What Are Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS)?

What Are Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS)?

Inflation, or a sustained period of rising consumer prices, can take a bite out of investor portfolios and reduce purchasing power as the prices of goods and services increase.

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS, are one way to hedge against inflation in a portfolio. These government-issued securities are inflation-protected bonds that adjust in tandem with shifts in consumer prices to maintain value.

Investing in TIPS bonds could make sense for investors who are seeking protection against inflation or who want to increase their conservative asset allocation. But what are TIPS and how exactly do they help to minimize inflationary impacts? This primer answers those questions and more.

Recommended: Smart Ways to Hedge Against Inflation

What Are TIPS?

Understanding Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities starts with understanding a little about how bonds work. When you invest in a bond, whether it’s issued by a government, corporation or municipality, you’re essentially lending the issuer your money. In return, the bond issuer agrees to pay that money back to you at a specified date, along with interest. For that reason, bonds are often a popular option for those seeking fixed income investments.

TIPS are inflation-protected bonds that pay interest out to investors twice annually, at a fixed rate applied to the adjusted principal of the bond. This principal can increase with inflation or decrease with deflation, which is a sustained period of falling prices. When the bond matures, you’re paid out the original principal or the adjusted principal—whichever is greater.

Here are some key TIPS basics to know:

•  TIPS bonds are issued in terms of 5, 10 and 30 years

•  Interest rates are determined at auction

•  Minimum investment is $100

•  TIPS are issued electronically

•  You can hold TIPS bonds until maturity or sell them ahead of the maturity date on the secondary market

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities are different from other types of government-issued bonds. With I Bonds, for example, interest accrues over the life of the bond and is paid out when the bond is redeemed. Interest earned is not based on any adjustments to the bond principal—hence, no inflationary protection.

How Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) Work

Understanding how TIPS work is really about understanding the relationship they have with inflation and deflation.

Inflation refers to an increase in the price of goods and services over time. The federal government measures inflation using price indexes, including the Consumer Price Index. The federal government measures inflation using the Consumer Price Index, which measures the average change in prices over time for a basket of consumer goods and services. That includes things like food, gas, and energy or utility services.

Deflation is essentially the opposite of inflation, in which consumer prices for goods and services drop over time. This can happen in a recession, but deflation can also be triggered when there’s a significant imbalance between supply and demand for goods and services. Both inflation and deflation can be detrimental to investors if they have trickle-down effects that impact the way consumers spend and borrow money.

When inflation or deflation occurs, inflation-protected bonds can provide a measure of stability with regard to investment returns. Here’s how it works:

•  You purchase one or more Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities

•  You then earn a fixed interest rate on the TIPS bond you own

•  When inflation increases, the bond principal increases

•  When deflation occurs, the bond principal decreases

•  Once the bond matures, you receive the greater of the adjusted principal or the original principal

This last part is what protects you from negative impacts associated with either inflation or deflation. You’ll never receive less than the face value of the bond, since the principal adjusts to counteract changes in consumer prices.

Are TIPS a Good Investment?

Investing in inflation-protected bonds could make sense if you’re interested in creating some insulation against the impacts of inflation in your portfolio. For example, say you invest $1,000 into a 10-year TIPS bond that offers a 2% coupon rate. The coupon rate represents the yield or income you can expect to receive from the bond while you hold it.

Now, assume that inflation rises to 3% over the next year. This would put the bond’s face value at $1,030, with an annual interest payment of $20.60. If you were looking at a period of deflation instead, then the bond’s face value and interest payments would decline. But the principal would adjust to reflect that to minimize the risk of a negative return.

Recommended: Understanding Deflation and How it Impacts Investors

Pros of Investing in TIPS

What TIPS offer that more traditional bonds don’t is a real rate of return versus a nominal rate of return. In other words, the interest you earn with Treasury Inflation Protected Securities reflects the bond’s actual return once inflation is factored in. As mentioned, I Bonds don’t offer that; you’re just getting whatever interest is earned on the bond over time.

Since these are government bonds, there’s virtually zero credit risk to worry about. (Credit risk means the possibility that a bond issuer might default and not pay anything back to investors.) With TIPS bonds, you’re going to at least get the face value of the bond back if nothing else. And compared to stocks, bonds are generally a far less risky investment.

