Having the Fed funds rate back near zero is fantastic if you’re a borrower. It’s not so great if you’re an investor looking for income. T-bills, savings accounts and money market funds all yield essentially zero, and it’s hard to find CDs yielding more than about 1.5%.
It is still possible to generate a respectable income stream on your investments without taking excessive risk. You just have to look a little harder than usual and be willing to look at new pockets of the market you might not have considered before. So today, we’re going to cover where to find the highest yields.
Not surprisingly, some of these sectors were badly beaten up in March, and all have to be considered a little risky in the post-coronavirus environment. But at current yields, at least you’re being adequately compensated.
Where to Find the Highest Yields
I’ll start with real estate investment trusts (REITs). I covered REITs back in early April, noting that the sector had been battered and left for dead.
Not all the negativity in the sector was unwarranted, of course. With most of the country on lockdown for the past two months, a lot of commercial tenants have been unable to pay the rent. Some REITs have lowered or suspended their dividends as they assess the damage.
It might be a while before things start to look truly normal again. Restaurants, gyms and entertainment companies in general will be licking their wounds for months. It may be well over a year before their customer levels recover to pre-crisis levels, which means landlords will need to be flexible. So if you’re a REIT investor, you’ll want to focus on the strongest names with the best access to capital.
Back in April, I mentioned Realty Income (NYSE: O). While the REIT is focused on retail, its exposure to riskier pockets like full-service dining and gyms is tolerably small. At current prices it yields 5.5%, and I’d consider that dividend safe.
Ventas (NYSE: VTR), which I also mentioned in the article, today yields 11.3%. Keep in mind that, as a senior living REIT, Ventas was hit particularly hard by Covid 19, and the company may decide to cut its dividend later this year. I don’t consider that especially likely, but I can’t rule it out in this environment.
I also mentioned EPR Properties (NYSE: EPR) back in April, and I still consider this entertainment-focused REIT to be a nice value play. Unfortunately, they opted to conserve cash by suspending their dividend. So, if you’re buying specifically for yield, you’ll want to wait on that one.
And naturally, if you want to get out of the stock picking game, you could always just buy the index fund and be done with it. The Vanguard Real Estate Index ETF (NYSE: VNQ) gives you broad exposure and yields an attractive 4.2%.
Business Development Companies
Last week, I recommended business development companies (BDCs), noting that like REITs, this high-yielding sector has really taken its lumps this year. Business development companies make loans and equity investments in small- and medium-sized businesses, making them a lot closer to Main Street than to Wall Street.
As with REITs, some BDCs have gotten hit particularly hard by the stay-at-home orders. But there are still some real gems out there if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and look under the hood.
Ares Capital Corp (NYSE: ARCC) and Main Street Capital (NYSE: MAIN) were two solid BDCs I mentioned last week. I’d mention again that these two income machines currently offer yields of 12.2% and 9.0%, respectively.
Finally, I’d add pipeline stocks to the list. Anything even tangentially related to energy got utterly annihilated in March. Between the drop in demand from virus lockdowns and the surge in supply due to Saudi Arabia’s price war with Russia, crude oil prices tanked, taking energy stocks with them.
But here’s the thing: Many pipeline companies focus on natural gas far more than crude oil, and their business model depends on volume, not price. There was never any reason for fee-based, natural gas transporters to get roughed up like they did.
Today, you can snap up shares of Kinder Morgan (NYSE: KMI) at a 7.1% yield and shares of Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE: EPD) at 10.3% yield. Note that Enterprise Products is an MLP and has the cumbersome tax reporting that comes with that distinction.
All of these stocks have proven to be volatile this year. But it seems like the worst is behind them. And if you’re looking where to find the highest yields these days, this definitely points you in the right direction.
• Money & Markets contributor Charles Sizemore specializes in income and retirement topics, and is a frequent guest on CNBC, Bloomberg and Fox Business.
Follow Charles on Twitter @CharlesSizemore