The only time most investors hear about municipal bonds is for negative reasons, be it the bankruptcy of Stockton California or the forecasting of local meltdowns. According to Mark Martiak of Premier/First Allied Securities, municipal bonds, or munis, shouldn't be given such a bum rap. In this episode of Investing 101, Martiak explains the risks, the rewards, and how to best invest in munis.
Benefits of Investing in Muni Bonds
Step one is obviously understanding what munis are. "Municipal bonds are fixed income investments that are tax exempt," explains Martiak. Breaking it down means that the income stream from munis is set, or fixed, at a constant rate. If you buy a bond yielding 5%, that's what you get: 5%. The rate is fixed regardless of what happens to the underlying bond.
As for tax exemption, municipals are exempt from federal taxes, increasing their effective yield. Using 5% as an example, if that bond were subject to a hypothetical 20% tax rate, the real yield would only be 4%. Muni yields are understated compared to a dividend stream.
Martiak says munis give investors a sense of ease with their investment from knowing the coupon will stay the same — barring a default. The price of the underlying bond may change, but your yield doesn't change, regardless of price.
Understanding Muni Bond Risks
Municipalities can fail, though not as often as you may be led to believe. "Historically the default rate in most States and municipalities has been very minimal," says Martiak. The best way to hedge this risk is through the old standbys: diversity and research.Read More »from Muni Bonds 101: Risks & Rewards