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This means REITs, which generate their income through property rents or mortgage interest, throw o income every year just like bonds or bond funds In fact, the historic dividend yield of a REIT is somewhat similar to the yield on 10-year Treasury notes This makes a certain amount of sense, since REITs are in some ways a ected by mortgage rates, and mortgage interest rates are set, in part, based on the uctuations of 10-year Treasury security yields In the summer of 2004, for example, the average dividend yield on an equity REIT was around 54 percent Compare that to the 47 percent yields on 10-year Treasuries But beware: REITs are much more volatile than bonds A REIT, like a stock, o ers no guarantees for principal protection So while REITs throw o income like bonds, they have the upside potential and downside risk of equities In fact, over the past decade through the summer of 2004, the average REIT generated annualized total returns of about 121 percent By comparison, the S&P 500 during this stretch gained around 113 percent Over the past 20 years, the typical REIT gained 102 percent a year, which is on par with the long-term average annual gains for equities It should be noted, however, that the dividends thrown o by REITs are not considered quali ed dividend income and therefore are taxed as normal income In other words, they do not receive the preferential 15 percent tax rate that quali ed stock dividends do Part of the reason is that REITs themselves do not pay taxes on the pro ts they distribute to their shareholders Therefore, if you decide to purchase a REIT or REIT fund, you should give strong consideration to doing so through a tax-advantaged account, such as an IRA Because the behavior of REITs is not closely correlated to movements in the equity markets, a small investment in REITs can help reduce risk in an overall portfolio For example, the nancial research rm Ibbotson Associates studied the performance of portfolios with and without REIT holdings between 1972 and 2003 It found that a portfolio without REITs consisting of 50 percent stocks, 40 percent bonds, and 10 percent cash generated average annual total returns of 109 percent during this stretch But if just 20 percent of that portfolio were held in REITs, that portfolio would have returned slightly more during this period 115 percent a year during this stretch and with lower volatility
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In addition to companies and real estate, you may also want to consider investing in commodities What are commodities They are pretty much any
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un nished or unprocessed good that can be traded in bulk Commodities can range from agricultural products (which are sometimes referred to as soft commodities) these include pork bellies, orange juice, co ee, soybeans, cotton, wheat, and corn to basic materials necessary for the manufacturing process, including mined metals like copper, silver, and even gold (we ll discuss this below) When you invest in a commodity, you are doing one of two things: You either are betting on the economy or betting against it by hedging some of the risks that the economy poses Typically, you bet on the economy with commodities tied to manufacturing, like copper, nickel, or other basic materials Because these raw materials represent the building blocks of factory output, their prices rise as economic activity improves and demand ramps up On the other hand, their prices are likely to fall when the economy sours and factories stop ordering these raw materials Meanwhile, you can bet against the economy with some precious metals commodities like gold or silver The third category of commodities, the soft commodities, are a ected less by the broad national economy as they are by speci c external factors, such as the weather or some short-term trends For instance, something as silly as the Atkins diet, which calls for eating low carbohydrate and high protein meals, can a ect the price of things like livestock or wheat Investing in commodities is quite di erent than investing in stocks or real estate After all, when you invest in shares of a company, there is always the possibility that the company can distinguish itself and add shareholder value through superior management If you are investing in a home, you can always add value to it by repairing it, renovating it, or expanding it But a commodity is a raw material whose units are indistinguishable from one another It is what it is There is no value you can add to the commodity itself A bushel of corn is a bushel of corn no matter who you buy it from and what you paid for it A metric ton of scrap iron is a metric ton of scrap iron no matter what company or country it s headed for This is why commodity investing is all about forecasting That being said, individual investors will be hard pressed to invest in commodities directly This market is primarily geared for institutional investors who can bring tens of millions of dollars to the table And while retail investors can dabble in commodity futures nancial contracts tied to the delivery of metals or agricultural products at some point in the future this can be a dangerous game Investing in futures contracts can be especially risky if it involves high amounts of leverage Among agricultural commodities, a surprise change in the weather can drastically alter future prices for items ranging from soybeans to co ee
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