It’s that time of year when we all take stock of our lives and come up with a list of resolutions to make ourselves better for the coming new year. On the financial side of things may I offer a few suggestions.
Duration has a special meaning in the investment world. It is a measure of interest rate sensitivity in bond portfolios. You can calculate the duration for an individual bond or for a portfolio of individual bonds and you can derive an average duration. Why is this important? Because in a rising rate environment, like the one we are just entering, the duration will give you an idea of how much your principle will decline for a given increase in interest rates.
If your bond portfolio or your bond fund has an average duration of 6 years then you can expect the value of the portfolio to drop by about 6% for every 1% increase in interest rates. The Pimco Total Return Bond Fund with assets of around $246 billion dollars is one of the largest bond mutual funds in the United States. With an average duration of 5.26 years you could expect about a 5% drop in the funds value if interest rates rose by 1 percentage point. Or you could expect a 1.25% drop in value if interest rates rose by just 0.25%.
Given that most bond funds have a yield of around 3% you can see that even small changes in interest rates can wipe out months of dividend income. So you should be aware of the duration of any bonds or bond mutual funds you own.
Then ask yourself if the risk is worth the reward at this point