Now that I’ve finally finished the busiest month of my life, I can begin reading the stories submitted by GRS readers again. I find plenty of neat stuff while surfing the web, but there’s no question that you folks submit the best articles!
For example, Jeff V. pointed me to a piece in today’s New York Times that demonstrates some real long-term investing. Thirty-nine bondholders still own securities issued by New York City shortly after the Civil War! From the story:
Next month, one of the bonds, issued in 1868 and thought to be one of the oldest active municipal bonds in the country, will come due. And the city stands ready to retire the debt incurred when Winston Churchill’s grandfather came up with the idea of building a road to one of the nation’s first racetracks, which he had opened in what is now the Bronx.
For 135 years, New York City has been dutifully paying 7 percent annual interest on the bonds, which financed construction of the road. On March 1, the owner of one of them is entitled to come forward and collect its face value: $1,000.
The other 38 bondholders have notes that will mature sometime between now and 2147, a mere 138 years away.
This isn’t just a fascinating glimpse at history, but also at the power of inflation. When these bonds were issued, the interest on them ($70/year for a $1,000 bond) was a lot of money. At that time, the article says, it was “enough for a down payment on a middle-class house of good construction, which cost about $300.”
As the stock market continues to stagnate, the average investor is likely to become more interested in bonds. If you’re unfamiliar with them, take a moment to check out “What is a bond?” from the GRS archives. You may also be interested in Fidelity’s primer on how bonds work.
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