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Timing purchase of bond funds?
Old 12-14-2007, 11:50 PM   #1
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Timing purchase of bond funds?

Hi all,

Totally new to bond fund investing. Per my Vanguard advisor, I have over 100k to put into the Vanguard Total Bond Market Fund (VBMFX) held within a traditional IRA. Plus another lump sum during 2008 to be put in a taxable account. I could buy over 100k now and get the admiral shares, or I could enter over time. Once I get over 100k total, it would switch to Admiral shares, so that's not the biggest factor.

Like I said, I'm new to bond funds, so is there any benefit to making regular purchases, like as in dollar cost averaging with equity funds, or should I just do it all at once?

If all at once, would this be a good time to do so right now,

VBMFX: Summary for VANGUARD BOND INDEX FD TOTAL BO - Yahoo! Finance

or what should I be looking for? Is it as simple as just trying to buy at a low price and avoid buying at a higher price?

The lump sum will be used for income, along with selling equity funds, by re balancing once or twice a year.

Right now, it's sitting in the prime money market making about 4.67%.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Thanks in advance,

EddieG
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Old 12-15-2007, 03:20 AM   #2
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bond funds work well with dollar cost averaging . stock funds dont work as well since stocks are more predictable over time.

you can almost bet the ranch that equities will be up 2/3 of the time and down only 1/3 over any 10-12 year period so you would be buying in higher and higher not doing as well as a lump sum usually plunked down.

id becareful plunking in huge amounts in bonds know since we are already so low the odds are longer term rates will be headed up as opposed to down like short term. predicting interest rates movement is very hard
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Old 12-15-2007, 10:58 AM   #3
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Mathjak,

I am fairly inexperienced at investing in bonds myself. I have bought bond ladders in large cap US companies over the years (bonds with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. years to go on their terms). That way every year one comes due and you can buy a new 5 year bond with the money. You can also choose them so that they are paying at different times of the year. In this way you are dollar cost averaging in a sense because as interest rates change you can get the higher rate on the bond coming due (of course this works the other way too). But since you are always buying a a 5 year bond (or longer if you have a longer ladder) you get a pretty good rate. The other advantage is you don't have to worry about a bond dropping in value as interest rates go up because you will hold it to maturity and you will get its exact value! The risk here is pretty small if you stick with AAA bonds, but there is still the risk a bond will default - make sure you have faith in the company (like GE for example). The corporate bonds are usually in 10K denomination - should you could easily build a 5 year ladder with 50K.

But as with stock diversification is wise. If you look at Std Dev it goes down as you mix bond classes. I also hold some no-load, low-fee, bond funds. A short term bond fund in my experience has little swing in value, until recently, the housing debacle has created some swings even in money markets! Some of my other bond funds are moving around in value - those that are tied to CA muni's droped about 3-4% fairly quickly and seem to have stabalized now, but munis are a good part of the mix. Also I hold a little inflation adjusted bond fund. It goes up and down 2-3% depending on rumors of inflation vs recession, so I see it as non-correlated and helping my Std Dev. Finally I think 5-Year Treasuries are very had to beat for safety and cost of ownership and yield. Again if held to maturity there is no risk of loss due to increasing rates. You can also buy these as a ladder as discusses for Corporates.

I would stay away for medium to long term bond funds right now, because I don't see they add anything to the mix discussed above, except significantly higher risk. Just to summarize your question, if you build a good fixed income portfolio I see no reason to dollar cost average.

