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Bond Ladders Unfairly Demonized

I often hear criticisms from the financial media and some professional advisors about the use of bond ladders. Whenever the criticism comes from professional advisors, however, I’ve noticed it generally involves firms that use only bond mutual funds or ETFs instead of individual, tailored bond portfolios, whether in the form of a bond ladder or not. Unfortunately, much—if not all—of this criticism is based on falsehoods and the conflicts that can arise when advisors employ only mutual funds and ETFs.

An investor recently brought to my attention a piece that restated many of the old canards about bond ladders. But this article is just one of many. Even highly regarded finance columnists have taken laddered bond portfolios to task. To correct the misperceptions, we’ll address each of the criticisms typically raised, beginning with credit risk.

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