LifeGoal Investments Blog
Bonds vs. Mutual Funds
Bonds vs. Mutual Funds: Here's What To KnowThere are many options when it comes to investing. What should you choose? A savings account is where people start off, but it isn’t enough to secure a future or large spend goals.
Maybe you want to further your education or your child’s, or you have an eye on a house with that white picket fence? Or maybe you want to build wealth for a stress-free retirement.
To achieve long-term financial goals, you’ll want to look towards investments with high returns on investments. You will also want to keep a balanced, diversified portfolio. It’s not a good idea to allocate all of your resources to one security.
That is why we’d like to present bonds versus mutual funds to you. Learning about how each type of investment operates gives you the upper hand whilst managing your portfolio.
What Is a Bond?Bonds take shape in the form of a loan. Government agencies and corporations use bonds to raise money. Investors purchase them to receive a predictable, fixed return.
There are both short-term and long-term bonds. Short-term bonds are three years or less. Long-term bonds are four years or more.
Their classification is set by their maturity date. This is the date the bond issuer is required to pay back the principal borrowed.
Types of BondsHere are five types of bonds:
- Treasury bonds
- Savings bonds
- Agency bonds
- Municipal bonds
- Corporate bonds
As the name entails, Treasury bonds are issued by the U.S. Treasury Department. These are important as they set the stage for other types of bonds regarding the rate.
Treasury bonds are sold at auctions. They are also resold on secondary markets, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), Nasdaq, or the National Stock Exchange (NSE).
Also issued by the Treasury department, savings bonds are available to investors at an affordable rate. For as low as $25, these are primarily purchased from banks and credit unions.
There are two common types of savings bonds:
- I Bonds - adjusted for inflation approximately every six months
- Series EE Savings Bonds - earn interest at a fixed rate
Moving away from the Treasury department, agency bonds are issued by the Federal government or by government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs).
If you prefer to have an agency bond backed by a “full faith and credit of the U.S. government,” as the Treasury Department offers on savings bonds and treasury bonds, consider those issued by the Government National Mortgage Association, Ginnie Mae.
Other options that are not backed by a guarantee include the following:
- Federal National Mortgage Association - Fannie Mae
- Federal Home Loan Mortgage - Freddie Mac
- Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation - Farmer Mac
Often called munis for short, municipal bonds are issued by states, cities, or counties. How else do you expect capital projects (for example, schools and roadways) around your local area to be funded?
Investors in municipal bonds are promised regular interest payments and are returned the principal investment. The interest is typically paid semi-annually.
There are two types of municipal bonds to choose from:
- General obligation bonds are not asset-backed but guaranteed by “full faith and credit.”
- Revenue bonds - backed by the project revenues
Instead of being issued by a government, corporate bonds are issued by a company. They function the same, paying interest to the investor and returning the principal when the bond matures.
Investing in corporate bonds provides growth potential to companies as they purchase equipment, refinance debt obligations, or initiate an acquisition or merger.
The largest risk associated with corporate bonds is bankruptcy. Should a company file for bankruptcy, a claim is issued against the company’s assets and cash flow. But remember, companies tend to have more than just bonds as a form of debt to pay back.
The Pros and Cons of a BondHere’s why you may want to consider adding bonds to your portfolio:
- Bonds provide a fixed return. There is no guessing; you know what you’ll receive and when.
- Bonds generally carry a low level of risk.
- Bonds can earn more than a regular savings account issued from a bank
- Bonds are rated by their risk level. This means you know ahead of time how much risk is at stake.
- Overall return. Compared to other types of investments, the fixed return from a bond may not be as appealing as others.
- Purchase price. Since bonds are used to fund projects, more than just a pretty penny goes into the initial cost. This can deter investors.
- Defaults. Facing poor financial choices and bankruptcy are risks investors take.
- Liquidity. This may not be a strong option if you are looking for cash quickly.
- Interest rates. At the time of purchase, the interest rate is locked in. It may turn out to be favorable or unfavorable as time progresses.
- Prepayment. As interest rates drop, a bond paying out a high coupon (interest rate) is likely to be ‘called’ in for mandatory redemption earlier than the date of maturity by the issuer, leaving the bondholder no choice but to give up their higher yielding investment, while allowing the borrower issue a new bond at a lower rate.
What Is a Mutual Fund?A great analogy to describe a mutual fund is like a pot of stew. There is more than one ingredient used. They are combined into one pot and cooked together. When served, each bowl receives spoonfuls.
That is how a mutual fund operates. Mutual funds pool stocks, bonds, and other cash equivalents into one investment. Investors can then purchase shares of the pool to add to their portfolio.
Types of Mutual FundsThere are four main categories of mutual funds:
- Money Market Funds
- Bond Funds
- Stock Funds
- Target Date Funds
Money market funds date back to the 1970s. These tend to carry the lowest risk compared to other types of mutual funds.