Good luck,
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Old 12-15-2007, 11:02 AM   #4
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the longer term bonds while not providing much income advantage can be quite volatile on those days the market plunges under recession fears. funds like tlt can move 2% on days like that adding a balance back the other way from stock cushioning losses. again we are talking recession fears for bonds to pull strongly the other way. its really used as a hedge against losses in recession. since we are teeter tottering on the edge i recently added longer term bonds last week
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Old 12-15-2007, 11:10 AM   #5
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Mathjak,

I think it depends on what you are looking for with bonds. I look at them solely as a fixed income part of the portfolio and not so much as a counter-correlated asset. I played with an asset allocation spreadsheet I built and the decrease in Std Dev since 1928 with long bonds is not really that high. If you want I can send you the spreadsheet and you can check it out.
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Old 12-15-2007, 11:13 AM   #6
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longer term treasuries only are effective in a recessionary enviornment as a counter to stocks. bonds tend to follow stocks more than they dont
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Old 12-15-2007, 11:51 AM   #7
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Mathjak, Bonds only change in value if you are in a fund (no control over buying and selling) or you don't hold them to maturity. Just a thought.
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Old 12-15-2007, 11:56 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by mathjak107 View Post
you can almost bet the ranch that equities will be up 2/3 of the time and down only 1/3 over any 10-12 year period so you would be buying in higher and higher not doing as well as a lump sum usually plunked down.

You've pointed this 1/3 down and 2/3 up concept out a number of times. But, I have a question. Does that mean if I DCA into an equity fund, I "would be buying in higher and higher" all the time? Or just 2/3 of the time?

If I lump sum in, are you saying that is better 100% of the time or 66.7% of the time?
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Old 12-15-2007, 12:23 PM   #9
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I assume the reason is to get a better balance of equities/bonds. My concern with trickling in the money via dollcar cost averaging is that you won't be well balanced until you get most of the way there.

So you have to weigh getting your ratios where you want them to be versus dollar cost averaging. I think getting your ratios correct is more important for your portfolio safety.

Long term bonds have some volatility, short and medium less so. I think you can limit the big drops that you'd want to protect against with DCA by investing in mostly short and medium term bonds. I think the total market bond fund averages out to medium term and is probably fine, and I don't see a strong need to DCA that fund.

Where is the 100K now? I'm not a fan of leaving cash on the sidelines to DCA, whether it is in stocks or bonds, unless you really think it is a bad time to be getting in.

I like DCA as regular investments out of your income. A 401K paycheck deduction is a great example. Invest a little money as soon as you make it, rather than wait until you get a pile and invest it all at once.
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Old 12-15-2007, 12:59 PM   #10
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Mathjak, Bonds only change in value if you are in a fund (no control over buying and selling) or you don't hold them to maturity. Just a thought.

well they work the same as your stocks. everything is on paper and is psychological unless you sell. if stocks fall 2% in a sell off and your bonds rose 1 to 2% we feel better. even individual bonds are priced daily at least at fidelity. my individual bonds are posted daily right along with the days closing stock and fund prices in my portfolio ... if the bonds or bond funds rise enough or stocks fall enough rebalance sell some off and buy more equities
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Old 12-15-2007, 01:02 PM   #11
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You've pointed this 1/3 down and 2/3 up concept out a number of times. But, I have a question. Does that mean if I DCA into an equity fund, I "would be buying in higher and higher" all the time? Or just 2/3 of the time?

If I lump sum in, are you saying that is better 100% of the time or 66.7% of the time?

100% of the time over long periods of time the lump sum wins. thats where you put in money over decades like a 401k or ira. if your going to dca over shorter periods of time then its pot luck and a toss of the coin which is better since you can go 4-5 years without breaking a new high.


we dont always have a lump sum to invest so dca works well, its just in an all out comparison the lump sum will win. one of the problems with the current fad of lifestyle funds for 401k's is that along with buying in higher and higher as time marches on the fund cuts its stock allocations too so you end up far more conservative between the dca and cutting back of the equities.
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10 Year Avg Annual Bond Returns
Old 12-15-2007, 01:13 PM   #12
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10 Year Avg Annual Bond Returns

I was curious about the statement that if you are in for decades there is a 100% chance of positive returns. So I ran some numbers. Here are 10 year avg annual returns for periods starting 1928-38 to 1996-2006 for three bond classes. There are none that are negative. But 100% is probably not something we can promise for the future.

