Munis Help!!!

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radernation-1's picture
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Hi, 95% of my book is focused on silver and gold  stocks. However, I have had questions from clients/prospects about Munis. I have been looking at Muni Bond funds for them. My question is would you go towards A or C shares? Would it depend on the size of the amount invested? Most of my clients are in the 10-50k account size range and fall in a 28-35% bracket. I would see most of them investing  5-50k with recurring investments. The service I provide for them is reviewing their 401k 1-2 times per year. I would welcome any insight. Thanks.

Greenbacks's picture
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95% in one asset class! Now that is scary!
A share or C shares! Wow did you ever recieve any training!
I will agree you need a lot of help !   

jamesbond's picture
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good luck in arbitration....

cracker's picture
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go with the A's

radernation-1's picture
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I said 95% of my Business is silver and gold stocks. My clients have holdings at other places (Annuities, Mutual Funds,etc.) They come to me because they are looking for ideas in other areas that their broker/planner  don't understand/follow. Thats not a bad thing .Their business model is different. So Greenbacks and Bond before you open your mouth next time and say anything you might want to read posts a couple of times before you respond.

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Shouldn't you consider the bonds themselves instead of the funds given the overhead? I would think return would be better as well as not having to worry about the fund taking a turn for the worse? Just throwing it out there for the more experienced among you to evaluate.

Best,
Sonny

troll's picture
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radernation-1 wrote:

I said 95% of my Business is silver and gold stocks. My clients have holdings at other places (Annuities, Mutual Funds,etc.) They come to me because they are looking for ideas in other areas that their broker/planner  don't understand/follow.
Oh, I bet their other advisors understand, they simply won't push the kinds of fringe stuff you do.

troll's picture
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jamesbond wrote:good luck in arbitration....

maybeeeeeeee's picture
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Did they teach you about Asset Allocation?

radernation-1's picture
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Well Mr "Brown" I can see you enjoy messing with other people . You probably think your s%)^% dosen't stink. I could argue back and forth but I see no need to. I will correct you though . It should be kind of stuff. Not kinds . I would proof my stuff before you start tryin to send things to clients. Makes you look bad.

radernation-1's picture
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Maybee, to answer your question. Yes I know about as much as asset allocation as you do.

iconsult100's picture
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I think when silver and gold go tank, you're screwed.  As for the bonds..... consider Individual Bonds or a good basket of ETFs.

tjc45's picture
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Muni bonds is one area where you don't need to use funds. Munis are a straight forward investment that don't need management. Better pricing is usually available for blocks above 100K. Best pricing for blocks above 1 million. However, buying 5 bonds can still be a better deal than some funds. That said, muni funds from Franklin, Eaton Vance, Van Kampen, and Oppenheimer won't leave you with splaining to do down the road. On the conservative side look at Franklin's state specific funds. For the more aggresive investor, the Opco Rochester Nat'l Muni and Van Kampen's Strategic muni are places to look.
A shares are usually the way to go with muni funds as it is unlikely that the client will ever have to sell. A shares also reduce the Management fees and max out the return to the client. Of course you need to review the best share class on a case by case basis.

troll's picture
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radernation-1 wrote:

Well Mr "Brown" I can see you enjoy messing with other people . You probably think your s%)^% dosen't stink. I could argue back and forth but I see no need to. I will correct you though . It should be kind of stuff. Not kinds . I would proof my stuff before you start tryin to send things to clients. Makes you look bad.

 

babbling looney's picture
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Muni bonds is one area where you don't need to use funds
What about the danger of owning individual bonds in a rising interest rate environment?  Unless the client has adequate assets to build a bond ladder (at the very least 100K) they are going to be holding sub par, and sub coupon rate bonds that they will not be able to sell without taking a bath and/or be forced to hold the bonds for a very long time.  Even if they don't need the initial investment back and can wait until call or maturity, clients still don't like to see a monthly statment with a big negative amount in their bonds.  Granted there is no guarantee of principal return or interest rate in a bond fund, but there is liquidity and the chance to have a rising interest rate as newer bonds are added to the mix.  Selling the interest rate on bonds and the the lower cost to buy the bonds is only a part of the dynamics of owning bonds
I am very leery right now of individual bonds for the average investor, unless they are very short term and are part of a much larger managed portfolio.   I have many clients who have bonds that we bought over 5 years ago and they are now reaching call dates. I'm sure that many will be called as the coupons are 8% or better.   I am going to suggest bond funds or a blended bond/stock fund if the income is still  a need.   Oppenheimer and Franklin are some that I like also there are some ETF bond funds.  But be careful of those as many are leveraged.

Anonymous's picture
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TJC45,

I have heard that the Franklin State Specific Fund was good. Is there an advantage to muni funds other than the obvious like offseting risk of higher yielding higher risk bonds by purchasing them in the form of a fund or just a more conservative investment. Is there more reasons one might have that I'm just not seeing.

