Fixed Income Investments for Low Risk Investors

by Kristina on March 24, 2011 · 3 comments


A great alternative to traditional low risk fixed income investments such as Treasury Bills, Bankers Acceptances, Bonds, and Term Deposits are Mortgage Backed Securities and Real Estate Income Trusts.  They offer a greater potential rate of return while taking only a little bit more risk.

What is a Mortgage Backed Security?

Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) are a type of fixed income investment that are secured (or backed) by one specific mortgage such as a large commercial property mortgage, or a group of residential mortgages offered by the same financial institution.  The bigger the mortgage and the higher the interest rate on that mortgage, the higher potential payout from the Mortgage Backed Security.

Mortgage Backed Securities are similar to bonds because they can pay out regular payments, usually on a quarterly basis. Investopedia describes Investors of Mortgage Backed Securities as the person who is “lending money to a home buyer or business.”  As investors we give our money to the bank and in exchange, the bank gives us an interest rate of return.   The bank then lends out our investment money in the form of a mortgage, where they collect an interest rate from the mortgage borrower.

Mortgage Backed Securities eliminate the need for the bank to have capital because the bank is not lending out their own money.  They lend out borrowed money from investors.  Mortgage Backed Securities can be purchased directly on the market or indirectly through a Mutual Fund.

What is a Real Estate Investment Trust?

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) differ from Mortgage Backed Securities because they invest both in Mortgages as well as directly in a Property.  There are three types of Real Estate Investment Trusts. Equity REITs invest directly in properties, Mortgage REITs invest only in mortgages, and Hybrid REITs invest in both properties as well as mortgages. An example of the type of property that a Real Estate Investment Trust would invest in is a shopping mall or a luxury apartment building.  The revenue paid out to investors comes from the rent that tenants pay.

Similar to Mortgage Backed Securities Real Estate Investment Trusts can be purchased directly on the market or through a Mutual Fund.

When choosing the type of Mortgage Backed Security or Real Estate Investment Trust it is important to know the duration of the investments, as well as the interest rate, and issuing company.  If we are planning to hold the Mutual Fund over the long term we may look for a REIT or MBS that invests in 30 year mortgages.  However, the interest rate is a crucial factor in our rate of return. We don’t want to have a long term mortgage that is locked into a low interest rate.

Most major Mutual Fund companies such as Fidelity and Franklin Templeton offer Real Estate and Mortgage Mutual Funds.

(Photo By ExMagician)



{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ken Faulkenberry March 24, 2011 at 8:35 am

Thank you Kristina for providing informative ideas for investors. I don’t entirely agree with your title. I do not believe these investments are low risk. Investors should realize that many equity REITs are extremely expensive and may not offer good value. Mortgage REITs, like bonds, carry a tremendous amount of interest rate risk. Many experts expect rates to rise the next several years. Rising rates could severely hurt both equity and mortgage REITs.
Ken Faulkenberry

2 Jon | Free Money Wisdom March 25, 2011 at 12:44 am

I’m a third vote for not being low risk. You’re playing with fire for these investments. Do your due diligence before you jump into any of these investments.

3 Kristina March 29, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Mortgage Mutual Funds and Real Estate Mutual Funds are usually listed under the Fixed Income Family of Funds. This makes them lower risk than other types of Mutual Funds such as Equity Mutual Funds. Yes REITs and MBS do have interest rate risk and there is always the potential risk of default, but this is also the case with bonds which are also considered low risk investments in the fixed income family of funds. Diversifying our investments through a Mutual Fund also eliminates some risk associated with having only one investment, and the “all of our eggs in only one basket” rule.

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