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What Is a Barbell?

The barbell is an investment strategy applicable essentially to a fixed income portfolio. Following a barbell method, half the portfolio contains long-term bonds and the other half holds short-term bonds. The "barbell" gets its name in light of the fact that the investment strategy seems to be a barbell with bonds vigorously weighted at the two closures of the maturity course of events. The graph will show a large number of short-term holdings and long-term maturities, yet barely anything in intermediate holdings.

Grasping Barbells

The barbell strategy will have a portfolio comprising of short-term bonds and long-term bonds, with no intermediate bonds. Short-term bonds are viewed as bonds with maturities of five years or less while long-term bonds have maturities of 10 years or more. Long-term bonds normally pay higher yields โ€” interest rates โ€” to repay the investor for the risk of the long holding period.

In any case, all fixed-rate bonds carry interest rate risk, which happens when market interest rates are rising in comparison to the fixed-rate security being held. Subsequently, a bondholder could earn a lower yield compared to the market in a rising-rate environment. Long-term bonds carry higher interest rate risk than short-term bonds. Since short-term maturity investments allow the investor to reinvest all the more every now and again, similarly rated securities carry the lower yield with the shorter holding requirements.

Asset Allocation With the Barbell Strategy

The traditional idea of the barbell strategy calls for investors to hold exceptionally safe fixed-income investments. Notwithstanding, the allocation can be mixed among risky and low-risk assets. Likewise, the weightings โ€” the overall impact of one asset on the whole portfolio โ€” for the bonds on the two sides of the barbell don't need to be fixed at half. Acclimations to the ratio on each end can shift as market conditions require.

The barbell strategy can be structured utilizing stock portfolios with half the portfolio secured in bonds and the other half in stocks. The strategy could likewise be structured to incorporate safer stocks, for example, large, stable companies while the other half of the barbell may be in riskier stocks, for example, emerging market equities.

Outdoing Both Bond Worlds

The barbell strategy endeavors to outdo the two worlds by allowing investors to invest in short-term bonds exploiting current rates while additionally holding long-term bonds that pay high yields. Assuming interest rates rise, the bond investor will have less interest rate risk since the short-term bonds will be turned over or reinvested into new short-term bonds at the higher rates.

For instance, assume an investor holds a two-year bond that pays a 1% yield. Market interest rates rise with the goal that current two-year bonds presently yield 3%. The investor allows the existing two-year bond to mature and utilizes those proceeds to buy another issue, two-year bond paying the 3% yield. Any long-term bonds held in the investor's portfolio stay immaculate until maturity.

Thus, a barbell investment strategy is an active form of portfolio management, as it requires continuous monitoring. Short-term bonds must be constantly turned over into other short-term instruments as they mature.

The barbell strategy additionally offers diversification and diminishes risk while holding the possibility to get higher returns. In the event that rates rise, the investor will have the opportunity to reinvest the proceeds of the shorter-term bonds at the higher rates. Short-term securities additionally give liquidity for the investor and flexibility to deal with crises since they mature as often as possible.


  • Reduces interest rate risk since short-term bonds can be reinvested in a rising-rate environment

  • Includes long-term bonds, which usually deliver higher yields than shorter-term bonds

  • Offers diversification between short-term and long-term maturities

  • Can be customized to hold a mix of equities and bonds


  • Interest rate risk can occur if the long-term bonds pay lower yields than the market

  • Long-term bonds held to maturity tie up funds and limit cash flow

  • Inflation risk exists if prices are rising at a faster pace than the portfolio's yield

  • Mixing equities and bonds can increase market risk and volatility

## Risks From the Barbell Strategy

The barbell investment strategy actually has some interest rate risk even however the investor is holding long-term bonds with higher yields than the shorter maturities. Assuming that those long-term bonds were purchased when yields were low, and rates rise a short time later, the investor is left with 10 to 30-year bonds at yields a lot of lower than the market. The investor must hope that the bond yields will be comparable to the market over the long term. On the other hand, they may realize the loss, sell the lower-yielding bond, and buy a replacement paying the higher yield.

Additionally, since the barbell strategy doesn't invest in medium-term bonds with intermediate maturities of five to 10 years, investors could pass up a great opportunity in the event that rates are higher for those maturities. For instance, investors would hold two-year and 10-year bonds while the five-year or seven-year bonds may be paying higher yields.

All bonds have inflationary risks. Inflation is an economic concept that measures the rate at which the price level of a basket of standard goods and services increases over a specific period. While it is feasible to find variable-rate bonds, generally, they are fixed-rate securities. Fixed-rate bonds probably won't keep up with inflation. Envision that inflation rises by 3%, however the bondholder has bonds paying 2%. In real terms, they have a net loss of 1%.

At last, investors likewise face reinvestment risk which happens when market interest rates are below the thing they were earning on their debt holdings. In this occurrence, suppose the investor was getting 3% interest on a note that matured and returned the principal. Market rates have fallen to 2%. Presently, the investor can not track down replacement securities that pay the higher 3% return without following riskier, lower credit-commendable bonds.

Real World Example of the Barbell Strategy

For instance, suppose an asset allocation barbell comprises of half safe, conservative investments like Treasury bonds toward one side, and half stocks on the opposite end.

Expect that market sentiment has become progressively positive in the short term and it is probable the market is toward the beginning of a broad rally. The investments at the forceful โ€” equity โ€” end of the barbell perform well. As the rally proceeds and the market risk rises, the investor can realize their gains and trim exposure to the high-risk side of the barbell. Maybe they sell a 10% portion of the equity holdings and distribute the proceeds to the low-risk fixed-income securities. The adjusted allocation is presently 40% stocks to 60% bonds.


  • The barbell is a fixed-income portfolio strategy where half of the holdings are short-term instruments and the other half are long-term holdings.
  • The barbell strategy allows investors to exploit current interest rates by investing in short-term bonds, while likewise profiting from the higher yields of holding long-term bonds.
  • The barbell strategy can likewise mix stocks and bonds.
  • There are several risks associated with utilizing a barbell strategy, for example, interest rate risk and inflation risk.