Use money market funds to reach short-term goals or add to your emergency savings fund. Do not plan to reach a long-term retirement goal solely on this type of fund.
This is a great alternative if you don’t have the lump sum of cash to invest in a bond. Bond funds invest in, you guessed it, bonds.
The most common type of bond fund is known as an open-ended fund. This type is actively managed as opposed to an index bond fund. Index funds are passively managed, tracking the activity of an index.
Stock funds invest in stocks. They are also known as equity funds.
In owning a stock fund, you do not become a shareholder of the stock you are investing in. Instead, you are an owner of a bowl of stew.
Target Date Funds
As the name implies, a target date is set on a fund to gradually lower its overall risk. The date is typically associated with a future year, or the year of anticipated retirement.
Investing in target-date funds does not guarantee your return. Losses still can occur, and your savings goal may not be met.
For the best success, here are a few tips:
- Select the date that aligns closest to when you want to retire
- Monitor the performance of the fund
- Check the overall allocation of the target date fund along with other investment portfolios
- Assess the fees and expenses
Benefits of a Mutual FundMutual funds offer:
- Active Management - There is a professional behind-the-scenes observing the fund movement and re-balancing it as needed to maintain its performance objectives.
- Diversification - Mutual funds focus on various industries, companies, and more to alleviate risk and optimize returns.
- Liquidity - There is no maturity date or waiting period to redeem shares. Get your money when you need it.
- Affordable Options - Initial investments won’t break the bank, nor do additional purchases.
- Dividend Payments - Dividends earned on stock or interest are paid out to the investor, fewer expenses.
- Capital Gain Distributions - At the time of sale, if the price is greater than the original purchase price, the change is distributed to investors, less any capital losses.
The Bottom LineBonds and mutual funds are two different types of investments. Both have their advantages and their disadvantages, as all types of investments carry.
Align your portfolio based on your investment goals. If you aren’t looking for cash now, bonds promise you a steady return over time. If you don’t want your money tied up but accessible, mutual funds meet your requirements.
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are another investment option for long-term growth. ETFs help to meet your real-life needs and save for the future.
Visit LifeGoal Investments to learn more about ETFs offered on the market to help you reach your financial goals and feel comfortable when investing.
Stocks, Bonds, and Mutual Funds - Overview, Characteristics
Bonds | Investor.gov
Mutual Funds | Investor.gov
Carefully consider the Fund’s investment objective, risks, charges and expenses before investing. This and other additional information may be found in the statutory and summary prospectus, which may be obtained by calling 1-888-920-7275, or by reading the prospectus. Read the prospectus carefully before investing.
Distributed by Foreside Fund Services, LLC. Member FINRA.
ETFs are only one option when seeking to achieve goals. Prior to investing in any of the LifeGoal ETFs you should consult with your financial advisor to determine whether the specific funds are appropriate for you and, if so, how your investment plan should be implemented. The LifeGoal ETFs are not intended to be short term savings vehicles for payment of monthly expenses.
IMPORTANT RISK INFORMATION:
Investing involves risk, including loss of principal, and there is no guarantee that that Fund will meet its investment objectives. The value of a fund’s shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. The Fund bears all risks of investment strategies employed by the underlying funds, including the risk that the underlying funds will not meet their investment objectives. ETFs may trade in the secondary market at prices below the value of their underlying portfolios and may not be liquid. Fixed income investments are affected by a number of risks, including fluctuation in interest rates, credit risk, and prepayment risk. In general, as prevailing interest rates rise, fixed income prices will fall. Lower-quality bonds present greater risk, including an increased risk of default. An economic downtown or period of rising interest rates could adversely affect the market for these bonds and reduce the Fund’s ability to sell its bonds. The lack of a liquid market for these bonds could decrease the Fund’s share price. Investments in international markets present special risks including currency fluctuation, the potential for diplomatic and political instability, regulatory and liquidity risks, foreign taxation, and differences in auditing and other financial standards. Exposure to the commodities market may subject the Fund to greater volatility than investments in traditional securities. The Fund is a new ETF with a limited history of operations for investors to evaluate.
Investments made through an ETF and the results that those investments generate are not expected to be the same as those made through any other ETF from LifeGoal Investments, including one with a similar name. Additionally, a new or developing ETF’s performance may not be representative of how that ETF will perform in the future. Newer ETFs that are still developing may not yet have the assets to reach efficient investing and trading status. Furthermore, certain factors may affect the performance of a smaller or developing ETF in its early stages. An ETF may need to sell portions of its portfolio at certain points due to unpredictable purchasing patterns. However, the changes in an ETF’s overall value as the result of an unexpected portfolio change are not expected to be representative of the ETF’s long-term performance.