Jonathon Trugman | Ben’s debt binge to detonate retirement funds

There goes the nest egg.

There’s a record $16.3 trillion of US debt and a good portion of that is sitting in baby boomers’ portfolios like a ticking time bomb ready to explode, and most investors know little about it.

“It’s my worst nightmare,” says a long-only bond fund manager. “There’s nothing I can do — the checks come in [from clients] every day, and I have to invest it.”

With Ben Bernanke’s debt paper floating through the market and the Fed chief vowing to keep rates low until 2015, some bond managers are hoping to get out before the bubble bursts and Armageddon hits.

And rates would not have to go through the roof to take out billions in principal for investors, most of whom are in bonds because they are nearing retirement.

“If the 10-year [bond] goes up 100 basis points, that could mean more than $35 billion is lost,” says one bond trader.

One hundred basis points is just a 1 percent increase, which would put the 10-year at about 2.6 percent. The average rate of return over the last decade is roughly 4 percent, which, if we return to that yield, could put principal losses close to $500 billion, says a bond manager.

Bond prices (your principal) and interest rates (yield) move in opposite directions. When rates rise, bond prices fall. The inverse is, of course, true as well. When rates fall, the price (your principal) of the bond rises.


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