Before buying bonds for the first time, it’s important to understand the basics. Here is a video summary of what you need to know to buy bonds. You can find the longer text version below this video:
First and foremost, buying bonds is not like buying stocks. Your bond broker is not required to give you the best price available when you buy a bond, and many bonds do not trade actively enough to get out at a good price if you need to sell.
There are many things that are not standard about the bond market, however there are unique features to every bond including CUSIP number, whether it is a callable bond, Par Value, credit rating, maturity date, and tax status. While the level of risk also varies when buying different types of bonds, every bond has interest rate risk, and most bonds have some or all of the 6 risks talked about here.
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Unfortunately we don’t give access to view bond prices here at LearnBonds yet, so you will also need some resources where you can find a bond’s price, and once you get there you will need to know how to read a bond table and how to read a bond quote.
Lastly don’t forget that when buying bonds, the bond’s price will always move inversely to its yield.
Buying Bonds Through A Broker
Once you understand the basics, the next thing you’ll want to do is choose a bond broker. There are many choices including online brokers like Fidelity or Charles Schwab and full service brokers like Raymond James or Merrill Lynch. If you choose to go through a full service broker make sure you avoid dumb advice when choosing your bond broker, and remember that you can always buy treasury bonds commission free with Treasurydirect.gov as well as with may online brokers.
If you don’t want to go through the extra research that is required when buying bonds on an individual basis, visit our Bond Funds section to learn more about Bond Mutual Funds and ETFs.
Which Type of Bond Should You Buy?
There are 4 categories of bonds you can buy: Municipal Bonds, Treasury Bonds, Corporate Bonds and Agency Bonds. As you will learn in those sections, there are two primary factors which are going to influence your decision on which type of bond to buy: credit ratings and how interest income is taxed.
Once you have decided on the type of bond you want to buy, you’ll want to learn about the yield curve and bond duration, which will help you determine what you want the maturity of the bond to be. If you’d like some additional ideas on which bonds to buy from the staff and guest writers here at LearnBonds, visit our section on bond trade ideas.
Buying Junk Bonds, Leverage, and How to Short Bonds
Since the federal reserve has been so active in the market over the last few years, interest rates are at historical lows. Because of this some investors are starting to look at riskier investments which pay a higher yield, like junk bonds. We have a great series on how to buy junk bonds written by LearnBonds contributor The Masked Investor. As junk bonds have a higher risk of default than investment grade bonds however, you will also want to know what happens when a corporate bond defaults?
With all the talk about interest rates moving higher many people in the trading community are now asking, can you short a bond and use leverage when buying bonds? While the answer is technically yes to both, most people find it easier to do this using Bond Market ETFs. For those that want to know more, read our article on how to short the treasury market using Bond ETFs.
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