Thursday, June 21, 2012

What the heck is a Unit Investment Trust?

We're all familiar with open-end mutual funds because they've been marketed quite successfully by household names including Fidelity, Vanguard, Janus, and American Funds. With UITs or "Unit Investment Trusts," few people seem to be familiar. I like to think of it this way--eventually, I'm going to want to devote a serious percentage of my investment capital to fixed-income. I don't need the ultra-safety (and low yields) of US Treasuries, and since most of my investing is still done in a retirement account, I shun municipal bonds, as well. I need corporate bonds, but I can't buy the things outright without devoting say $100,000 per issue. And, I don't want to be exposed to just two or three issuers. So, I need a portfolio. I don't necessarily need an investment adviser trading that portfolio, however. If I don't want to pay management fees and don't necessarily believe that an actively managed portfolio of bonds will outperform an un-managed portfolio, I buy a unit investment trust as opposed to an open- or closed-end mutual fund. I figure the trustee will oversee/supervise the portfolio and only charge minimal fees to administer the trust. The rest of the income gets paid pro rata to us unit holders, and we can redeem our units for whatever they happen to be worth at the time. Many UITs are a portfolio of preferred stock, and that might be even more to my liking. Hold these in the taxable account and enjoy qualified dividends plus a well-diversified portfolio of fixed-income securities I'm too lazy to buy or manage myself. More Help