What You Need to know About Investing in Municipal Bonds
by Annette Thau
Municipal bonds, munis for short, are issued by city, county, and state governments, as well as by enterprises with a public purpose, such as certain electric utilities, universities, and hospitals.
Municipal bonds are the only sector of the bond market where the primary buyers are individual investors. The chief attraction of munis is that they are exempt from federal taxes. If you are a resident of the state issuing the bonds, they are also exempt from state taxes.
In this article
- Should I Buy Munis?
- Credit Quality: Ratings
- 'Go' and Revenue Bonds
- Municipal Bond Insurance
- Other Quality Indicators
- To Summarize
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Overwhelmingly, munis deserve their popularity among individual investors. Even though there are thousands of issues outstanding, munis are sound and relatively uncomplicated instruments. Nonetheless, buying individual municipal bonds is not quite as simple as buying Treasuries. The buyer of municipal bonds must be aware of a number of issues: The first one is whether or not you would earn more by buying munis than by buying taxable bonds; second, you need to understand credit quality; and finally, commission costs can be high—particularly if you need to sell a bond before it matures. However, commission costs are hidden.
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