4 Ways to Boost Yields and Returns


Shutterstock photo

On average, they're yielding 7.5%. That's more than three times theyield of the S&P 500. Try getting that amount from a money market orsavings account .
But that's not the half of it. In tandem with those high yields, the capital gains have been great, too. No less than 29 of the 30 securities are showing positive returns. The best performer has gained +104.6%, yet still yields 5.3%.
This isn't the performance of some secretindex or an exclusive hedge-fund's holdings. It's what is currently happening within the portfolios of my High-Yield Investing advisory.
What's the secret to that sort of performance? How can you build a similar portfolio for yourself? Don't get me wrong -- I do an enormous amount of research and watch my holdings and the market like a hawk. But much of the good fortune comes from sticking to a few simple rules that you can use as well.
Over the years, these rules have proven their value inbull andbear markets. The techniques are not complicated. Anyone can follow them and potentially get the same results. So as a little holiday gift to my fellow income investors, I wanted to share with you the four basic rules I follow to build my winning High-Yield Investing portfolios. I'm confident these tips can work for you as well:
  Rule #1: Look for high yields off the beaten path
To find exceptional returns and yields, I frequently venture off the beaten path. Some of the best yields I've found have come from asset classes few investors know about. A case in point is Canadian REITs . These REITs delivered exceptional yields this year (some as high as 12%), but many stateside investors have never heard of them. [To read more about Canadian REITs, see my recent article on the topic by clicking here .]
Other lesser-known securities I look at are exchange-traded bonds, master limited partnerships ( MLPs ) and income deposit securities. All of these usuallyyield more than typical common stocks. In addition, they can also be less volatile and hold up better during market downturns.
If you're not familiar with these securities, don't fret. I have -- and will continue to -- cover them within Dividend Opportunities , my free weekly newsletter, as well as on StreetAuthority.com.
Rule #2: Consider Alternatives to Common Stocks
It is a well-known fact that the vast majority of common stocks simply don'tyield much. The S&P 500's averageyield is only 2.0%.
So when I can't find the income I want from common stocks I like, I look elsewhere. My first stop is often preferredshares of the same company, which almost alwaysyield more. Say you wanted to invest in General Electric ( GE ) . The commonshares of GE currentlyyield 3.0%, but you can find preferredshares yielding upwards of 7.0%. You still benefit from the underlying company's backing, but with a much higheryield .
Similarly, many companies offer exchange-traded bonds. While you don't get actual ownership of the business as you would with common stock, you will earn a much higheryield and have yourprincipal backed by the underlying company.
Rule #3: Look for securities trading below par value
Some of my highest returns have come from buying bonds when they trade below par value. Par value is simply the face value assigned to a stock orbond on the date it was issued. Most exchange-traded bonds (which you can buy just like a share of stock) have a par value of $25 per note.
But sometimes -- most recently during the recent market panic -- investors indiscriminately dump these bonds, pushing their prices down. By purchasing the bonds at a discount to par , you lock in great opportunities for capital gains in addition to higher-than-normal yields.
A case in point was Delphi Financial Group 8% Senior Notes (which have since been called). I purchased the notes in July 2009 for $19.27 -- a -23% discount to par value. During the 16 months I held, I collected $3.00 per note in interest payments while theshares rose to their $25 par value. In total, the notes returned more than +45%.
Rule #4: Sell when it's time
This rule may seem the most obvious, but it is also the most difficult to follow.
Like everyone else, I hate to admit I was wrong about an investment. But I find it even harder to watch losses mount as a pick falls further. That's why I'm not afraid to take a loss. I swallowed my pride and closed out several positions for losses during the bear market , and I'm glad I did. Continuing to hold these would have greatly reduced returns on my portfolio.
It may sound like a cliche, but knowing when to sell is just as important as knowing when to buy. A wise investor knows when to cut losses and move on to the next opportunity. If the security in question is falling with the market, I may not be worried. However, if changes in the company's operations mean it could see rocky times ahead, I don't want a part of it.
Action to Take--> The rules I've shared above should help guide you to higher yields and better returns -- they've certainly done well for my High-Yield Investing subscribers. I hope you can put them to good use in the coming year.

[And if you'd like to learn more about High-Yield Investing , including how to access my full portfolios, click here .]

-- Carla Pasternak

Carla Pasternak has nearly 30 years of income investing experience, including serving as the Director of Research for High-Yield Investing. Read More...

P.S. Investing in dividend-paying stocks is one of the most profitable ways to beat the market. For more on stable stocks that will grow your money with ever-increasing dividends, see Carla Pasternak's latest course, The 5 Rules Every Income Investor Has to Know.

Disclosure: Neither Carla Pasternak nor StreetAuthority, LLC hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

© Copyright 2001-2010 StreetAuthority, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

This article appears in: Investing , Investing Ideas

More from Carla Pasternak


Carla Pasternak

Carla Pasternak

Find a Credit Card

Select a credit card product by:
Select an offer:
Data Provided by BankRate.com