Building a diversified portfolio of individual stocks is easier than ever, with zero-commission trades and fractional shares providing retail investors with inexpensive options. The fixed-income universe, on the other hand, doesn’t offer the same level of democratization; the typical minimum for a bond investment is around $1,000 and bonds don’t trade in a centralized location, only over the counter (OTC).
But fixed-income ETFs solve some of the problems that have long deterred would-be bond investors. Before we look at the advantages of fixed-income ETFs, let’s start by exploring reasons why investors may want to allocate some money to bonds in general.
Why Invest in Bonds?
While the stock market has historically been one of the most reliable ways to build wealth, bonds offer some unique benefits. Here are a few reasons to invest in them:
- A predictable income stream: you know exactly how much income to expect and when you will get it, provided the bond’s issuer continues to pay interest on the bond.
- Low volatility: bond values historically don’t change as much as stock prices.
- Low correlation: bonds may have low, or even negative, correlation with other asset classes, such as stocks. When equities collapse, bonds may pick up the slack.
The interconnectedness of the global economy means that global equities are more correlated than ever. This means that investing in, say, European and Asian equities is unlikely to protect you in the event of a U.S. recession. Thus, bonds are one of the few ways to smooth out the fluctuations in your portfolio.
Fixed-Income ETFs vs. Mutual Funds
We’ve already touched on the challenges that come with investing in individual bonds; they typically only make sense if you’re okay with not being diversified and/or you have a lot of money to invest all at once.
If you are looking for diversification at a reasonable price, fixed-income mutual funds and fixed-income ETFs are two of the best options. Mutual funds might be the right option if you want a certain manager to handle your investments. But fixed-income ETFs may be the better option in other cases, as they often have much lower expense ratios than mutual funds and higher liquidity. In addition, ETFs provide investors with portfolio transparency so you know what you have exposure to.
Consider Targeted Fixed-Income ETFs
With fixed-income ETFs, the good news is that you can take a targeted approach, investing in different types of funds. For example, you can choose between a short and long-term bond fund or specify the credit quality of your investments. The benefit of this approach is that you can alter your strategy based on market conditions, or efficiently fill gaps within your existing portfolio.
Do you think that interest rates are going to soar over the next several years? Perhaps you want to keep your fixed-income allocation in short-term bonds or floating rate notes. Or maybe you think that offerings with a higher credit quality are set to outperform and you want to tilt your portfolio in that direction. Whatever the case may be, there are reasons why you would want to exercise control over your portfolio.
If you’re interested in selecting the type of bonds in your portfolio—but not having to pick the bonds themselves—you may want to look at VanEck's municipal income ETFs. Other options include the VanEck Fallen Angel High Yield Bond ETF and the VanEck Investment Grade Floating Rate ETF. These funds not only allow you to target specific maturities and credit quality or segments of the market offering unique value, they also let you do so easily. VanEck offers experience in the fixed-income space and provides key insights that can help you shape your investment strategy.
The fixed-income market has traditionally been less accessible than the stock market, but times are changing. With ETFs offering diversification and liquidity at a low cost, the fixed-income market is becoming more accessible to all. By investing in targeted fixed-income ETFs, you can select investments that fit your exact requirements—without having to spend countless hours doing deep research on individual bonds.
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