Best,
Sonny

AAA insured's picture
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 Bond funds are an excellent intrument for your clients if you are not a seasoned bond buyer.  Basically you are paying the managers of these funds to manage a portoflio for you.  No need to pay the ongoing fees if you have the knowledge necessary to build your own porfolio.  Build your own bond fund with a professional selection of individual securities.  I would recomend a short laddered portfolio with a low duration.  Your clients will escape the ongoing fees and you will look a little better in their eyes.  There are many firms out there that will do this for you.  Of course you will pay for the mark ups but thats a one time fee and will not reduce the overall yield like the funds will.  Good luck 

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babbling looney wrote:
Muni bonds is one area where you don't need to use funds
What about the danger of owning individual bonds in a rising interest rate environment?  Unless the client has adequate assets to build a bond ladder (at the very least 100K) they are going to be holding sub par, and sub coupon rate bonds that they will not be able to sell without taking a bath and/or be forced to hold the bonds for a very long time.  Even if they don't need the initial investment back and can wait until call or maturity, clients still don't like to see a monthly statment with a big negative amount in their bonds.  Granted there is no guarantee of principal return or interest rate in a bond fund, but there is liquidity and the chance to have a rising interest rate as newer bonds are added to the mix.  Selling the interest rate on bonds and the the lower cost to buy the bonds is only a part of the dynamics of owning bonds
I am very leery right now of individual bonds for the average investor, unless they are very short term and are part of a much larger managed portfolio.   I have many clients who have bonds that we bought over 5 years ago and they are now reaching call dates. I'm sure that many will be called as the coupons are 8% or better.   I am going to suggest bond funds or a blended bond/stock fund if the income is still  a need.   Oppenheimer and Franklin are some that I like also there are some ETF bond funds.  But be careful of those as many are leveraged.

Looney-
Have you considered the Federated Muni and Stock Advantage Fund?  It is a balanced fund, but the bond portion of the fund is made of munis, both high quality and high yield.  None of the munis are subject to AMT, and all of the equities qualify for the lower dividend tax rate.  The fund yields around 4% at NAV, pays monthly, and the clients nets about 90% of that yield.  Performance has been outstanding since inception (less than 2 years).  I know there is not a lot of track record, but I like the idea.

babbling looney's picture
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Sooth...
Thanks. I will look into that fund.  

radernation-1's picture
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Thank you all for the insight . EVEN Mr Brown .

tjc45's picture
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babbling looney wrote:
Muni bonds is one area where you don't need to use funds
What about the danger of owning individual bonds in a rising interest rate environment?  Unless the client has adequate assets to build a bond ladder (at the very least 100K) they are going to be holding sub par, and sub coupon rate bonds that they will not be able to sell without taking a bath and/or be forced to hold the bonds for a very long time.  Even if they don't need the initial investment back and can wait until call or maturity, clients still don't like to see a monthly statment with a big negative amount in their bonds.  Granted there is no guarantee of principal return or interest rate in a bond fund, but there is liquidity and the chance to have a rising interest rate as newer bonds are added to the mix.  Selling the interest rate on bonds and the the lower cost to buy the bonds is only a part of the dynamics of owning bonds
I am very leery right now of individual bonds for the average investor, unless they are very short term and are part of a much larger managed portfolio.   I have many clients who have bonds that we bought over 5 years ago and they are now reaching call dates. I'm sure that many will be called as the coupons are 8% or better.   I am going to suggest bond funds or a blended bond/stock fund if the income is still  a need.   Oppenheimer and Franklin are some that I like also there are some ETF bond funds.  But be careful of those as many are leveraged.
 
I don't think I said buy long term munis. I did write that funds MAY not be the best deal for the client. This is largely because the fees charged by the funds eat up such a large portion of the income. Same with taxable income funds. As advisors it's up to each of us to try to advise our clients as to how to handle interest rates. My own take is to buy the maximum coupon available matched to the client's risk tolerance. This means buying long term bonds all the time. I do this because buying muni bonds is about one thing, INCOME. When buying munis we are not trying to manage for total return or to balance a risk spectrum. Most advisors ladder because the direction of interest rates is unknowable and they don't want to lock a client into a low rate. I maximize income for exactly the same reason. Laddering trades a sure thing, today's coupon payment, for a what if. The client comes out ahead with laddering ONLY if rates increase. Which, explains why laddering has been the WRONG strategy for better than 20 years, costing clients billions of dollars in lost income. Clients who ladder put themselves in a position of NEEDING an interest rate increase to make up for lost income. The longer they go without one, the bigger the increase NEEDS to be to match the yearly and total income of the long term muni buyer. The numbers are unknowable. Of course the long term muni buyers bonds are worth less if rates do increase. Usually not an issue as clients spend income, not principal. We hold to maturity. Again, it's about maximizing income.
Muni funds have had a steadily decreasing income stream over the last 20 years. Most funds are managed for total return, not maximum income. Opco's Rochester National is an exception to this(this fund has some problems right now). Managing for total return assumes the manager will guess right, not always the case. Many. if not most of these funds have not recovered their principal loss from 94 and 98(Wrong guess).
If client is buying munis for income and not as part of an allocation strategy then go long term and lock in the highest possible income. If 4.5% tax free is the worst investment you ever buy for a client then you're in for a very successful relationship.
if rates go up GOOD NEWS! Buy more!

tjc45's picture
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SonnyClips wrote:TJC45, I have heard that the Franklin State Specific Fund was good. Is there an advantage to muni funds other than the obvious like offseting risk of higher yielding higher risk bonds by purchasing them in the form of a fund or just a more conservative investment. Is there more reasons one might have that I'm just not seeing. Best, Sonny
You're not missing much. Funds are an excellent way to get high yield exposure. Monthly income is another reason for going the fund route. Some clients can't handle the six month income cycle, even if we buy bonds to cover all the months. As for adding value, that's part of the pitch not part of the reality. An example is the Eaton Vance National Muni fund. This is an excellent fund, yet a $100,000 investment made 20 years ago(more or less) is worth about $101500 today. That's better than a maturing 100k bond, but the income from the fund dropped from 8% to 6% in the first ten years. Not so sure that lost income added any value. Also,there were plenty of opportunities over the years for these guys to screw up and cost the client big time. They didn't, but why exspose the client to the risk? it's one thing to lose value when rates increase. it's another to never get it back. Something that needs to be reviewed before buying a fund. How do they do when the wheels fall off, like what happened in 94 or 98/99? Can they get the lost principal back? And if so at what cost to income? Non issues with a buy and hold long term muni bond income strategy.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

In many ways the pitch on a bond fund would start with the monthly income. I think that is the part of the equation that I was missing. Something I hadn't considered though is that infact there are added and unique risk factors to be considered in regard to the fund as opposed to individual bonds other than added expense. I would say that the 1.5% increase in value in the Eaton fund looks like a bonus to me given that you wouldn't have that at the maturity of a bond. You think though that the 1.5% acts in a way as an offset for the management cost or does it fall short?

