"Reading this book will not help make you rich," says Larry Swedroe. "It will, however, make you a better educated and therefore, wiser investor. And, it may save you from turning a large fortune into a much smaller one."
Swedroe, who is a principal and director of research at Buckingham Asset Management in St. Louis, and his co-author, Joseph Hempen, also with Buckingham and a bond specialist, have written The Only Guide to a Winning Bond Strategy You'll Ever Need (St. Martin's Press). Swedroe already has five best-selling books under his belt and is an expert when it comes to making complex financial issue accessible and engaging.
The authors provide a working blueprint for constructing a fixed-income portfolio as well as a step-by-step game plan for savvy and prudent investors. Prudent is something I personally can understand.
In any event, the authors' rules for today's 21st century investor include the following:
Invest in only very low-cost vehicles. They suggest avoiding funds with high commissions. No complaint here. They also caution about buying individual bonds from a brokerage firm, bank, or an investment bank because there are sometimes hidden markups that can be excessive. Obviously, this doesn't apply to all brokerage firms or banks.
However, keep something in mind. In many instances, investors only get shown the bonds that the broker has in inventory at that time so obviously, there may be other bonds that are more appropriate and that can suit the investor's financial goals better.
Next, avoid the purchase of what are termed hybrid securities that for the most part have elements of more than one asset class combined in a single security. These are instruments that have characteristics of both equities and fixed-income assets. For example, convertible bonds, preferred stock, and high-yield bonds. A junk bond is a hybrid.
Also, purchase assets from the highest investment grades, which means generally try and avoid instruments with a rating that is below AA. Swedroe says that in his opinion, investors should be more concerned about the return of their principal than the return on their principal. By the same token, stay away from fixed securities that have what are called dazzling features. These investments are generally meant to be sold by brokers and not bought by investors. And watch out for complex features, too.
Remember, don't try and outperform the market whether by trying to guess the direction of interest rates or identifying certain securities that have somehow not been priced correctly. Ultimately, it pays to be simply a buy-and-hold investor. For whatever it's worth, that's been my credo and it works.
Finally, purchase assets with short- to immediate-term maturities and avoid those long-term bonds. Why? Because investors are taking a lot of risk for comparatively little expected return. For instance, how can a 70-year old investor benefit from a 30-year bond?
I generally don't get into recommending any specific books but here I make an exception. This is one that is well worth reading.
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