T-bills Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) may not be as commonly heard as some other investment products but they are conservative investments that are worth including in your investment portfolio diversification strategy.
Read on to find out what T-bills ETFs are about, differences between T-bills and T-bills ETFs as well as the pros and cons of investing in either one of them.
What Are T-Bills ETFs
If T-bills are short-term, low-risk government bonds that pay a fixed interest rate, then T-Bills ETFS are unique hybrid investment products that combine the features of securities, bonds and funds into one. Unless you are totally new to investing, you must have heard of ETFs, which is a type of investment fund that allows investors to gain exposure to a diversified portfolio of underlying assets instead of one individual stock. T-bills ETFs work in the same way to pool together an index of bonds or a diversified basket of bonds, issued by governments or entities linked to governments.
An example of a local T-bills ETF is the ABF Singapore Bond Index Fund, also the first of such ETFs launched in Singapore in 2005. The index comprises bonds issued by the Singapore Government Housing Development Board (HDB), Temasek Financial and Land Transport Authority. If your investment strategy favours investing overseas rather than local, there are many T-bills ETFs traded around the world too. iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF, SPDR Bloomberg 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF and ABF Pan Asia Bond Index Fund are some that may pique your interest.
T-bills vs T-bills ETFs
Here is a quick comparison of the two based on Singapore T-bills and T-bills ETFs:
|Short-term Singapore Government Securities or government bonds
|Investment product tracking a basket of bonds issued by governments or entities linked to governments
|6 months or 1 year. No early redemption allowed
|No maturity dates. Can hold onto them indefinitely
|Low risk, fixed returns
|Low risk but no fixed returns
Note that some bonds within the T-Bill ETF may exit the fund upon maturity. Hence the fund will be rebalanced based on the index objective. Investors may have capital gain or loss depending on when they sell off the T-Bill ETF
|Cash, SRS or CPF funds
|Cash, SRS or CPF funds
|Minimum investment of S$1,000, no cap
|Minimum investment as low as S$1, no cap
|Not capital guaranteed
|How to buy
|Via local banks (DBS/POSB, UOB, or OCBC)
|Via stock exchanges. Buy through a brokerage account or via the CPF Investment Scheme (CPFIS)
Pros and Cons of Investing in T-Bills vs T-Bills ETFs
Even if T-bills and T-bills ETFs are both regarded as conservative investments, you still must understand their pros and cons to ensure they truly complement your investment portfolio diversification strategy. Furthermore, because T-bills ETFs carry traits of both stock-like instruments and bonds, trading them may not be as low risk as capital-guaranteed T-bills.
Here are a few things you should take note of when deciding which is more suitable for your investment appetite.
Minimum Investment Sums
Both T-bills and T-bills ETFs have relatively low initial minimum investment sums to start with. Minimum investment for T-bills is S$1,000 and as low as one board lot on the exchange for T-bills ETFs. Comparatively, T-bills ETFs are a lot more affordable for young investors who do not have a lot of capital to start with. Since there is no maturity for T-bills ETFs, investors can gradually build their portfolio overtime and exit the market when they reach their investment goals.
Fixed Returns vs Non-Fixed Returns
Both are conservative investments that are low in risk but T-bills have fixed returns and fixed maturity period hence making it rather hassle-free for investors. T-bills ETFs, on the other hand, do not have fixed returns. This means there is a potential for investors to make more or less than expected when the fund rebalances itself when some bonds mature. Constant monitoring of the T-bill ETFs is required if investors want to sell the ETFs at the most profitable time.
That said, T-bills are more suitable for those who prefer least effort and participation to grow their money. T-bills ETFs are ideal for retail investors who are used to monitoring their investment portfolio.
When it comes to investing, low risk does not mean no risk. Should an unexpected event such as the bond issuer failing to repay the principal amount at maturity, T-bills ETFs investors are in a better position to retain most of their capital compared to the T-bills investors.
Safe to say that investing in Singapore T-bills is close to no risk but you may want to do your due diligence when investing in overseas T-bills since you may not be as familiar with foreign markets. If you consider yourself a risk-averse investor, sticking to Singapore T-bills with very predictable outcomes may offer more peace of mind while you earn the passive income.
Both T-bills and T-bills ETFs are conservative investments that are suitable for investors who prefer to deal with low-risk trading that offer predictable returns. While both are bond-related, do note that Singapore T-bills can only be purchased via local banks while T-bills ETFs investment must be facilitated by brokerages.
Not sure how to select the right broker? Refer to our roundup of the best online brokerages, where our professional analysts have shortlisted the top brokerage based on their commission fees, international market access and platforms capabilities.
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