Jones advises sticking with investment-grade corporate bonds for safety and income and shortening the average maturity to about five years. Values on these bonds won't bounce around so much, and they are easier to hold to maturity, when proceeds can be reinvested at higher yields. The easiest way to do this is through an index like Barclay's Capital U.S. Aggregate Bond, which holds investment-grade debt with an average maturity of 4.7 years.
Financial advisors also suggest leaning toward multisector credit and, in some cases, unconstrained bond funds that can be more opportunistic. Since the recession, bond yields have been falling and "you could pretty much just enjoy the ride" in passive funds, said Carolyn Gibbs, senior fixed-income strategist at Invesco Fixed Income, which manages $250 billion. But that won't work as rates reverse in a period with so many crosscurrents.
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An active manager that can cross borders and sectors may navigate weakness in Asia and Europe coupled with growth in the U.S., among other dislocations. A word of warning: Some of these funds have the ability to sell short and make other high-risk bets. If you seek stability, look carefully at the holdings and strategy of any unconstrained fund—and remember, you are betting on the manager, not the direction of interest rates.
Wolkowitz at Accredited Investor likes the multisector approach and is putting his clients in Aberdeen Total Return and Loomis Sayles Bond. Another fan is Jason Brooks, president of Indelible Wealth Group, who is putting clients in Pimco Income fund and Metropolitan West Total Return Bond. "These funds have the ability to react and be where you need to be," said Brooks. That sounds pretty good in a fast-changing climate for fixed income.