Investing In Bonds
Most of us are used to borrowing money in some capacity, whether it's mortgaging our homes or bumming a few bucks off a friend. Similarly, companies, municipalities, and the federal government borrow money, too. How? By issuing bonds.
How do bonds work?
Bonds are a way for an organization to raise money. Let's say your town asks you for a certain investment of money. In exchange, your town promises to pay you back that investment, plus interest, over a specified period of time.
For example, you might buy a 10-year, $10,000 bond paying 3% interest. Your town, in exchange, will promise to pay you interest on that $10,000 every six months, and then return your $10,000 after 10 years.
How to make money from bonds?
There are two ways to make money by investing in bonds.
The first is to hold those bonds until their maturity date and collect interest payments on them. Bond interest is usually paid twice a year.
The second way to profit from bonds is to sell them at a price that's higher than what you pay initially.
For example, if you buy $10,000 worth of bonds at face value -- meaning you paid $10,000 -- then sell them for $11,000 when their market value increases, you can pocket the $1,000 difference.
Bond prices can rise for two main reasons. If the borrower's credit risk profile improves so that it's more likely to be able to repay the bond at maturity, then the price of the bond typically rises. Also, if prevailing interest rates on newly issued bonds go down, then the value of an existing bond at a higher rate goes up.
A municipal bond is a debt issued by a state or municipality to fund public works. Like other bonds, investors lend money to the issuer for a predetermined period of time. The issuer promises to pay the investor interest over the term of the bond (usually twice a year), and then return the principal back to the investor when the bond matures.
A Treasury bond is debt issued by the U.S. government to raise money. Technically speaking, every kind of debt issued by the federal government is a bond, but the U.S. Treasury defines the Treasury bond as the 30-year note. Generally considered the safest investment in the world, U.S. Treasury securities of all lengths provide a nearly guaranteed source of income and hold their value in just about every economic environment.
A corporate bond is a debt instrument issued by a business to raise money. Unlike a stock offering, with which investors buy a stake in the company itself, a bond is a loan with a fixed term and an interest yield that investors will earn. When it matures, or reaches the end of the term, the company repays the bond holder.
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