional IRA to a combination of CDs and this annuity. With Bond Mutual funds posed to loose over the next 6 years, the strategy is to reallocate the to these locked up term Shield annuities for some stability and some returns and keep some CDs/cash to re-balance with when stocks crash.

There are 2 Shield products in particular. 1st is the 6 year term Sheild 25 with a 125% Cap based on the S&P index this is recommended for stability. The 2nd is the 1 year term Shield 10 with over a 9% Step return. This one is more of a gamble but with decent odds.

I'd appreciate your opinion on this strategy on using these Brighthouse Shield Annuity contracts, not as an alternative to Stock mutual funds, but as as an alternative to Bonds with a mix of cash.
I wouldn't do it myself but index annuities are reasonable alternatives to bond funds.

I also wouldn't hold bonds funds.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by Northern Flicker »

vineviz wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:25 pm
Northern Flicker wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:04 pm
I don't get imagined returns very often. A 20% drop as the base case for real returns over say 10 years might well happen with long-term bonds, maybe it could happen with shorter duration bonds, but it is without historical precedent for short-term and intermediate term bonds.
Short-term yields are considerably more volatile than long-term yields, so broadly speaking a 20% drop in the yield on 2-year Treasuries is more likely than a similar drop in 20-year Treasuries.

Also, historically the yield curve has remained upward sloping even when real rates are negative. There are powerful theoretical reasons suggesting this should remain the case.
A 20% drop in the yield is different from a -20% real return of the asset.
Risk is not a guarantor of return.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by Northern Flicker »

Stinky wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:17 pm
Northern Flicker wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:04 pm
whodidntante wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 11:55 am
Northern Flicker wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 2:57 am It was a serious question. It was not whether bonds can lose value. The phrase "bear market" conjures up the motion of an asset class bloodbath. A bear market for stocks today is defined (arbitrarily) by the financial press as a drop of 20% or more from the peak. Treasuries or the total bond index have never seen such a drawdown-- nowhere even close.

The closest thing you can find is the loss in real terms during periods of robust inflation like the 1970's. And even that was a lengthy process so that it was not so severe for short and intermediate durations.
I'm glad you mentioned real returns. I don't need a lot of imagination to consider a 20% drop on a real basis. In fact, I consider that the base case. I.e., I expect to accumulate losses on a real basis by holding high quality bonds.
I don't get imagined returns very often. A 20% drop as the base case for real returns over say 10 years might well happen with long-term bonds, maybe it could happen with shorter duration bonds, but it is without historical precedent for short-term and intermediate term bonds.

A basket of goods costing $100 in 1969 would have costed $262.94 in 1982, per this inflation calculator.

A $100 slice of 3-month rolling t-bills in 1969 with reinvestment of interest was worth $298.92 in 1982 per this historical data.
There would have been income taxes on the $198.92 of “gain” on the T-bills. So T-bills, net of taxes, wouldn’t have kept up with price inflation.
Bonds can be held in a tax-qualified account. But even in a taxable account there would not have been a -20% after-tax real return over the period, which was the point being made in the quoted text.
Last edited by Northern Flicker on Sun Aug 09, 2020 4:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by 000 »

whodidntante wrote: Sat Jul 04, 2020 11:20 pm I don't wish anyone losses but it would be interesting to see how a bond bear market would change the bond heavy allocations often recommended here. It's pretty easy to own a lot of an asset that mostly goes up.
As usual, people won't believe it can happen until it does happen.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by vineviz »

Northern Flicker wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:44 pm
vineviz wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:25 pm
Northern Flicker wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:04 pm
I don't get imagined returns very often. A 20% drop as the base case for real returns over say 10 years might well happen with long-term bonds, maybe it could happen with shorter duration bonds, but it is without historical precedent for short-term and intermediate term bonds.
Short-term yields are considerably more volatile than long-term yields, so broadly speaking a 20% drop in the yield on 2-year Treasuries is more likely than a similar drop in 20-year Treasuries.

Also, historically the yield curve has remained upward sloping even when real rates are negative. There are powerful theoretical reasons suggesting this should remain the case.
A 20% drop in the yield is different from a -20% real return of the asset.
Perhaps you meant to to specify a real return of -20% instead of a 20% drop in yields as the base case for estimating real returns?
"Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections than has been lost in corrections themselves." ~~ Peter Lynch
Northern Flicker
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by Northern Flicker »

It would take almost a 20% nominal drop in intermediate treasuries just to go back to zero return since the start of 2017. If you've been in cash, now maybe isn't the best time to start taking significant term exposure, but staying the course with bonds means if you have been holding a bond portfolio, you currently are likely to have a pretty good cushion from healthy appreciation already accrued.
Risk is not a guarantor of return.
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Re: Brighthouse Shield Annuities.

Post by ruralavalon »

reln wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:28 pm
Compass wrote: Sat Jul 04, 2020 6:19 pm I'm considering using these products in my traditional IRA to replace a portion, not all, of my bond mutual funds. These got a bad rap on our forum when comparing them to no load index stock mutual funds mostly because they don't pay dividends. But the commenters did not discuss them as an alternative to bond mutual funds. With interest rates near zero, any bond mutual funds probably will loose within 6 years as rates can only go up. This seems like it could solve that problem by transferring all of the bonds in a my traditional IRA to a combination of CDs and this annuity. With Bond Mutual funds posed to loose over the next 6 years, the strategy is to reallocate the to these locked up term Shield annuities for some stability and some returns and keep some CDs/cash to re-balance with when stocks crash.

There are 2 Shield products in particular. 1st is the 6 year term Sheild 25 with a 125% Cap based on the S&P index this is recommended for stability. The 2nd is the 1 year term Shield 10 with over a 9% Step return. This one is more of a gamble but with decent odds.

I'd appreciate your opinion on this strategy on using these Brighthouse Shield Annuity contracts, not as an alternative to Stock mutual funds, but as as an alternative to Bonds with a mix of cash.
I wouldn't do it myself but index annuities are reasonable alternatives to bond funds.

I also wouldn't hold bonds funds.
Indexed annuities (aka equity indexed annuities) are not a reasonable alternative to a bond fund. They are not a reasonable investment vehicle at all in my opinion. They are complex and there are cons to consider, such as high fees and commissions that are often associated with them.

FINRA, "Indexed annuities" .

FINRA, An alert on equity-indexed annuities.
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Re: Bond Alternatives in the time of Zero rates

Post by hudson »

For those seriously considering bond alternatives, Larry Swedroe's book, The Only Guide to Alternative Investments You'll Ever Need: The Good, the Flawed, the Bad, and the Ugly (Bloomberg Book 42), might be worth a look:

https://www.amazon.com/Only-Guide-Alter ... B003NE61GC
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