Can you lose money on bonds if you hold them to maturity?
It's true that there is an opportunity cost for holding lower-yielding bonds when interest rates rise, but it's not necessarily a loss of value if held to maturity.
If sold prior to maturity, market price may be higher or lower than what you paid for the bond, leading to a capital gain or loss. If bought and held to maturity investor is not affected by market risk.
The main ways to lose money on bonds include price decreases due to interest rate increases, default or bankruptcy of the bond issuer, call risk, reinvestment risk, and inflation risk. Each of these factors can potentially lead to a decrease in the value of your bond investment or a loss of your initial investment.
If you hold a bond to its maturity, you will be repaid the bond's full face value. Call risk: Many corporate and muni bond issuers reserve the right to redeem, or "call," their bonds before they mature, at which point the issuer is required to pay bondholders only par value.
Investors who plan on holding their bond until maturity typically don't need to worry about the movement of bond prices on the secondary market as they will be repaid their principal in full at maturity, barring a default.
Interest rate changes are the primary culprit when bond exchange-traded funds (ETFs) lose value. As interest rates rise, the prices of existing bonds fall, which impacts the value of the ETFs holding these assets.
Likewise, you may want to hold on to I bonds issued between May and October 2023. Those I bonds have a fixed rate of 0.9%, which is the highest fixed rate in 16 years. No matter what happens to inflation in the future, you'll lock in that rate for as long as you own the bonds.
There is virtually zero risk that you will lose principal by investing in T-bonds. There is a risk that you could have earned better money elsewhere. Investing decisions are always a tradeoff between risk and reward.
When the economy is in a downturn, investors may shift their portfolios towards bonds as a "flight to safety" to protect their capital. This shift increases the demand for bonds, raising their price but reducing their yield.
Treasury bonds are considered safer than corporate bonds—you're practically guaranteed not to lose money—but there are other potential risks to be aware of. These stable investments aren't known for their high returns. Gains can be further diminished by inflation and changing interest rates.
Why bonds are not a good investment?
There is a risk that the issuers of bonds may not be able to repay the money they have borrowed or make interest payments. When interest rates rise, bonds may fall in value. Rising interest rates may cause the value of your investment to fall.
Risk: Savings bonds are backed by the U.S. government, so they're considered about as safe as an investment comes. However, don't forget that the bond's interest payment will fall if and when inflation settles back down.
Bonds have some advantages over stocks, including relatively low volatility, high liquidity, legal protection, and various term structures. However, bonds are subject to interest rate risk, prepayment risk, credit risk, reinvestment risk, and liquidity risk.
Investors of bonds, however, may decide it is more advantageous to sell a bond rather than hold it to maturity. Some of these reasons include anticipation of higher interest rates, that the issuer's credit will be lowered, or if the market price seems unreasonably high.
Treasury Bills, Notes and Bonds
U.S. Treasury securities are considered to be about the safest investments on earth. That's because they are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Government bonds offer fixed terms and fixed interest rates.
Held-to-maturity (HTM) securities are purchased to be owned until maturity. Bonds and other debt vehicles—such as certificates of deposit (CDs)—are the most common form of held-to-maturity (HTM) investments.
Besides loans, banks also invest in bonds and other debt securities, which lose value when interest rates rise. Banks may be forced to sell these at a loss if faced with sudden deposit withdrawals or other funding pressures. The failure of Silicon Valley Bank was a dramatic example of this bond-loss channel.
“Although some volatility may continue, we believe interest rates have peaked,” predicts Kathy Jones, chief fixed income strategist at the Schwab Center for Financial Research. “We expect lower Treasury yields and positive returns for investors in 2024.”
|30-Year Value (Purchased May 1990)
If bond yields rise, existing bonds lose value. The change in bond values only relates to a bond's price on the open market, meaning if the bond is sold before maturity, the seller will obtain a higher or lower price for the bond compared to its face value, depending on current interest rates.
How do I avoid taxes when cashing in savings bonds?
But you do not have to pay taxes at the state and local levels. You can report the interest each year you earn it or when you cash the bond. You will report it on Schedule B of your 1040. You can avoid these taxes by using the money for qualified higher education expenses.
Security: Both CDs and Treasuries are very high-quality investments. CDs are bank deposits that pay a stated amount of interest for a specified period of time and promise to return your money on a specific date. They are federally insured and issued by banks and savings-and-loans institutions.
An investor would be better off rolling over 6-month Treasuries yielding ~5.4% than buying a 5-year CD yielding 5.4% that becomes callable starting in 6 months. Buying the 6-month Treasury would allow the investor to reinvest at a higher interest rate upon maturity if interest rates rise.
CDs are usually best for investors looking for a safe, shorter-term investment. Bonds are typically longer, higher-risk investments that deliver greater returns and a predictable income.
Cash. Cash is an important asset when it comes to a recession. After all, if you do end up in a situation where you need to pull from your assets, it helps to have a dedicated emergency fund to fall back on, especially if you experience a layoff.