How Much Risk Should You Take with Bonds?

February 10, 2019
As investors get closer to retirement, they often start to think more about bonds—and about reducing risk.

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After you listen

  • To learn more about investing in fixed income, including tools and resources, visit
  • Talk to Schwab. Call us at 800-355-2162 or visit a branch near you.
  • To learn more about investing in fixed income, including tools and resources, visit
  • Talk to Schwab. Call us at 800-355-2162 or visit a branch near you.

Like any investment, bonds do come with their own set of risks. How can you best evaluate these different risks? It's easy to be distracted by stories or personal experiences that aren't necessarily representative of the current situation. In this episode, Mark Riepe talks with Kathy Jones, Schwab's chief fixed income strategist, about the specific risks related to bond investing and how to objectively evaluate them.

You can read more about how people's experiences living through tough economic times affected their future investment decisions in these studies:

  • "Formative Experiences and Portfolio Choice: Evidence from the Finnish Great Depression," Journal of Finance, February 2-17, Samuli Knupfer, Elias Rantapuska, and Matti Sarvimaki.
  • "Depression Babies: Do Macroeconomic Experiences Affect Risk Taking?" Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2011, Ulrike Malmendier and Stefan Nagel.

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The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. The investment strategies mentioned here may not be suitable for everyone. Each investor needs to review an investment strategy for his or her own particular situation before making any investment decision.

Diversification strategies do not ensure a profit and do not protect against losses in declining markets.

All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market conditions. Data contained herein from third-party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed.

Diversification does not eliminate the risk of investment losses.

Any examples are hypothetical and provided for illustrative purposes only.

Fixed income securities are subject to increased loss of principal during periods of rising interest rates. Fixed-income investments are subject to various other risks including changes in credit quality, market valuations, liquidity, prepayments, early redemption, corporate events, tax ramifications and other factors. Lower-rated securities are subject to greater credit risk, default risk, and liquidity risk.

Tax-exempt bonds are not necessarily suitable for all investors. Information related to a security's tax-exempt status (federal and in-state) is obtained from third parties, and Schwab does not guarantee its accuracy. Tax-exempt income may be subject to the alternative minimum tax. Capital appreciation from bond funds and discounted bonds may be subject to state or local taxes. Capital gains are not exempt from federal income tax.

Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) are inflation-linked securities issued by the U.S. government whose principal value is adjusted periodically in accordance with the rise and fall in the inflation rate. Thus, the dividend amount payable is also impacted by variations in the inflation rate, as it is based upon the principal value of the bond. It may fluctuate up or down. Repayment at maturity is guaranteed by the U.S. government and may be adjusted for inflation to become the greater of the original face amount at issuance or that face amount plus an adjustment for inflation.

A bond ladder, depending on the types and amount of securities within the ladder, may not ensure adequate diversification of your investment portfolio. This potential lack of diversification may result in heightened volatility of the value of your portfolio. You must perform your own evaluation of whether a bond ladder and the securities held within it are consistent with your investment objective, risk tolerance and financial circumstances.

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