As interest rates rise, is it time to look anew at fixed income investments?

November 25, 2021

Interest rates have been so low for so long it is hard to remember the long-ago days when everyone had Canada Savings Bonds and/or guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) in their portfolios.

Save with SPP decided to look around to see what the expected rise in interest rates (and inflation) may do with Canadians’ saving plans.

Writing in the Globe and Mail, columnist Rita Trachur explains that one fear that’s out there right now is that Canadians may risk “aggravating inflation by blowing through their savings” as the pandemic (apparently) winds to a close.

She proposes that Ottawa consider bringing back – temporarily – the old Canada Savings Bond program.

“Many of us who are on the wrong side of 40 fondly remember a time when we could make juicy returns by investing in Canada Savings Bonds. Not only were they easy to purchase and risk-free, those paper certificates were oh so cool. Most importantly, though, they taught generations of Canadians how to save,” she writes.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when interest rates reached double-digits, Canadians held $55 billion in savings bonds. But they began to wane in popularity, Trachur writes, due to competing products like “GICs, mutual funds, and low-fee trading accounts.”

But with rising interest rates on the horizon, maybe a modern version of the Canada Savings Bond could be relaunched, writes Trachur.

“The bonds should be tax-free and have short investment terms – perhaps one year and 18 months, as examples – to give consumers real incentives to keep stashing their cash over the near term. That kind of flexibility would also give people the ability to reassess their options once interest rates start to rise,” she writes. This type of product would be a safe investment for regular people, she concludes.

Another reason to look at interest-paying investments may be the link between higher rates and lower stock prices, reports US News & World Report.

“When interest rates are low, companies and consumers can borrower cheaply and tend to spend more money, which can boost corporate profits. When interest rates rise, consumers and companies typically curb their spending, which can result in lower stock prices,” the newspaper explains.

A rise in interest rates is also bad for bond prices, the article adds. “Bonds and interest rates have an inverse relationship, meaning that bond prices fall when interest rates rise,” the article explains. “But don’t liquidate your bond positions yet. Experts say bonds still hold value in an investment portfolio.”

It’s a complicated topic, to be sure. The old rule of thumb used to be that your age was the percentage of your savings that should be in fixed-income (bonds, GICs, etc.), with the rest in equity. So if you are 60, the rule suggests, 60 per cent should be in fixed income – the argument being that this would “safen” your overall holdings from some of the ups and downs the equity markets can provide.

Balance is a good thing in investing. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s Balanced Fund currently has this asset mix – 50 per cent Canadian, U.S. and non-North American equity, 26 per cent bonds, 7.5 per cent mortgages, 10 per cent real estate, five per cent infrastructure and 1.5 per cent in short term investments. SPP’s managers can switch up this mix to align with changing market conditions, so that all your eggs are never in just one basket. SPP has been helping Canadians save for retirement for 35 years; check them out today!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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