If the adjusted principal is higher than the original principal, then you benefit from an increase in inflation. Since it’s typically more common for an economy to experience periods of inflation rather than deflation, TIPS can be an attractive diversification option if you’re looking for a more conservative investment.

Recommended: The Importance of Portfolio Diversification

Cons of Investing in TIPS

There are some potential downsides to keep in mind when investing with TIPS. For example, they’re more sensitive to interest rate fluctuations than other types of bonds. If you were to sell a Treasury Inflation-Protected Security before it matures, you could risk losing money, depending on the interest rate environment.

You may also find less value from holding TIPS in your portfolio if inflation doesn’t materialize. When you redeem your bonds at maturity you will get back the original principal and you’ll still benefit from interest earned. But the subsequent increases in principal that TIPS can offer during periods of inflation is a large part of their appeal.

It’s also important to consider where taxes fit in. Both interest payments and increases in principal from inflation are subject to federal tax, though they are exempt from state and local tax. The better your TIPS bonds perform, the more you might owe in taxes at the end of the year.

How to Invest in Treasury Inflation Protected Securities

If you’re interested in adding TIPS to your portfolio, there are three ways you can do it.

1.   Purchase TIPS bonds directly from the U.S. Treasury. You can do this online through the TreasuryDirect website. You’d need to open an account first but once you do so, you can submit a noncompetitive bid for inflation protected bonds. The TreasuryDirect system will prompt you on how to do this.

2.   Purchase TIPS through a banker, broker or dealer. With this type of arrangement, the banker, broker or dealer submits a bid for you. You can either specify what type of yield you’re looking for, which is a competitive bid, or accept whatever is available, which is a noncompetitive bid.

3.   Invest in securities that hold TIPS, i.e. exchange-traded funds or mutual funds. There’s no such thing as a TIP stock but you could purchase a TIPS ETF if you’d like to own a basket of Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities. You might choose this option if you don’t want to purchase individual bonds and hold them until maturity.

When comparing different types of investments that are available with ETFs or mutual funds, pay attention to:

•  Underlying holdings

•  Fund turnover ratio

•  Expense ratios

Also consider the fund’s overall performance, particularly during periods of inflation or deflation. Past history is not an exact predictor of future performance but it may shed some light on how a TIPS ETF has reacted to rising or falling prices previously.

The Takeaway

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities may help shield your portfolio against some of the negative impacts of inflation. Investors who are worried about their purchasing power shrinking over time may find TIPS appealing.
But don’t discount the value of investing in stocks and other securities as well. Building a diversified portfolio that takes into consideration an investor’s personal risk tolerance, as well as financial goals and time horizons, is a popular strategy.

With a SoFi Invest® online investing account, members can choose from stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrency options in one place. You can start investing with as little as $1, and manage your account from the convenient mobile app.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
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For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.
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The Risks of Playing The Stock Market

child's hand playing chess

To the uninitiated, the stock exchange can seem like a casino, with news and social media feeds sharing stories of investors striking it rich by playing the stock market. But while there are winners, there are also losers—those who lose money playing the market, sometimes pulling their money out of the market because they’re afraid of the potential of losing money.

Playing the stock market does come with investment risks. For new investors learning how to play the stock market can be a frustrating, humbling, and in some cases, incredibly rewarding experience.

While investing is a serious business, playing the stock market does have an element of fun to it. Investors who do their research and tune into the news and business cycles can take advantage of trends that might better enable them to earn good returns on investment.

This is what you need to know about how to play the stock market, the risks involved, and what makes the market so alluring.

Playing the Stock Market: What Does it Mean?

Despite the phrase “playing” the stock market, it’s important to make the distinction between investing and gambling up front.

safe investment—in a way each investment can feel like a gamble. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the market is not a casino, and just because there’s risk involved doesn’t mean that “playing the market” is the same as playing roulette.

So what does “playing the stock market” actually mean? In short, it means that someone has gained access to and is actively participating in the markets. That may mean purchasing shares of a hot new IPO, or buying a stock simply because Warren Buffett did. “Playing,” in this sense, means that someone is investing money in stocks.