T-bill 5 Yr T Lng Bnd
1.35% 4.25% 4.23%
1.03% 4.78% 4.77%
0.56% 4.63% 5.03%
0.32% 4.26% 5.17%
0.21% 4.54% 5.79%
0.14% 3.85% 4.43%
0.15% 3.95% 4.65%
0.16% 3.23% 3.93%
0.18% 2.75% 4.50%
0.20% 2.55% 3.74%
0.22% 2.48% 3.46%
0.30% 2.05% 3.25%
0.41% 1.83% 3.29%
0.53% 1.60% 2.69%
0.68% 1.59% 2.21%
0.82% 1.56% 2.01%
0.96% 1.60% 2.16%
1.02% 1.69% 2.60%
1.15% 1.40% 1.40%
1.36% 1.26% 0.85%
1.63% 1.95% 1.86%
1.70% 1.63% 0.91%
1.89% 1.36% 0.04%
2.04% 2.47% 1.41%
2.10% 2.62% 1.90%
2.20% 3.02% 2.47%
2.33% 2.86% 2.23%
2.59% 2.99% 1.86%
2.82% 3.16% 2.06%
3.05% 3.67% 2.99%
3.15% 2.99% 1.32%
3.52% 3.57% 1.90%
3.88% 3.54% 1.62%
4.26% 4.05% 1.45%
4.49% 4.73% 2.67%
4.60% 4.69% 2.55%
4.98% 4.99% 2.32%
5.43% 5.16% 2.41%
5.62% 5.84% 3.26%
5.65% 6.66% 4.57%
5.74% 6.70% 5.42%
5.94% 6.60% 5.33%
6.32% 7.08% 5.72%
6.80% 5.78% 4.11%
7.83% 5.85% 2.98%
8.50% 8.24% 6.45%
8.69% 8.52% 6.63%
8.87% 9.35% 7.74%
9.06% 10.60% 9.92%
9.17% 10.82% 10.69%
9.21% 10.97% 10.49%
9.13% 11.23% 11.58%
8.93% 12.15% 13.51%
8.58% 12.73% 14.53%
7.67% 13.32% 16.27%
6.97% 11.13% 13.17%
6.38% 11.51% 14.92%
5.79% 9.60% 12.59%
5.58% 9.18% 12.66%
5.48% 7.88% 10.12%
5.46% 8.43% 11.98%
5.31% 8.84% 12.32%
4.94% 7.33% 9.61%
4.75% 7.62% 11.14%
4.54% 6.85% 9.64%
4.35% 7.54% 10.37%
4.16% 6.66% 8.82%
3.91% 7.51% 10.31%
3.67% 6.13% 7.80%
3.64% 6.23% 8.06%
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Old 12-15-2007, 01:15 PM   #13
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Actually on second though these are not inflation adjusted. Some periods could be losers after inflation. Ill look at that after my bike ride.
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Old 12-15-2007, 01:16 PM   #14
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bonds have had way more loosing years inflation adjusted than stocks. i dont think i would ever take shot guessing on the outcome of bonds.
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Old 12-15-2007, 01:47 PM   #15
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Ok, I couldn't wait here are the numbers. Now 10 year compounded return minus 10 year inflation. Starting with the period 1928-1938 and finishing with 1996-2006. Indeed there are quite a few negatives when you adjust for inflation.