You know there is an old Russian proverb that says that...

"A fool can ask more questions than even a thousand wise men can answer."

Thanks for the help.

Best,
Sonny

babbling looney's picture
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Muni funds have had a steadily decreasing income stream over the last 20 years.
And this is because interest rates have been going down....dramatically.  We are just now coming out of the lowest interest rate environment in 50 years.   People who bought long term munis or zero coupon bonds in the 80's and early 90's are happy campers right now.  Way back when, I was easily able to offer my clients fixed taxable income rates from 9% up and munis in the 6% range.  Now, the best I can do on the AAA muni side is a pitiful 3 to 4%.
Run a 20 yr hypo on the Franklin Cal Tax Free Income Fund and you will find that the clients would have had an annual return of 7.46% on 100k with a principal gain of approx 10K assuming all income was withdrawn and only cap gains reinvested.  Sure the income did come down but the clients have liqudity haven't lost principal.  And more importantly, we hope that we haven't invested ALL of their assets in one type of asset class, so a well rounded portfolio will have offsetting growth and rising income in stock funds and reits etc to balance the loss of income in the bond fund.
My own take is to buy the maximum coupon available matched to the client's risk tolerance. This means buying long term bonds all the time. I do this because buying muni bonds is about one thing, INCOME. When buying munis we are not trying to manage for total return or to balance a risk spectrum.
I agree in theory, but, many clients just don't get the inverse relationship between rising interest rates and market value of bonds and especially the maximizing of that effect when it comes to long term bonds.  Good for you if you have clients who are willing to look at their statements for the next 15 to 30 years and understand why and accept that their bonds are now worth 60% or less of their original value.  Great also if they are willing to accept that that 4.5% coupon which looked good in 2005 is 2 to 4% less than new bonds in 2020.  Most clients are not like that.  I know this is all hypothetical to you right now, however, I have seen this scenario in the past and feel pretty sure we will see it again.
As to long time horizon, it is my experience that most muni bond buyers are nearing the end of their time horizon.  Meaning they are old and the idea of a 30 year bond when they are already 70 is a bit much.  OK, then you can explain that when they have passed on the bond will still continue to pay interest to their heirs for years, but somehow that isn't a real glowing sales point for many people.  "So you see Mrs. Customer when you expire this bond doesn't expire and your heirs can continue to hold this income stream".  (and they will probably have to because the bond will be worth crap when you die unless they decide to sell anyway and forego the return of face value in the future.)
Corporates that have the "death put" can sometimes mitigate that concern.  I don't believe that I have seen muni's with this feature??

tjc45's picture
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AAA insured wrote: Bond funds are an excellent intrument for your clients if you are not a seasoned bond buyer.  Basically you are paying the managers of these funds to manage a portoflio for you.  No need to pay the ongoing fees if you have the knowledge necessary to build your own porfolio.  Build your own bond fund with a professional selection of individual securities.  I would recomend a short laddered portfolio with a low duration.  Your clients will escape the ongoing fees and you will look a little better in their eyes.  There are many firms out there that will do this for you.  Of course you will pay for the mark ups but thats a one time fee and will not reduce the overall yield like the funds will.  Good luck 
As mentioned above, laddering in general and short term laddering in specific are flawed strategies with most muni buyers, who are looking for maximum income. Laddering is the way to go within an asset allocation strategy were the munis are used as the non correlating asset. Other than that you need to go long. Why?  Laddering was developed as a strategy to counter the investor who doesn't want to get caught in a low rate vehicle as rates increase. They want to be able to maximize their income by investing in the new higher rates. Yet laddering itself costs them income. If I buy a 4.5% bond for a client and you ladder at a 2% return how much of an increase in rates is necessary for your investor's total income to equal my investor's total income? When is that rate increase going to happen? 10 years ago I was buying at about a 6% coupon. I could have laddered for a 3 or 4% coupon. How long for those who did ladder to catch up to those who bought LT bonds? To me it doesn't make sense to employ a strategy that costs you income today to MAYBE maximize income later.
Laddering has been the wrong strategy for better than 20 years. Yet it's still taught as the only alternative. Here's another one, when rates go up buy more bonds. Buying munis is real simple, it's about income.
 

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SonnyClips wrote: You think though that the 1.5% acts in a way as an offset for the management cost or does it fall short? You know there is an old Russian proverb that says that... "A fool can ask more questions than even a thousand wise men can answer." Thanks for the help. Best, Sonny
 
Money is money, every little bit helps. I like this fund because it offers a relatively high income for the risk that is taken. That said, The premium doesn't offset the management fee by much. Right now the fund is charging 79 beeps. I don't have the past numbers in front of me. Safe to say similar numbers in the past? If so, a client would have paid roughly $15000 in fees over the past 20 years. Again, that's off the top of my head. A 100k investment would have varied in price by over 25k over that time period, 85k to 110k, so that number isn't right on. But it's probably not off by much. That 15k charge doesn't mean don't by the fund. If a fund can offer a better income to a client, and this one does, then the management fee is moot. The key is what's the best fit for the client.
 

tjc45's picture
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babbling looney wrote:
 
Run a 20 yr hypo on the Franklin Cal Tax Free Income Fund and you will find that the clients would have had an annual return of 7.46% on 100k with a principal gain of approx 10K assuming all income was withdrawn and only cap gains reinvested.  Sure the income did come down but the clients have liqudity haven't lost principal. 
 