Playing the Market: Risks and Rewards

Learning how to play the stock market—in other words, become a good investor—takes time and patience. It’s good to know what, exactly, the market could throw at you, and that means knowing the basics of the risks and rewards of playing the market.

Potential Risks

In a broad sense, the most obvious risk of playing the market is that an investor will lose their investment. But on a more granular level, investors face a number of different types of risks, especially when it comes to stocks. These include market risk, liquidity risk, and business risks, which can manifest in a variety of ways in the real world.

A disappointing earnings report can crater a stock’s value, for instance. Or a national emergency, like a viral pandemic, can affect the market at large, causing an investor’s portfolio to deflate. Investors are also at the mercy of inflation—and stagflation, too.

For some investors, there’s also the risk of playing a bit too safe—that is, they’re not taking enough risk with their investing decisions, and as such, miss out on potential gains.

Potential Rewards

Risks reap rewards, as the old trope goes. And generally speaking, the more risk one assumes, the bigger the potential for rewards—though there is no guarantee. But playing the market with a sound strategy and proper risk mitigation tends to earn investors money over time.

Investors can earn returns in a couple of different ways:

•  By seeing the value of their investment increase. The value of individual stocks rise and fall depending on a multitude of factors, but the market overall tends to rise over time, and has fully recovered from every single downturn it’s ever experienced.
•  By earning dividend income. Dividends can also be reinvested, in order to further grow your investments.
•  By leaving their money in the market. It’s worth mentioning that the longer an investor keeps their money in the market, the bigger the potential rewards of investing are.

How to Play the Stock Market Wisely

Nobody wants to start investing only to lose money or otherwise see their portfolio’s value fall right off the bat. Here are a few tips regarding how to play the stock market, that can help reduce risk:

Invest for the Long-term

The market tends to go up with time, and has recovered from every previous dip and drop. For investors, that means that simply keeping their money in the market is a solid strategy to mitigate the risks of short-term market drops. (That’s not to say that the market couldn’t experience a catastrophic fall at some point in the future and never recover. But it is to say: History is on the investors’ side.)

Consider: If an investor buys stocks today, and the market falls tomorrow, they risk losing a portion of their investment by selling it at the decreased price. But if the investor commits to a buy-and-hold strategy—they don’t sell the investment in the short-term, and instead wait for its value to recover—they effectively mitigate the risks of short-term market dips.

Do Your Research

It’s always smart for an investor to do their homework and evaluate a stock before they buy. While a gambler can’t use any data or analysis to predict what a slot machine is going to do on the next pull of the lever, investors can look at a company’s performance and reports to try and get a sense of how strong (or weak) a potential investment could be.

Understanding stock performance can be an intensive process. Some investors can find themselves elbow-deep in technical analysis, poring over charts and graphs to predict a stock’s next moves. But many investors are looking to merely do their due diligence by trying to make sure that a company is profitable, has a plan to remain profitable, and that its shares could increase in value over time.

Diversify

Diversification basically means that an investor isn’t putting all of their eggs into one basket.

For example, they might not want their portfolio to comprise only two airline stocks, because if something were to happen that stalls air travel around the world, their portfolio would likely be heavily affected. But if they instead invested in five different stocks across a number of different industries, their portfolio might still take a hit if air travel plummets, but not nearly as severely as if its holdings were concentrated in the travel sector.

Use Dollar-cost Averaging

Dollar-cost averaging can also be a wise strategy. Essentially, it means making a series of small investments over time, rather than one lump-sum investment. Since an investor is now buying at a number of different price points (some may be high, some low), the average purchase price smooths out potential risks from price swings.

Conversely, an investor that buys at a single price-point will have their performance tied to that single price.

The Takeaway

While playing the market may be thrilling—and potentially lucrative—it is risky. But investors who have done their homework and who are entering the market with a sound strategy can blunt those risks to a degree.

By researching stocks ahead of time, and employing risk-reducing strategies like dollar-cost averaging and diversification when building a portfolio, an investor is more likely to be effective at mitigating risk.

With SoFi Invest®, members can devise their own investing strategy, and play the market how they want, when they want. Whether you’re interested in short-term trading or have your eyes on a longer-term prize, SoFi Invest is a way to dip your toes into the stock market and start investing today.

Find out how to get started playing the stock market with SoFi Invest.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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