Not Inflation Adjusted Inflation Adjusted
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T-Bill 5-Yr T Lng Bnd T-Bill 5-Yr T Lng Bnd
10.69% 49.38% 48.83% 29.18% 67.87% 67.32%
5.72% 49.66% 51.85% 22.68% 66.62% 68.81%
3.24% 46.57% 53.74% 21.37% 64.70% 71.86%
2.12% 54.52% 72.24% 14.69% 67.10% 84.82%
1.10% 42.74% 48.80% 2.50% 44.13% 50.19%
1.10% 42.88% 53.71% -20.60% 21.17% 32.00%
1.31% 34.75% 42.67% -26.72% 6.72% 14.64%
1.51% 28.20% 39.68% -26.43% 0.26% 11.74%
1.61% 27.20% 43.84% -27.38% -1.78% 14.85%
1.71% 26.45% 43.41% -27.37% -2.62% 14.33%
2.22% 20.14% 32.40% -49.19% -31.27% -19.01%
3.04% 17.15% 29.15% -66.25% -52.13% -40.13%
4.17% 16.36% 29.52% -68.49% -56.30% -43.15%
5.42% 16.59% 28.49% -61.25% -50.08% -38.18%
6.68% 14.87% 19.65% -55.10% -46.91% -42.13%
8.06% 13.53% 18.59% -48.74% -43.27% -38.21%
9.68% 15.09% 19.52% -43.19% -37.78% -33.36%
10.34% 15.66% 15.74% -40.79% -35.47% -35.38%
11.65% 13.71% 14.35% -35.05% -32.99% -32.35%
13.88% 12.24% 10.83% -10.77% -12.41% -13.82%
16.59% 18.74% 15.22% 0.13% 2.29% -1.23%
17.05% 14.56% 1.68% -2.12% -4.60% -17.48%
19.13% 13.31% -0.75% -4.27% -10.09% -24.16%
20.54% 26.18% 17.53% 5.19% 10.83% 2.17%
21.01% 26.55% 17.29% 8.56% 14.10% 4.84%
22.08% 29.50% 21.03% 9.30% 16.71% 8.25%
24.75% 28.11% 14.26% 11.73% 15.10% 1.25%
27.08% 34.17% 19.81% 11.35% 18.44% 4.08%
28.81% 36.06% 27.81% 12.40% 19.64% 11.39%
30.81% 32.15% 23.29% 15.59% 16.93% 8.07%
34.29% 35.22% 19.22% 19.26% 20.19% 4.19%
37.16% 41.88% 21.66% 19.57% 24.29% 4.07%
42.37% 26.01% 1.46% 20.87% 4.51% -20.05%
48.50% 44.56% 12.61% 21.66% 17.72% -14.24%
50.96% 48.81% 19.24% 18.29% 16.14% -13.42%
51.99% 54.08% 24.54% 16.79% 18.88% -10.65%
56.98% 54.97% 19.01% 19.12% 17.11% -18.86%
63.17% 62.18% 23.38% 13.81% 12.82% -25.98%
64.73% 66.98% 29.93% 0.89% 3.15% -33.91%
66.15% 86.66% 67.13% -2.84% 17.66% -1.87%
66.00% 81.12% 66.46% -5.56% 9.57% -5.10%
66.93% 88.78% 73.30% -8.63% 13.22% -2.26%
73.04% 68.11% 52.74% -7.64% -12.58% -27.95%
84.48% 60.69% 29.53% -11.00% -34.79% -65.95%
103.85% 67.10% 24.87% -7.83% -44.58% -86.81%
110.72% 106.24% 77.27% -10.64% -15.12% -44.09%
112.28% 109.56% 70.99% 2.41% -0.31% -38.88%
120.30% 121.61% 80.85% 24.72% 26.03% -14.73%
125.75% 136.14% 102.84% 36.01% 46.39% 13.09%
128.12% 168.04% 154.32% 40.77% 80.69% 66.97%
124.50% 166.49% 150.46% 46.58% 88.57% 72.54%
116.36% 171.61% 178.09% 46.96% 102.21% 108.69%
110.73% 196.18% 242.11% 55.07% 140.52% 186.45%
98.05% 196.99% 256.54% 51.61% 150.55% 210.11%
89.27% 165.24% 202.96% 46.53% 122.51% 160.22%
80.05% 164.75% 229.14% 38.84% 123.54% 187.93%
68.73% 158.25% 236.83% 28.79% 118.31% 196.89%
62.78% 103.72% 137.07% 24.20% 65.14% 98.49%
61.86% 105.49% 150.78% 24.73% 68.36% 113.64%
61.40% 103.89% 155.42% 22.55% 65.05% 116.57%
59.73% 108.31% 169.85% 22.22% 70.80% 132.34%
54.57% 102.61% 158.43% 21.13% 69.17% 124.98%
50.13% 81.37% 121.44% 21.17% 52.41% 92.47%
50.56% 77.13% 125.52% 25.22% 51.79% 100.19%
50.51% 77.71% 115.03% 24.52% 51.71% 89.03%
48.66% 82.42% 112.25% 24.46% 58.23% 88.05%
44.55% 96.78% 136.37% 20.27% 72.50% 112.09%
38.80% 75.25% 92.26% 15.58% 52.03% 69.04%
36.17% 75.63% 106.83% 12.66% 52.12% 83.31%
35.59% 67.11% 81.56% 10.95% 42.47% 56.92%
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Old 12-15-2007, 01:52 PM   #16
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just mind blowing. anyone who thinks cash instruments or bonds are a relativley safe investment is deluding themselves. your almost guaranteed a loss after inflation and taxes compared to the 67% chance of a gain in diversified equities short term and 99.9% chance long term gain
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Old 12-15-2007, 01:59 PM   #17
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love to see the s&p 500 adjusted to include dividends (which i believe are never included in the index )and then adjusted for inflation
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Old 12-15-2007, 02:10 PM   #18
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Mathjak,