Franklin state specific funds are among the best in the business. I've been using them for years. The question is, did the principal gain offset the decreasing income stream loss? What happens to this fund if rates start an extended raise? Hey, I'm a believer, just saying that there are no short answers.
My own take is to buy the maximum coupon available matched to the client's risk tolerance. This means buying long term bonds all the time. I do this because buying muni bonds is about one thing, INCOME. When buying munis we are not trying to manage for total return or to balance a risk spectrum.
I agree in theory, but, many clients just don't get the inverse relationship between rising interest rates and market value of bonds and especially the maximizing of that effect when it comes to long term bonds.  Good for you if you have clients who are willing to look at their statements for the next 15 to 30 years and understand why and accept that their bonds are now worth 60% or less of their original value.  Great also if they are willing to accept that that 4.5% coupon which looked good in 2005 is 2 to 4% less than new bonds in 2020.  Most clients are not like that.  I know this is all hypothetical to you right now, however, I have seen this scenario in the past and feel pretty sure we will see it again.
 
I've been around for a long time. Very little that happens in this business is hypothetical to me. A couple things here. I don't go into an interest rates 101 discussion with clients. Your very right, most don't get it. I do tell them that the direction of rates is unknowable, especially by me, and that I hope they go up. That way i can get them a higher income. If it's an issue I will use an example of steadily increasing rates, but instead of concentrating on a negative, what's happening to their bond prices, I focus on the positve, the higher income now available. I'm totally focused on the income that I can generate today. if rates do go up, we'll buy more bonds at the higher rate. Over an interest rate cycle my clients will have the average of that cycle, more or less. Predicting rates gets dangerous when rates don't do what you think they will. I don't predict rates. I just buy long term bonds every day for every client. Yes, there are exceptions. But not many.
 
 
As to long time horizon, it is my experience that most muni bond buyers are nearing the end of their time horizon.  Meaning they are old and the idea of a 30 year bond when they are already 70 is a bit much.  OK, then you can explain that when they have passed on the bond will still continue to pay interest to their heirs for years, but somehow that isn't a real glowing sales point for many people.  "So you see Mrs. Customer when you expire this bond doesn't expire and your heirs can continue to hold this income stream".  (and they will probably have to because the bond will be worth crap when you die unless they decide to sell anyway and forego the return of face value in the future.)
 
The old line, "tell me when you're going to die and I'll get a bond that matures the day before" comes to mind. I wish that my parents had given me a million dollar muni bond portfolio when they died. Who wouldn't want that? Estate money is found money for the heirs. I've found that it pretty much doesn't matter what is handed to the kids, or how much care went into the porfolio.  Much is sold to fund life style choices like new houses. I advise my elderly clients to invest for their own best interest, not the kids. That means maxing out their income. let the kids sort it out later. The parents earned it, they should be the primary beneficaries of their own hard work. Maxed out income creates excess funds that can be used to increase the value of the estate. Again, my policy is that trying to predict rates is a trap I don't get into. So who is to say what a particular investment will be worth on a given date? No one knows. I tell them that the only date that matters is the maturity date. That's when they get 100% of their investment back.
Corporates that have the "death put" can sometimes mitigate that concern.  I don't believe that I have seen muni's with this feature??
 
Munis don't have death puts. But be careful on using that with clients. Most of the death puts offered have limits and conditions. They are not necessarily what they seem.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Again thanks for all the info. Now I'm starting to understand why the knee jerk against bond funds is shortsighted from both the holder and the brokers standpoint. I think the psychological aspects of a bond fund may be its biggest value, although it is nice to know that there are a myriad of other points as well.

Best,
Sonny

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With the time you all spent typing your messages about some complete newbie question you all could have each sold $100,000 in muni bonds or bond funds.  My God how do you all find the time to waste on here.  I just cant figure it out.

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Greenhills,

Tell me how much money you could have been making while being an asshole. Go ride yer horse ya crank.

Best,
Sonny "I sh*t in the Greenhills" Clips

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What goes up must come down.  It seems everything in life has a pattern.. Housing, metals, economy, markets and life (young and healthy then old and surviving).
How does one invest 95% in metals? Or do you work with a small portion of clients accounts.
 

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I usually work with a small portion of my clients accounts. I like it that way. Yes you are right what goes up must come down. Thats why I am focusing on metals stocks right now. (Mainly silver. )I believe that they are undervalued to the rest of the sectors like oil, coal, water, and other areas in this tangible asset cycle we are currently in.   To answer your other question, 95% of the business I write is in stocks. Most of my clients have their Mutual Funds,Annuities, at other firms. I like it that way. I would rather have 1% of many than 100% of few.  

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Greenhills wrote:With the time you all spent typing your messages about some complete newbie question you all could have each sold $100,000 in muni bonds or bond funds.  My God how do you all find the time to waste on here.  I just cant figure it out.
 
Thanks for taking the time to read all our posts. For the record, my run from yesterday, $2975 gross, $73,588 new money. But your right, it's just a little under my daily average. While I was wasting time here a rookie in our boardroom opened 5 accounts on the GS preferred. By the way 3 of those accounts were opened by cold calling, and two were referrals off of those cold call accounts. Way to go!
Time to type this post, less than 3 minutes.

