A recent letter from Charles Tennes at Ferris & Co., a regional brokerage firm, carries a suggested program worth passing along.
I have long advocated high-quality utility stocks for income-oriented investors. The current average yield of around 12 percent is a little lower than what's available on corporate bonds of comparable quality.
But the bond yield is set in concrete, while the dividend on a utility stock has a good chance of being raised from time to time, offering at least a small hedge against inflation.
If you're retiring and looking for regular income, utility stocks should be one of the things to look at. But like other corporate stocks, utilities pay dividends quarterly -- which can cause budgeting problems if you're not financially disciplined.
Ferris & Co. has put together a suggested portfolio of six utility stocks with varying dividend dates, which together will provide a roughly equivalent payment each month.
Of course you can do the same thing with three stocks or nine stocks, or any number of issues divisible by three. The idea is simply to pick stocks with different dividend payment months.
You can find the dividend dates in a number of investment publications, including Standard & Poor's Stock Guide and the Value Line Investment Survey.
This is not a new idea. Financial counselors and stock brokers have been using it for years, and any broker can help you set up an income program of this type. But the letter from. Tennes provided the impetus to remind you of it.
Question: For some years I have been buying government retirement bonds for my Keogh plan. The first ones I bought pay 6 percent; later ones yield 8 percent, and last year the new bonds paid 9 percent. My question: Was the yield on the old 6 percent bonds upgraded when the rate on new issues was raised? If not, can the old bonds be exchanged for new ones paying the higher return?
Answer: First I have some news for you, and for all those who followed the series on IRAs earlier this year: The government has gone out of the retirement-bond business.
Since the end of April, the Treasury Department has not issued retirement bonds for use in IRA and Keogh retirement plans.
The yield on the old bonds was never raised -- you're locked into whatever the quoted rate was when you bought the bonds originally.
Congress did pass legislation authorizing, but not directing, the secretary of the Treasury to upgrade the rate on early issues to correspond to later yields. But the secretary elected not to use the authority.
Strange situation with regard to rollovers: You can cash in IRA bonds and move the funds to a higher-yielding investment. But that option is not available for bonds used to fund a Keogh plan.
Q: In a recent column you mentioned investment advisory services that provide recommendations on shifting money from one mutual fund to another to help make the investment more profitable. I haven't been able to identify any of these services -- can you give me a lead? I've been switching for several years but my analysis methods have been haphazard at best.
A: There are literally hundreds of ivestment counseling services that publish market letters. Some are concerned with the whole world of investments, while some specialize in timing recommendations for mutual fund switching.
The June 1982 issue of Money magazine describes some of the more successful market timing letters of both types, picked by various financial experts. You should be able to find a copy at your local library; check out page 63.
During last winter's series on IRAs, I mentioned a comprehensive booklet offered free by the trade association of mutual fund sponsors. If you missed it the first time around, send your name and address to the Investment Company Institute/IRA Booklet, 1775 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20006.