As the U.S. economy moderately strengthens, that means the bond bubble will begin to leak. Even darker, the bubble might just burst altogether.
The prospect of yet another bursting bubble makes investing in bonds difficult. The same is true for stocks.
After all, stocks tend to underperform when rates head north, while gold will certainly drop back once interest rates begin to rise ahead of inflation (which may take a considerable time.)
However, there is one strategy that enables you to prosper even in this tough environment.
It is called the bond ladder. It works like this...
Bond investing in a rising rate environment can be a terrific way to lose money.
If you buy short-term bonds, the yields may well be less than inflation, causing you to lose money in real terms.
And if you invest in long-term bonds, your immediate yield will generally be higher, but you run a large risk of losing part of your principal as rates rise and bond prices decline.
These losses can be a large multiple of your interest payments.
For example, if 30-year bond yields rise from their current 3.11% to 5.11% over the next year, your principal loss on a 30-year T-bond will be $30 on every $100, far more than the $3.11 you will have received in interest.
Of course, if you hold the bond for the next 29 years you will get your principal back at maturity.
But meanwhile you will have spent 30 years locked into an investment at interest rates below the market, and probably below the level of inflation. Not a wise choice.
Investing in Bonds: Building a Bond LadderThe problem of investing in bonds then is one of reinvestment. You really don't know at what rate you will be able to reinvest your money when the time comes.
This problem is solved by buying bonds in a range of maturities, from short to long, and reinvesting the proceeds of each investment as it comes due.
For example, you could invest 10% of your money in each Treasury bond maturity from 1 to 10 years.
Then when the first bond came due in year 1, you would reinvest the proceeds in a 10-year bond, so you would again have 10 equal bond investments coming due in years 2 through 11.
Here's a concrete example.