Total Return Bond Fund Portfolios And Cash
At MyPlanIQ, we use total return bond fund portfolios (see those listed in the fixed income section on page Brokerage Investors) in lieu of cash in many timing portfolios. Notice that in this situation, we merely try to use a good bond portfolio to improve returns over cash. This usually happens when cash is called for at some period of time in a portfolio such as P SMA 200d VFINX Total Return Bond As Cash Monthly on Advanced Strategies page. We do not advocate users to literally replace cash in other situations (such as short term cash bank accounts).
However, we still receive various inquiries from users on how these total return bond fund portfolios are compared with cash, in terms of risk. Part of the reason is that these portfolios have done much better than many other fixed income portfolios or bond funds. Nevertheless, we believe this is an important issue to clarify.
A simple empirical way to answer this question is to look at the rolling returns of these portfolios, just like what we have done before for stock portfolios (see May 8, 2017: Holding Period of Long Term Timing Portfolios, for example). First, the following chart shows the returns of the representative portfolio Schwab Total Return Bond in each year since 2001:
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