Inflation is a scary thing for investors who depend on their investments for living expenses every month. Unfortunately, a key inflation-fighting tool, the I bond, hasn’t had much fight in it lately.
In November, the Treasury set the fixed rate for I bonds at zero percent, with a paltry variable rate of 0.74 percent to account for the miniscule growth of the. The fixed rate will apply to all I bonds issued between November and May, and it will stick with the bond throughout its 30-year life span. In May, a new fixed rate will be announced. The variable rate component changes every six months. A new variable rate is announced in May and November based on and is applied to all outstanding I bonds. “The yields are now just so low,” says Stan Richelson, co-author of “Bonds: The Unbeaten Path to Secure Investment Growth.” “They’re not encouraging people to buy savings bonds.” Even so, finding a higher-performing alternative that has the benefits of an I bond isn’t easy, as investors look for security, portfolio diversification, a steady yield and inflation-fighting power. Here’s a look at some alternatives and how they stack up.
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Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, tied to Treasuries are baskets of short- and long-term Treasury bonds. The upside: Treasuries are backed by the full faith and credit of the, so investors don’t have to stay up nights wondering if they’ll default. Also, because their value tends to go up when the economy is struggling, they tend to move in the opposite direction of stocks, providing a useful counterweight in your portfolio, says David Loeper, chairman and CEO of Wealthcare Capital Management in Richmond, Va., and author of “Stop the Investing Rip-Off.”. The downside: rarely realize high yields, but right now yields are particularly low while prices are higher than normal.
If interest rates go up quickly, the value of long-term Treasuries can nose dive, says Richelson. Bottom line: For long-term investors, Treasury mutual funds and ETFs offer a viable option for a portfolio’s fixed-income component that outperforms and protects investors in crises, says Loeper. “Whenever we’ve had a major decline in equities, there’s a flight to safety,” which causes Treasuries to increase in value, says Loeper. Just be sure that any fund or ETF you buy has a low expense ratio and low fees, he says. Treasury securities, or TIPS, are similar to I bonds, but instead of their interest rate fluctuating with inflation, their principal adjusts. When inflation occurs, the value of the security rises, causing the yield, calculated as a percentage of the asset’s value, to rise.
If deflation occurs, the opposite happens. Upside: TIPS’ value being tied to the allows them to provide some protection for investors in times of rising inflation. And for security, it’s hard to beat the full faith and credit of the U.S. Downside: A recession-driven flight to safety of historic proportions means TIPS are being offered at very low interest rates. Those low rates and the current low inflation rate famously led to the issue of TIPS in October 2010 that were projected to have a negative real return, says Richelson. Worse still, TIPS returns tend to follow the movement of stocks and the general economy, Loeper says.
When the economy tanks and the inflation rate drops, TIPS yields go along for the ride. Bottom line: TIPS aren’t a big improvement over I bonds right now for the and could be riskier, Loeper says. Dividend-producing stocks from older, established companies as well as mutual funds comprised of those same stocks combine relatively stable asset prices with generous dividends.
Upside: Dividend-producing stocks can provide a steady similar to bond yields, and because of a George W. Archive email with outlook 2011 for mac. Bush-era tax break, dividends are currently taxed at the low rate of 15 percent. Downside: Stock prices are inherently unstable, and a big slide in stocks can wipe out many years’ worth of dividends in a few weeks. Also, with the federal government looking for ways to address the yawning budget deficit, it’s far from a sure thing the tax rate on dividends will stay at 15 percent going forward. If Congress elects to raise the tax rate on, companies currently offering generous dividends may put those funds into other things, such as stock buybacks. Such a strategy woul.