Consumers are far more likely to shop around for the best price on a gas grill than for the best price on a bond, says a study released today by Charles Schwab.
The survey, Bargain Hunting For Bonds: How Investors Shop, found that investors generally are committed to finding a good deal when shopping for consumer goods like cars, airline tickets and TV sets, but only 17 percent are extremely likely to put the same amount of work into shopping for bonds.
“Fewer than one in five investors shop around for bonds, which we think has less to do with investor behavior and more to do with industry barriers that get in the way of investors’ interests,” said Peter Crawford, senior vice president at Charles Schwab. “There is no industry standard for how bond prices are marked up, and as a result investors are unclear about how much bonds cost and uncertain about how to shop for the best prices.”
According to the study, 54 percent of investors believe bond prices vary from broker to broker; 94 percent of that group believes prices vary moderately or a lot.
Schwab’s study found that 53 percent of investors are not shopping around to get the best price on bonds because they don’t know how to get the best price. Forty-three percent say it is too complicated to comparison shop for bonds and 47 percent say it is too hard to see what a bond costs.
Crawford offers three tips for bond investors:
• Ask your broker how he or she is compensated on your bond purchase, and make sure you understand any commissions or markups built into the price (or yield) as well as any additional fees. Unless your broker has a standard markup policy, you should ask before every trade.
• Compare bonds as well as prices. Just like prices for the same bond can vary from brokerage firm to brokerage firm, so can availability. Is your firm able to shop around on your behalf to find the best available bond for your needs or do they focus on what they have in their own inventory?
• Take advantage of industry resources such as Sifma’s investinginbonds.com.
“Investors who are focused on value shouldn’t be confused when it comes to bond investing because there are resources that can help,” said Crawford. “ Technology has made the bond market far more transparent for investors, and savvy shoppers now have the ability to bargain shop for bonds.”