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As mentioned above, laddering in general and short term laddering in specific are flawed strategies with most muni buyers, who are looking for maximum income. Laddering is the way to go within an asset allocation strategy were the munis are used as the non correlating asset. Other than that you need to go long. Why?  Laddering was developed as a strategy to counter the investor who doesn't want to get caught in a low rate vehicle as rates increase. They want to be able to maximize their income by investing in the new higher rates. Yet laddering itself costs them income. If I buy a 4.5% bond for a client and you ladder at a 2% return how much of an increase in rates is necessary for your investor's total income to equal my investor's total income? When is that rate increase going to happen? 10 years ago I was buying at about a 6% coupon. I could have laddered for a 3 or 4% coupon. How long for those who did ladder to catch up to those who bought LT bonds? To me it doesn't make sense to employ a strategy that costs you income today to MAYBE maximize income later.
Laddering has been the wrong strategy for better than 20 years. Yet it's still taught as the only alternative. Here's another one, when rates go up buy more bonds. Buying munis is real simple, it's about income.
 

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never heard of a strategy where an allocation towards long term bonds is made in an increasing i rate envrionment.  The curve is rel. flat going by the AAA scale.  Why would you lock your clients in a bond for 10 -15 yrs when you can reinvest at higher rates in the near future?

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AAA insured wrote:
 
To me it doesn't make sense to employ a strategy that costs you income today to MAYBE maximize income later.

That's more of an argument against waiting in a money market for rates to rise. That will/has cost you a great deal of income while you end up waiting much longer than you expected for the chance to buyer higher coupon bonds.
The danger here is getting locked into a 30 year 4% bond long after the 5% and 6% (historic norms) are out. Being too focused on current income can hurt you every bit as much as waiting in a money market for rates to climb. The solution, IMHO, is to ladder intermediate bonds and split the difference.

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never heard of a strategy where an allocation towards long term bonds is made in an increasing i rate envrionment.  The curve is rel. flat going by the AAA scale.  Why would you lock your clients in a bond for 10 -15 yrs when you can reinvest at higher rates in the near future?
Thank you!!! My point exactly.

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AAA insured wrote:
never heard of a strategy where an allocation towards long term bonds is made in an increasing i rate envrionment.  The curve is rel. flat going by the AAA scale.  Why would you lock your clients in a bond for 10 -15 yrs when you can reinvest at higher rates in the near future?
1. It's not about asset allocation strategy. Mention asset allocation strategy to the average muni buyer and the next sound you'll hear is a dial tone. It's about income.
2. Long term is a relative term. We buy along the curve at a point that makes the most sense when the investment is being made.
3. Reinvest at higher rates in the near future? Says who? This calls for an interest rate prediction, which I do not make. I realize this may seem pretty low IQ to you and others reading this, but it's worked well for my clients and kept me out of trouble. Sooner or later rates will go up. Then, they'll come back down. Then they'll do it all over again. Yawn.
4. Clients, just like the rest of us, live off their income, not their principal. When rates increase my clients income will not go down. It is stable. They can bank on receiving that income regardless of what interest rates do. This gives them tremendous peace of mind. Yes, it's true their principal will go down in value. This is only a problem if you believe rates will go only one way. So far, that's never happened.
5. Laddering or investing short has a nasty flip side. What if rates go down? This ends up costing clients more income.
6. Laddering is insurance. It cost the client maximum income today to give the client the opportunity to maximize income later. Any body ever look at the cost of this insurance? How much would rates have to move for it to pay for itself?
7. In the end it's up to the client. Clients who want max income go LT. Clients who want principal preservation, ladder. Of course every client wants both.
I started in this business in 1983, right at the peak of rates. Rates have been coming down for my entire career, while at the same time the gurus have been calling for rates to go back up. I've had people tell me, call me back when rates(tax free) get back above 10%, 9%, 8%, 7% and 6%. So when are these rates coming back? I take the low IQ approach, don't predict, just buy bonds when the money is available to invest. If rates go up, good news, let's buy more.

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I agree with much of what you said, however;
tjc45 wrote:
4. Clients, just like the rest of us, live off their income, not their principal. When rates increase my clients income will not go down. It is stable.

But their REAL income, their buying power, can drop like a stone if rates (inflation) increases and leaves them locked in a relatively low interest loan.
 
They can bank on receiving that income regardless of what interest rates do. This gives them tremendous peace of mind. Yes, it's true their principal will go down in value. This is only a problem if you believe rates will go only one way. So far, that's never happened.
tjc45 wrote:
5. Laddering or investing short has a nasty flip side. What if rates go down? This ends up costing clients more income.

I don't know about that one. I recall the owners of "Jimmy Carter" 22% CDs going into shock when all their fixed income matured on the same date and the bonds available to replace them were paying 5%. Had they laddered, they wouldn't have faced that dramtic drop-off. Better still, if they hadn't bet the farm that they could go 100% into fixed income and didn't need any growth....
tjc45 wrote:
6. Laddering is insurance. It cost the client maximum income today to give the client the opportunity to maximize income later. Any body ever look at the cost of this insurance? How much would rates have to move for it to pay for itself?

People make this argument as if it's a choice between buying long bonds or sitting in a mney market. I tell clients sitting in a MM that they're taking the highest risk approach as they're giving away so much potential income NOW because they're certain rates will jump dramtically that rates HAVE to take a massive leap just to make them whole again. OTOH, coupon pigs who buy the long bond only have themselves to blame when they get stuck in a 4% 30 year bond that they bought when rates were at 50 year lows. Give me the middle ground, a ladder of 5-12 yr bonds where the downside is most limited.
7. In the end it's up to the client. Clients who want max income go LT. Clients who want principal preservation, ladder. Of course every client wants both.
tjc45 wrote:
I started in this business in 1983, right at the peak of rates. Rates have been coming down for my entire career,...
You must have missed Greenspan's massive rate hikes in the 1989-1992 period...

