Bonds vs equities

Where should income-seekers turn?

UK income-seekers often face the dilemma of choosing between bonds and equities for their investments. Both asset classes have their unique advantages and risks.

To make an informed decision, it’s essential to understand the differences between the two and assess your risk tolerance, investment goals and time horizon.

Bonds are fixed-income securities that governments, corporations or other entities issue to raise capital. They pay periodic interest (coupon) to bondholders and return the principal amount upon maturity.

Some key features of bonds include:

Lower risk: Bonds are generally considered less risky than equities because they provide regular income and a predetermined return on investment.
Stability: Bonds can add stability to your portfolio as their values tend to be less volatile than equities.
Predictable income: Bonds provide a predictable income stream through coupon payments, making them attractive for income-seeking investors.

However, there are some downsides to bonds:

Lower returns: Bonds typically offer lower returns than equities due to their lower risk profile.
Interest rate sensitivity: Bond prices are sensitive to interest rate changes, and rising rates can lead to capital losses.
Inflation risk: Inflation can erode the purchasing power of bond income, making it less attractive over time.

Equities, or stocks, represent ownership in a company. You can benefit from the company’s growth and profitability as a shareholder.

Some advantages of equities include:

Higher returns: Equities have historically provided higher long-term returns compared to bonds, making them more suitable for investors seeking capital appreciation.
Dividend income: Many companies pay dividends to shareholders, providing a source of income.
Inflation hedge: Equities can potentially outpace inflation over time, preserving the purchasing power of your investments.

On the other hand, equities come with their own set of risks:

Higher volatility: Equities can experience significant price fluctuations, leading to higher potential returns and losses.
Company-specific risks: The performance of individual companies can significantly impact your investment, making stock selection crucial.

Diversified portfolio containing both bonds and equities
For UK income-seekers, determining whether to invest in bonds or equities largely depends on your individual goals, risk tolerance and investment horizon. Bonds may be a better choice if you prioritise stability and predictable income. However, equities could be more suitable if you’re willing to accept higher volatility for potentially higher long-term returns and an inflation hedge.

A diversified portfolio containing bonds and equities might be the best approach, as it can help strike a balance between risk and return while providing multiple sources of income.