As an independent wealth management advisor, Michael Emser is proud to say that he is able to choose from a very broad array of investments. In addition, he pays very close attention to the investment expenses to attempt to achieve a greater rate of return for his clients.
In general, fixed-income securities are classified according to the length of time before maturity. These are the three main categories:
- Debt securities maturing in less than one year.
- Debt securities maturing in one to 10 years.
- Debt securities maturing in more than 10 years
Marketable securities from the U.S. government - known collectively as Treasuries - follow this guideline and are issued as Treasury Bonds, Treasury notes and Treasury bill (T-bills). Technically speaking, T-bills aren't bonds because of their short maturity. All debt issued by Uncle Sam is regarded as extremely safe, as is the debt of any stable country. The debt of many developing countries, however, does carry substantial risk. Like companies, countries can default on payments.
Municipal bonds, known as "munis", are the next progression in terms of risk. Cities don't go bankrupt that often, but it can happen. The major advantage to munis is that the returns are free from federal tax. Furthermore, local governments will sometimes make their debt non-taxable for residents, thus making some municipal bonds completely tax free. Because of these tax savings, the yield on a muni is usually lower than that of a taxable bond. Depending on your personal situation, a muni can be a great investment on an after-tax basis. Consult your tax advisor. (Please note that some municipal bonds may be subject to Alternative Minimum Tax.)
Taxable equivalent yield example: If you are getting 5% on your muni bond and you are in the 25% tax bracket you would be earning the equivalent of 7% taxable! (.05/.75).
A company can issue bonds just as it can issue stock. Large corporations have a lot of flexibility as to how much debt they can issue: the limit is whatever the market will bear. Generally, a short-term corporate bond is less than five years; intermediate is five to 12 years, and long term is over 12 years.
Corporate bonds are characterized by higher yields because there is a higher risk of a company defaulting than a government. The upside is that they can also be the most rewarding fixed-income investments because of the risk the investor must take on. The company's credit quality is very important: the higher the quality, the lower the interest rate the investor receives.
Other variations on corporate bonds include convertible bonds, which the holder can convert into stock, and callable bonds, which allow the company to redeem an issue prior to maturity.
Zero Coupon Bonds
This is a type of bond that makes no coupon payments but instead is issued at a considerable discount to par value. For example, let's say a zero-coupon bond with a $1,000 par value and 10 years to maturity is trading at $600; you'd be paying $600 today for a bond that will be worth $1,000 in 10 years.
The bond rating system helps investors determine a company's credit risk. Think of a bond rating as the report card for a company's credit rating. Blue Chip firms, which are relatively safer investments, have a high rating, while risky companies have a low rating. The chart below illustrates the different bond rating scales from the major rating agencies in the
Moody's, Standard and Poor's and Fitch Ratings — US
Notice that if the company falls below a certain credit rating, its grade changes from investment quality to junk status. Junk bonds are aptly named: they are the debt of companies in some sort of financial difficulty. Because they are so risky, they have to offer much higher yields than any other debt. This brings up an important point: not all bonds are inherently safer than stocks. Certain types of bonds can be just as risky, if not riskier, than stocks.
Michael Emser is licensed to buy and sell individual stocks. Selecting a portfolio of common stocks is certainly dependent on your risk tolerance, time horizon, investment experience, need for growth, need for income, tax bracket, and many other factors. Michael has access to resourses allowing him to evaluate your portfolio of stock you currently have or making recommendations for a new portfolio.