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My wife is a high school women's basketball coach. As such, and considering we have one daughter in junior high and one in late elementary school, guess who was "promoted" to junior high girls' basketball coach after spending five years at the high school level? That's right, yours truly. Now, I count it a blessing to be able to coach these motivated young ladies, and one of our key tenets is the ability to drive the ball into the paint. You can't just stand and pass on the three-point line. Once we learn the art of the drive or attack, we transition to the hardest part: finishing! Many times, things don't go as planned, and we teach them the pivot. Without the pivot, a bad shot is taken, or a terrible pass is made, and it usually spells trouble for our team.

In much the same way, this is how we teach our clients about their retirement savings and investing plans. One caveat here is every situation is unique, and you should talk to your own personal financial advisor or planner about how your investments should be structured. But much like these young ladies, the first step is attacking, and that's what you're doing in Baby Step 4. Attacking through a savings rate of 15% of your income and investing into the four categories that Dave and his team teach you. Then, when the attack is made, and you're closer to or at retirement, it's not always going to go as planned. Said another way, the stock market doesn't go up in a straight line, nor is it promised to go up at all. Therefore, you must have a pivot, like the girls on my basketball team. You must be able to say, that when the market is bad, I better have something in my tool belt to deal with this. Typically, for most clients using the systematic withdrawal approach in retirement (taking out a predetermined amount from their investments each year - say 4% or 5%), this is fixed income (bonds) and real estate. Throughout this article, let's talk about what happened to bonds last year to reset the paradigm for retirees in a most favorable way, in my opinion.

While 2023 has been a better year for bonds after last year's bear market, rising interest rates over the past three months have acted as a headwind. The U.S. Aggregate bond index has gained 0.6% this year, down from a peak return of 4.2% in April. Similarly, corporate bond returns have receded to 1.8% from 5% prior to the banking crisis earlier this year. Our favorite strategy, the PIMCO Income Fund, has fared much better this year, coming off a high of 4.80%, earlier in July to settling around 4.38% to end the month of August.



High-yield bonds, which are volatile and often behave more like stocks, have hung onto their gains with a year-to-date return of 6.6%. At the same time, rising yields mean that bonds are able to generate more portfolio income than at any other time over the past 15 years. What do long-term investors need to know about recent swings in the bond market and how it affects their portfolios?


The bond market is having a better year than in 2022 despite recent volatility

Several market and economic factors have created uncertainty in the bond market. First, recent events have led to swings in interest rates beginning with the U.S. debt downgrade by Fitch Ratings on August 1. This jump in rates had ripple effects across the market since U.S. Treasury securities serve as a benchmark for riskier bonds. However, just a week later, Moody's downgraded 10 banks, placed six under review, and shifted the outlooks on 11 to negative. These ratings and outlook changes briefly renewed concerns over the financial system which caused interest rates to fall. Since then, there have been concerns around the supply and demand of Treasury securities, worries over China's housing sector, and more.

All told, these events caused large intra-day rate swings with the 10-year Treasury yield rising to 4.2%, then falling to 3.9%, before surging again over the past few days. This volatility directly impacts bonds since prices and interest rates are two sides of the same coin. In general, rising interest rates lead to lower bond prices, and vice versa. One intuitive way to understand this is that the cheaper you can buy a bond with a specified payout schedule, the higher your eventual return, or yield, will be.

Despite these changes in rates and bond prices, it's important to maintain perspective on the bond market behavior of the past two years. Last year's historic surge in inflation resulted in the worst bear market for bonds in recent history, as shown on the accompanying chart. The Wall Street Journal called last year the worst bond market since 1842. This year, bond returns have mostly been positive, and the largest intra-year decline of 4% is well in line with historical patterns since most years experience similar declines between 2% and 5%. So, while bond prices are generally much steadier than those of stocks, history shows that fluctuating interest rates result in some bond market swings each year.


The yields on riskier bonds have fallen

Second, while the Fed is expected to keep policy rates high, there is less pressure to hike rates again as inflation improves. The latest Consumer Price Index report shows that price pressures are not only easing, but that headline inflation is already back to the Fed's 2% target when considering the latest annualized rate. Core CPI is also just under the target at 1.9% on an annualized basis and the trend is deflationary when shelter costs are also excluded. These numbers are important because they represent what is happening to consumer prices today, compared to the more commonly cited year-over-year measures that tend to be more backward-looking.

So, while the Fed has penciled in one more rate hike this year, markets believe this may not be necessary. The probability of a so-called "soft landing" has increased as economic growth has remained steady as well. This has helped to reduce credit risk concerns which were elevated during the banking crisis. As the accompanying chart shows, yields on riskier bonds have come down as recession concerns have faded and corporate earnings have beaten low expectations. Ironically, only the yields on the highest rated bonds have increased due to the U.S. debt downgrade. All in all, this means that even if a recession does occur, markets expect that it would be mild and that companies would still be well-positioned to repay their debts.