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You must have missed Greenspan's massive rate hikes in the 1989-1992 period...

Yeah, those are the lost years. Actually, I was talking about trends. Of course here have been some periods where rates have gone up or have been stable, but the trend has been down. Still even with these up periods, there hasn't been a time over the past 20 plus years where laddering has been the right strategy. When you ladder you cost your clients income. How much have your clients paid for your wrong interset rate guess over the past 20 years? That's not a challange to your integrity, you're doing what you believe is right. It's just a fact. By trying to out smart rates, investors have cost themselves a lot of income. That excess income could have been invested to buy even more income. Again. and to be clear,  I'm not advocating to go out and buy 30 year bonds everyday regardless of market conditions. I'm saying, stop being a economist and trying to predict rates, buy along the curve where it makes the most sense for that individual client.
As all Muni brokers know the reality is that the clients call the shots. We all have clients who ladder, just as we all have clients who will only buy short or intermediate term bonds. Our job is to find those bonds. And to go one stop farther, to find special situation bonds, or ineffeciencies in the market and to take advantage of them. These bonds are out there everyday. An great example from years ago were the Denver Airport bonds. WOW, what an opportunity that was!
Those who bought the highest yielding paper in years past made the most income. I buy as much as possible when these opportunities present themselves.
Of course bonds aren't an inflation hedge. Descretionary income is. If I ladder to exactly meet an income need, my client's income goes up if rates go up and we may mitigate inflation using that strategy. What if we have inflation without a muni rate hike? Kinda like the last ten years, more or less? Then what? Inflation with decreasing income? Any clients pay for that plan? Instead of laddering, if I give my clients excess income, that income can be used to dollar cost average into the stock market or to buy more income. Both inflation hedges. Again, it's a low IQ approach that works. With your current clients, how did they get the money they've given you to invest? Most saved it,one way or another. Giving them substancial excess income puts them in familiar territory by giving them the ability to continue to save. Rates go up, OK,Let's buy more bonds. They have money to do this. This can only be done by maxing their income. Again, to be clear, I'm not saying a client should be 100% bonds. Just that bonds can act as an inflation hedge if you give clients enough income.

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tjc45 wrote:<?:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Yeah, those are the lost years. Actually, I was talking about trends. Of course here have been some periods where rates have gone up or have been stable, but the trend has been down.

Measuring trends always depends on stop/start dates. Greenspan's relentless rate hikes around 1992 were dramatic and had real effects on portfolios.
tjc45 wrote:
Still even with these up periods, there hasn't been a time over the past 20 plus years where laddering has been the right strategy.

I really can't see how you can make that claim, unless you simply erase significant periods of the record. Even in declining periods I gave you the example of people holding "Jimmy Carter" CDs who had all their 22% CDs mature at the same time and give them cash with only 4% bonds available to buy. Had they laddered those things they would have been buying fixed income at better yields than they ending up getting it. Would it have cost them some income during the period up until their Carter bonds matured? Sure. Would it have provided them better income in the long term as they avoided having a portfolio of 100% 4% bonds AFTER their 22% CDs went away? You bet.
Worse yet, had they followed the "screw laddering" concept when their cash came to them they would have been stuck in those 4% bonds when Greenspan, just a couple of years later, gave them a chance at 6% TBills.
 
tjc45 wrote:
When you ladder you cost your clients income.

Only if you assume rates only go down. Is that a reasonable assumption to make today? What will you be saying to the holder of that 30 year, 4% bond when it is valued at 70-80% of face on their statements and they're locked into that low return while inflation returns to historic levels?
tjc45 wrote:
How much have your clients paid for your wrong interset rate guess over the past 20 years?

I don't guess at interest rates. In fact, that's the very reason I ladder. OTOH, I do recognize 45 year lows in rate when I see them, and I don’t buy long to get 15% more income in the face of that interest rate risk.
tjc45 wrote:
 By trying to out smart rates, investors have cost themselves a lot of income.

Again, that's a correct argument against waiting in a money market for rates to return to some 1980s level (that you and I know will never return). In fact I use it all the time with people who want to wait in the mm for their 22% CDs to come back.
However, it's not a good argument against using an intermediate ladder when rates are at historic lows and you’re getting 85% of the yield of a much longer bond while avoiding getting locked into a low rate for the rest of your days. The curve has just been too flat to justify going long, imho.
tjc45 wrote:
Again. and to be clear,  I'm not advocating to go out and buy 30 year bonds everyday regardless of market conditions. I'm saying, stop being a economist and trying to predict rates, buy along the curve where it makes the most sense for that individual client.

As I said above, I don't guess at rates. I DO buy along the curve where it makes sense. Long bonds simply don’t make sense. Your argument up until this very line sounded for all the world like "get the most income" which, of course, means buying the longest, highest coupons available.
tjc45 wrote:
 An great example from years ago were the <?:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Denver Airport bonds. WOW, what an opportunity that was!

I don't take equity-type risks with fixed income. I use FI as a non-correlating asset. If I’m going to take equity-type risks, I want equity type returns. FI doesn’t provide that.
tjc45 wrote:
Those who bought the highest yielding paper in years past made the most income. I buy as much as possible when these opportunities present themselves.

So, we're back to buying the "highest yielding" (READ:Longest maturity) available. Sort’a contradicts the above thing about buying along the yield curve. And they haven’t made the “most money”. They’ve traded for a  fractionally higher income and took on a ton of risk doing so. Look what happened to bond prices just a year ago when the Fed began their hiking process.
tjc45 wrote:
 
Of course bonds aren't an inflation hedge. Descretionary income is.