I am not absolutely sure these are adjusted for dividend reinvestment but here are the S&P500 numbers I have for compounded 10 year return - compounded 10 year inflation for 10 year periods from 1928-1938 through 1996-2006. I think it makes the point anyway - that stocks beat bonds over the long term (if you aren't forced to sell when the market is down).

Before After
Inflation Inflation
-30.23% -11.73%
-0.14% 16.81%
32.43% 50.56%
111.05% 123.63%
103.23% 104.63%
58.76% 37.05%
102.72% 74.69%
64.29% 36.34%
67.35% 38.37%
136.61% 107.53%
90.77% 39.36%
102.07% 32.78%
166.14% 93.48%
296.50% 229.84%
308.70% 246.91%
284.35% 227.55%
217.88% 165.01%
255.64% 204.51%
408.88% 362.18%
413.22% 388.57%
333.92% 317.47%
423.78% 404.61%
345.43% 322.02%
261.01% 245.66%
286.93% 274.48%
256.84% 244.05%
187.15% 174.14%
154.40% 138.67%
168.48% 152.06%
170.58% 155.37%
133.98% 118.94%
132.10% 114.51%
111.31% 89.81%
73.18% 46.33%
116.81% 84.14%
110.10% 74.90%
53.83% 15.97%
0.50% -48.86%
53.38% -10.45%
53.26% -15.74%
28.01% -43.54%
49.14% -26.42%
69.79% -10.90%
96.68% 1.20%
57.18% -54.50%
123.70% 2.33%
272.83% 162.95%
188.86% 93.27%
208.21% 118.46%
293.56% 206.21%
288.40% 210.48%
283.15% 213.75%
280.54% 224.89%
287.34% 240.91%
316.70% 273.96%
266.35% 225.15%
279.11% 239.17%
190.50% 151.92%
236.83% 199.69%
294.14% 255.29%
350.16% 312.64%
340.23% 306.78%
450.29% 421.32%
283.01% 257.67%
213.36% 187.36%
121.91% 97.72%
181.91% 157.63%
127.50% 104.28%
93.88% 70.37%
68.29% 43.66%
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Old 12-15-2007, 02:18 PM   #19
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certainly proves stocks are up even more than 67% of the time on average
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Old 12-16-2007, 02:37 PM   #20
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I'm facing the same issue now, moving a significant amount from vanguard prime money market into bond funds. Mathjak's argument that DCA is more effective with bonds than stocks since stocks go up more was interesting, but I still think doing it as a lump sum is the way to go. The reason is that the bond fund prices just aren't as volatile as the stock market. Take a look at this

Graph of a bond fund price versus the S&P 500

and you will see the bond fund just doesn't fluctuate nearly as much. Since the whole idea of DCA is to take advantage of volatility, my judgement is that there's not much use in DCAing to bond funds.
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