The current bond market brings to mind that old ad campaign that stated: "This is not your father's Oldsmobile."
At the same time those TV ads ran in the 1980s, bond yields started their slow decline after paying interest rates as high as 15 percent to 20 percent. This created a lucrative outcome for bond investors: From 1981 to 2015, the broad bond market tracked by Ibbotson's SBBI Yearbook returned an annual average of 11.03 percent compared with 10.98 percent for the S&P 500 Index, an unmanaged basket of the largest U.S. stocks. Because of this, that period is now known as the 30-year bull bond market.
Before the 1980s, bonds were like the Oldsmobile of previous decades — relatively low-yielding but secure for conservative investors. But over the last 30 years, bonds began rewarding investors with income and capital appreciation, prompting a generation of investors to look at bonds in a whole new way.