The 30-year US Treasury Bond yields about 1.4% (Yield is calculated by dividing the annual interest paid by the bond by the price of the bond.) The Federal Reserve (The central bank of the United States, which sets monetary policy.) has a long-held, clearly stated policy of inflating US currency by 2% per year. Should the Federal Reserve succeed with this policy, the 30-year bond would provide a real yield (interest paid minus inflation) of -.6% each year.
However, 1.4% per year is taxable as current income. To make my math easier, we will assume that you are in the 30% federal income tax bracket. You would then pay about .4% per year in federal income taxes. Combined with the .6% per year currency depreciation from inflation, the negative annual return is about 1% per year. If the 30-year bond is held to maturity, then about 30% of the purchasing power of your money is lost.
If you are not planning to hold your 30-year Treasury bond until maturity - maybe you are just parking your money until markets settle down - you may find that interest rates have risen. Since prices of existing bonds fall as interest rates rise, you may sustain a capital loss in what was supposed to be a risk-less asset.
Of course, you can decrease or eliminate the potential capital loss with shorter-term bonds. The 10-year US Treasury yields .9%, and money market funds are at .25%. Essentially nothing. To substitute Municipal bonds in this analysis, use a yield of about 2.27% per year (ETF: MUB).
Inflation reduces your return by 2% per year to .27% per year. No adjustments have been made for the credit risk that some municipal bonds may not be paid in full.
Based on the stated policy of The Federal Reserve to generate 2% per year of inflation, the bond market promises negligible to negative returns per year.
What are your alternatives? If the bond holdings are part of the savings portions of your portfolio, we will recommend money market funds as a lower-risk alternative.
If the bonds are part of the wealth-building portion of your portfolio, we will recommend an increase in your allocation to quality common stocks.
As always, your comments are welcome.