There’s no hedge for inflation in income, discretionary or not. A stream of income’s buying power is eroded by inflation, period. Just like gravity, it’s a fixed rule that’s never violated for long with any success.
tjc45 wrote:
What if we have inflation without a muni rate hike? Kinda like the last ten years, more or less? Then what? Inflation with decreasing income?

I don’t see that as an accurate description of the last ten years.
tjc45 wrote:
 Any clients pay for that plan? Instead of laddering, if I give my clients excess income, that income can be used to dollar cost average into the stock market or to buy more income.

That money that went into long term bonds in a 50 year low interest rate environment came from some other investment pocket. Probably from the equity pocket where it could have been used for a real inflation hedge, rather than a illusionary one. 
tjc45 wrote:
Rates go up, OK,Let's buy more bonds. They have money to do this.

If they do have more money, it’s only because it wasn’t used to buy the only real inflation hedge, equities. You do realize that buying more, longer bonds every time rates go up eventually leaves you with a portfolio not only overweighed bonds, but overweighed long term bonds, right?
tjc45 wrote:
 
This can only be done by maxing their income. Again, to be clear, I'm not saying a client should be 100% bonds. Just that bonds can act as an inflation hedge if you give clients enough income.

IOW, you underweighted equities to buy long term bonds and used the resulting 4% or so in income (15% higher income gained over what you could have received with intermediate bonds) to buy more bonds when rates went up. And you figure this is a better strategy than limiting long term bonds in a 50 year historically low interest rate period, buying the proper amount of equities and then using the real gain (of equities over long term bonds, about 10% versus 5.5% over the last 10 years) to buy longer term bonds when rate climbed? I don’t see it.
I fully agree with you that refusing to buy any bonds while you wait for rates to climb to meet some interest rate call (by anyone, much less little ‘ol me) is silly. OTOH, “maximizing income” by buying long term bonds, imho, just sets you up for an interest rate trap your client will never escape.
 
 

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TJC45:  Wow.  Keep up the good work.  Those are impressive gross and asset numbers.  At the pace you're going in two or three years you might be up to 50% of my daily averages.  Keep up the good work my little friend.

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Greenhills wrote:TJC45:  Wow.  Keep up the good work.  Those are impressive gross and asset numbers.  At the pace you're going in two or three years you might be up to 50% of my daily averages.  Keep up the good work my little friend.
 
You're producing at 1.5 million or more? If so, good work. As for me I  made a lifestyle about 10 years ago to stop working 70 hour weeks. I'll settle for my meager low income. We've found that by driving used cars, and clipping coupons down at the Shop Rite we can make it work. I'll leave the real money to the big hitters like you.

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Mike, You're starting to take some things beyond context and fill in the blanks with your own anwers. This isn't an asset allocation discussion, or an equity vs fixed income discussion. Yet, some how these things have now entered the conversation.
My argument with laddering maybe more an argument against the myopic thinking that preaches it as the only road to take. It's the answer to a sales problem; How to get propects off the fence. And if rates go up and never come back down EVER, laddering gonna look real smart. But  I've got clients collecting 6% plus coupons from the early 90s. If I'd laddered them, they wouldn't have those bonds.
By the way, high yielding doesn't mean high risk. It just means high yieding relative to other like paper. Kinda like one bank offering a higher CD rate than another bank. Like I said, you're filling in the blanks with assumptions.
The Denvers were an excellent oppotunity. They were at least investment grade. I don't remember exactly what the rating was. A moot point, as muni specialist we took that issue apart before we decided to jump in. Good research quantifies risk.  Denver had just spent a billion dollars to build that airport. Back in the early 90s that was real money! Did you really think they were going to bulldoze it because of a baggage conveyor problem? As you know it worked out very well. Definately not an equity type risk. Who told you that? And speaking of risk, within their risk tolerance I let the clients decide. I present the opportunity, lay out the downside and the client gives a yay or nay. Isn't that the way it's supposed to be done?
 
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radernation-1 wrote:

I said 95% of my Business is silver and gold stocks. My clients have holdings at other places (Annuities, Mutual Funds,etc.) They come to me because they are looking for ideas in other areas that their broker/planner  don't understand/follow. Thats not a bad thing .Their business model is different. So Greenbacks and Bond before you open your mouth next time and say anything you might want to read posts a couple of times before you respond.

 
 
Ummm OK I read the posts more than once.  A pretty scary business model.  I hope you have a lot of money saved up for the day when precious metal stocks turn out of favor so you can pay your legal bills.....
 
In the mean time, it's clear that you have it ALL figured out....

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If I'd laddered them, they wouldn't have those bonds.
Yes they would.  They would just have had less.  You are right that laddering bonds/cd does reduce the current yield.  Doh! that is pretty obvious.  Averaging the yield between a 3 yr 3%, 7 yr 5% and 15 yr 6% and 30 yr 7% (as was available in the time frame you mentioned) would definitely give you a lower income.  However, the prinicpal protection factor may outweight the loss of current income.  ESPECIALLY in a rising interest rate environment, which seems to be the case. 
Another issue to consider is the future callablilty (is that even a word  ) of the issues.  In a lowering interest rate scenario as did happen those high coupon issues would be more likely to be called and in a rising interest rate environment our current coupons are less likely to be called.  Therefore sticking your client with a substandard return for a very very long time.  The point is that you NEED to dicsuss all of these issues with your client's and not just sell the current yield/coupon.
 