Bonds are offering attractive yields for long-term investors

Finally, investors can be better positioned to generate portfolio income today, without "reaching for yield" by taking inappropriate risks, than at any point since I started my career in 2007, right before the global financial crisis. A diversified index of bonds now yields 5% - nearly double the 2.6% average since 2009. PIMCO Income today clocks in around 6.00%. 3-Month to 12-month Treasury Bonds come in between 5.4% to 5.5% as of the writing of this article. Investment-grade corporate bonds generate 5.7%, and high-yield bonds 8.5%. In contrast, the forward-looking dividend yield on the S&P 500 is now only 1.9% after this year's strong rally. This is further evidence that diversifying across stocks and bonds continues to be the best way to construct well-balanced portfolios that can achieve income and growth, while withstanding different market environments. The bottom line? The bond market continues to face challenges due to the uncertain economic environment. Still, this year's bond performance is a sharp reversal of last year's bear market, and the level of volatility has been in-line with the typical year. Most importantly, attractive yields underscore the need for bonds in long-term portfolios as inflation improves and the economy recovers.


Copyright (c) 2023 Clearnomics, Inc. and Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers, LTD. All rights reserved. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but is not necessarily complete and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to the fairness, accuracy, completeness, or correctness of the information and opinions contained herein. The views and the other information provided are subject to change without notice. All reports posted on or via www.clearnomics.com or any affiliated websites, applications, or services are issued without regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation, or particular needs of any specific recipient and are not to be construed as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any securities or related financial instruments. Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future results. Company fundamentals and earnings may be mentioned occasionally, but should not be construed as a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold the company's stock. Predictions, forecasts, and estimates for any and all markets should not be construed as recommendations to buy, sell, or hold any security--including mutual funds, futures contracts, and exchange traded funds, or any similar instruments. The text, images, and other materials contained or displayed in this report are proprietary to Clearnomics, Inc. and constitute valuable intellectual property. All unauthorized reproduction or other use of material from Clearnomics, Inc. shall be deemed willful infringement(s) of this copyright and other proprietary and intellectual property rights, including but not limited to, rights of privacy. Clearnomics, Inc. expressly reserves all rights in connection with its intellectual property, including without limitation the right to block the transfer of its products and services and/or to track usage thereof, through electronic tracking technology, and all other lawful means, now known or hereafter devised. Clearnomics, Inc. reserves the right, without further notice, to pursue to the fullest extent allowed by the law any and all criminal and civil remedies for the violation of its rights.


Why Bonds Are Still Essential for the Retirees Portfolio

September 2, 2023

John-Mark Young

Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers is an SEC-registered investment adviser firm.  The information presented is for educational purposes only and intended for a broad audience.  The information does not intend to make an offer or solicitation to sell or purchase any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and are not guaranteed.  Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers reasonably believes that this marketing does not include any false or misleading statements or omissions of facts regarding services, investment, or client experience. Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers has a reasonable belief that the content will not cause an untrue or misleading implication regarding the adviser’s services, investments, or client experiences. Please refer to the firm’s ADV Part 2A for material risks disclosures.

Past performance of specific investment advice should not be relied upon without knowledge of certain circumstances of market events, the nature and timing of the investments, and relevant constraints of the investment. Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers has presented information in a fair and balanced manner. 

Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers is not giving tax, legal or accounting advice, consult a professional tax or legal representative if needed. 

Copyright (c) 2023 Clearnomics, Inc. and Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers, LTD. All rights reserved. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but is not necessarily complete and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to the fairness, accuracy, completeness, or correctness of the information and opinions contained herein. The views and the other information provided are subject to change without notice. All reports posted on or via www.clearnomics.com or any affiliated websites, applications, or services are issued without regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation, or particular needs of any specific recipient and are not to be construed as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any securities or related financial instruments. Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future results. Company fundamentals and earnings may be mentioned occasionally, but should not be construed as a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold the company's stock. Predictions, forecasts, and estimates for any and all markets should not be construed as recommendations to buy, sell, or hold any security--including mutual funds, futures contracts, and exchange traded funds, or any similar instruments. The text, images, and other materials contained or displayed in this report are proprietary to Clearnomics, Inc. and constitute valuable intellectual property. All unauthorized reproduction or other use of material from Clearnomics, Inc. shall be deemed willful infringement(s) of this copyright and other proprietary and intellectual property rights, including but not limited to, rights of privacy. Clearnomics, Inc. expressly reserves all rights in connection with its intellectual property, including without limitation the right to block the transfer of its products and services and/or to track usage thereof, through electronic tracking technology, and all other lawful means, now known or hereafter devised. Clearnomics, Inc. reserves the right, without further notice, to pursue to the fullest extent allowed by the law any and all criminal and civil remedies for the violation of its rights.

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