In a search for fixed income, advisors look past mainstream bond funds

In the search for fixed income, financial advisors are looking beyond bonds to alternatives — from the commonplace to the more arcane.

Some view certificates of deposit as an alternative to individual bonds in the current environment.

“If I don’t want to outguess the direction of rates, the CD option gives me a very low risk way to get some yield,” said Leon LaBrecque, CPA, certified financial planner and “chief growth officer” at Sequoia Financial Group, noting that the yields on six-month CDs vs. five-year Treasurys are converging.

“This means that the old-fashioned CD ladder will come back into style, with an additional advantage of cash flow,” he said. “If you think rates might fall, you can ladder out to four or five years.

“The backstory is that this exacerbated a yield-curve inversion – if money flows into CDs and money markets and out of bonds, bond prices drop and yields go up.”

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Many clients who are looking past bonds are now considering dividends to generate more income from their portfolio, said Scott A. Bishop, CPA/PFS, CFP, executive vice president of financial planning with STA Wealth Management.

But he has a warning for investors who want to go this route: Those who chase yields through buying dividends, especially those who really chase yield through master limited partnerships and real estate investment trusts, will see that they will have a big surprise in stability given market volatility.

“They need to do it with eyes wide-open, as they could see 10 [percent] to 15 percent price swings,” he added.

Responding to this type of client interest, he is investigating dividend yield and growth exchange traded funds, specifically reasonably strong and diversified ETFs paying 3 percent to 4 percent yields. This approach would provide a diversified portfolio in one holding that can either target higher yield or dividend growth, the latter for longer-term investors.

For his part, CFP Ashley Folkes, senior vice president of investments with Moors & Cabot Investment, has found that structured notes have grown increasingly attractive to investors because they often pay higher interest than regular corporate debt and usually track the performance of an underlying market or index. These instruments can provide some or most of the upside potential of the market but with options for downside protection.

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