What To Do if Washington Takes Your Retirement Dividends Away
If you live in New York State, are married, filing jointly, and earn between $300,001 and $2 million, your highest state income tax rate for 2012 is 6.85%, and your taxable equivalent yield is 4.54%. Using this rate for the taxable equivalent calculation is not as extreme as it may look, because the state income tax rate is 6.45% for couples earning from $40,001 to $150,000, and 6.65% for those earning from $150,001 to $300,000.
For New York City residents earning between $90,000 and $500,000, the income tax rate during 2011 was 3.648%. Using that rate and the above state tax rate, the taxable equivalent yield is 4.90%.
Even without considering the tax advantages, the yield on the New York Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority bond is higher than some corporate bonds with the same investment-grade ratings.
An IBM (IBM) bond rated Aa3/AA- with a coupon of 1.875% expiring on August 1, 2022, was trading Friday at a yield of 2.35%.
Why would a corporate with the same rating trade at a yield only slightly higher than a muni of the same quality? The answer is that the market has been rough for municipal bonds, because so many municipalities are having budget difficulties, and some analysts, including Meredith Whitney in September 2010, expressed fears that there could be a significant number of municipalities defaulting. There have been a few defaults, but nothing like the "hundreds" of defaults that Whitney expected.
The New York Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority bond example cited above is for a new issue, and it's too late to get in on that one. Municipal bonds are thinly traded, being snapped up immediately by institutional investors and individuals when they are issued. The best approach is to talk to your broker, request information on upcoming municipal issues, and try to make purchases "off the shelf," which may be your only way of making these investments.
Municipal Bond Funds
You can also consider a municipal bond fund. Of course, since bond prices move in the opposite direction of interest rates, holding shares in a municipal bond fund can require a lot of patience, as you watch your share price drop while rates are rising. But if your long-term objective truly is to generate current income, you should be able to stay committed and ride out the price fluctuations over the years.