The Investment “Holy Grail” Doesn’t Exist

When it comes to the financial markets, investors have a litany of investment vehicles to choose from. The choices are nearly unlimited, from brokered certificates of deposit to complex derivative instruments. Of course, investment vehicles’ proliferation comes from investors’ demand for everything from excess benchmark returns to income generation to downside protection.

Of course, every investor wants “all the upside, with none of the downside.” While there are vehicles, like indexed annuities, that can provide no downside risk, they cap the upside return. If you buy an index fund, you can get “all the upside” and “all the risk.”

However, an email from a reader last week got me thinking about the perfect “investment vehicle” and the search for the “holy grail” of investing.

“My wife and I are looking for a place to position some of our ’emergency funds’ for a better return. Our requirements are pretty simplistic:

  • Guarantee at least a 4% rate of return.
  • Allow me to withdraw cash without penalty when needed.
  • Reinvest all income
  • If bond yields decline as expected, the value of the investment increases.

At this point, I was confident in just suggesting purchasing a 10-year Treasury bond. At current rates, the investment would yield greater than 4% and guarantee the principal. If yields decline, the bond rises in price, reinvestment of income is an option, and the investment is highly liquid.

Theoretically, this would be the “perfect investment” vehicle for their needs. I said “theoretically” because they added one more requirement just as I was about to spout off my terrific idea.

“Oh, and one more thing, the dollar value of the account must remain stable at all times.”

And that, as they say, quickly ended the “perfect investment” vehicle for their needs.

Why did the addition of “price stability” make their request impossible?