By the way, high yielding doesn't mean high risk. It just means high yieding relative to other like paper. Kinda like one bank offering a higher CD rate than another bank.
Yes and no.  A much higher yield than similar issues is an indication that there is something going on with the company or even with the Bank that is issuing.   As a former banker I recall that we would issue CDs that were higher than normal when our loan to deposit ratio was out of wack and the bank needed more deposits to be in compliance with the Federal regulators, or if the Bank planned a major expansion of branches or if there was something going on with the stock.   Rates out of proportion with other issuers is a red flag. 
Mike gave you some good advice on bonds vs having equities as an inflation hedge.  One of the hardest things to do is to educate clients as to the value of taking an appropriate amount of equity risk.  By appropriate that means considering their age, income, needs, risk tolerance etc.  I have a client who absolutely refused to do anything other than a bond a couple of years ago because he had lost money in the market by being in high risk mutual funds and stocks .  (Probably didn't listen to his broker even then.)  Now his account is down in value and he is holding a bond that is at 80% value to face.  Everytime he bitches about it, I have to remind him that he went counter to my suggestions and remind him that I had him sign a form stating so for his file.  CYA is really important in this business.
The client's that listened to me in 2001 and split tickets into laddered bonds and stocks(funds usually) are happy campers.  We forego some current income, gained nicely in the funds, and now have some bonds coming due to invest at the bottom of the ladder (still short term) at higher rates.

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BL,
I'm trying to figure out how anyone could have lost 20% on any long term bond bought over the past couple years?
The long term bonds issued over the past few years are all trading at premiums, not discounts and certainly not 20% discounts.
I don't ask anyone to agree with me, but don't make things up to try to get over on me. Can we have at least that level of respect on this forum?
 

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tjc45 wrote:
BL,
I'm trying to figure out how anyone could have lost 20% on any long term bond bought over the past couple years?
The long term bonds issued over the past few years are all trading at premiums, not discounts and certainly not 20% discounts.
I don't ask anyone to agree with me, but don't make things up to try to get over on me. Can we have at least that level of respect on this forum?
 

 
Ummmm...your comment that I highlighted above sort of sums it all up....in terms of the flaw in your thinking, and the Achilles heel of most investors and frankly many of us who advise them.  The past couple of years?  Yeah, I suppose if that's what you consider 'history' or "a long term perspective" you're right.
If, however, that's how you expect your long term bonds to continue to perform-given that long term rates are at multi-decade lows-you just MIGHT be in for an unpleasant suprise in the not too distant future.

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Ummmm...your comment that I highlighted above sort of sums it all up....in terms of the flaw in your thinking, and the Achilles heel of most investors and frankly many of us who advise them.  The past couple of years?  Yeah, I suppose if that's what you consider 'history' or "a long term perspective" you're right.
If, however, that's how you expect your long term bonds to continue to perform-given that long term rates are at multi-decade lows-you just MIGHT be in for an unpleasant suprise in the not too distant future.

 
I am amazed at how much you guys read into posts. There is a serious reading comprehension problem here. BL is making up 20% losses to prove my thinking is off base, I call him on it and now you say my thinking is flawed by attributing something to me that I didn't say. You guys all go to the same school or do you all just work for the same bank? No wonder the thinking here is so myopic.
Rather than any other of the reading challenged among you coming back to prove I'm wrong by using lies, false facts or by twisting my words, how about doing it with math? Show me were your clients have come out ahead of LT investors by using laddering. Real life examples only, not BS examples twisted to your liking. Post the numbers, date of purchase, price, coupon etc. Keep it to the past 20 years and show me that at any time during that period, going short/intermediate ladder beat going long term.
Yes, I agree that had rates gone up in the past 20 years(mike, I'm talking trends) your clients might have benefited from laddering. They didn't.
Yes, I agree that IF rates go up clients that ladder might come out ahead by doing so. Who knows?
Ok, genius, who says rates are going up? I know, not you.  You don't bet your clients well being on interest rate bets. Right? Sounds good, except it's bullsh*t. By laddering that's exactly what you've done. Rather than the client MAYBE losing money IF rates go up, you've locked in the loss upfront, with lost income.
 
 
 

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Speaking of reading challenged... I said "a" bond.  Not long term bond, by which I assume you mean a 30 yr bond, although in today's environment I think 15 yrs is too long to buy an individual bond.  I also didn't say what kind of bond. It was a corporate bond not a muni.  In addition the company has had a re evaluation of debt rating.  (Another danger in bonds, long term or otherwise.)   Munis are usually much safer in that regard (than corporates) since they are mostly insured and have the taxing ability of the issuer behind them.
But basically what I am "trying" to convey to you is that buying a portfolio of nothing but long term bonds because they pay better now, is a very shortsighted and dangerous stratgey....but, hey, if that's what you want to do for/to your clients,  have at it.

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babbling looney wrote:
Speaking of reading challenged... I said "a" bond.  Not long term bond, by which I assume you mean a 30 yr bond, although in today's environment I think 15 yrs is too long to buy an individual bond.  I also didn't say what kind of bond. It was a corporate bond not a muni.  In addition the company has had a re evaluation of debt rating.  (Another danger in bonds, long term or otherwise.)   Munis are usually much safer in that regard (than corporates) since they are mostly insured and have the taxing ability of the issuer behind them.
But basically what I am "trying" to convey to you is that buying a portfolio of nothing but long term bonds because they pay better now, is a very shortsighted and dangerous stratgey....but, hey, if that's what you want to do for/to your clients,  have at it.

 
You're right, I did assume you meant your client had lost money in long term bonds. Just curious, what does buying a corporate that's been downgraded have to do with what we're talking about? 
I never said that all I do is buy only long term bonds. Again, reading comprehension counts. Let me know when you've got a real life example of laddering that HAS worked in the client's favor.

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