What Are Government Bonds & How Do They Work?

Table of Сontents

  1. Why Do Governments Sell Bonds?
  2. How Do Government Bonds Work?
  3. Government Bond Characteristics
  4. Types of U.S. Treasuries
  5. How To Buy Government Bonds
  6. Advantages and Disadvantages of Government Securities
  7. Bottom Line
  8. FAQs

Because it is extremely improbable that the US government would default on its debt, US government bonds are low risk investments. Investors won’t experience the same gain as they would with riskier investments owing to the minimal risk involved.

Why Do Governments Sell Bonds?

Governments borrow money by issuing government bonds, just like private individuals do. They finance their expenditures with this borrowed money. Sovereign debt is the name for a country’s debt.

Municipal bonds are the name given to the bonds that are issued by cities, municipalities, or regional or local governments to finance initiatives like new parks and libraries. Because they pay a defined sum of interest every year until they expire, government bonds are categorized as fixed-income instruments.

In order to fund debt acquired by the city of Amsterdam, the Dutch Republic issued the first securitized bond in 1517. In order to obtain funds for one of its battles against France, England had to issue the first bond by a national government in 1694. To support American

How Do Government Bonds Work?

Government bonds are referred to as Treasuries in the United States and as gilts in the United Kingdom. Information about the United States Department of Treasury’s Treasuries is made available every day. Government bonds can be issued by a country in its own currency or in the currency of an additional, often more stable, nation. Government bonds are redeemable at maturity because the nation has the ability to print more money to do so.

However, some nations have opted to default on their debt rather than issue new money, such as Russia in 1998. The Russian government and the Russian Central Bank devalued the ruble due to this, known as the “ruble crisis” or the “Russian flu.”

Government Bond Characteristics

The following features apply to all government bonds:

  • Issue price: the cost at which an issuer sells a bond
  • Par or face value: the value of the bond when it matures. It also acts as the foundation upon which interest on the bond is computed.
  • Coupon rate: the bond’s interest rate, expressed as a percentage of face value. A bond with a $1,000 face value and a 5% coupon rate will pay its holders $50 yearly or $25 every two years.
  • Coupon dates: the intervals at which a bond issuer pays interest; most bonds are paid semi-annually
  • Maturity date: the day when the issuer pays the bondholder the bond’s face value
  • Current yield: equal to the bond price divided by the yearly coupon payment.

Types of U.S. Treasuries

The types of U.S. Treasuries are:

  • Treasury bills (T-bills): mature in less than one year and their interest is recouped at maturity
  • Treasury notes (T-notes): maturity in two, three, five, or ten years, paying an average interest
  • Treasury bonds, or T-bonds -pay standard interest and have maturities between 10 and 30 years
  • Treasury inflation-protected security, or TIPS – includes 5, 10, and 30-year maturity terms, par values that change in line with inflation and deflation according to the consumer price index, and interest rates that are adjusted semi-annually to keep up with inflation rates.

Index-linked gilts are another product offered by the UK, whose coupon rate changes by the UK Retail Prices Index (RPI).

How To Buy Government Bonds

Each government decides how many bonds it intends to issue and what coupon rate it will provide. Then, supply and demand decide their prices, with demand being influenced by variables like the level of interest rates and the health of the economy. Bonds are more in demand if interest rates on freshly issued bonds are lower than the coupon rate of an existing bond. Bond demand will decline if interest rates on newly issued bonds are higher than the coupon rate of an existing bond.

Where To Buy:

from the U.S. Treasury at auctions hosted on the TreasuryDirect website throughout the year. through a bank or brokerage business

through an exchange-traded fund or mutual fund (ETF)

Advantages and Disadvantages of Government Securities


  • American bonds carry a low default risk.
  • Offer a regular revenue stream, perhaps semi-annually or yearly.
  • are easy to sell in the secondary market, liquid, and don’t need to be kept until maturity.
  • Federal and state taxes are not applied to some Treasury securities.


  • give, on average, lower rates of return than other assets, such as stocks.
  • Bond returns occasionally may be lower than inflation.
  • are susceptible to changes in inflation and interest rates.
  • have currency and default concerns.
  • Foreign bond income is frequently taxed.
  • Federal taxes apply to interest from government bonds, while state and local taxes are exempt. If the investor resides in the state or municipality where the municipal bond was issued, no federal nor state taxes are due on the interest earned on the bond.

Bond Risk

While the United States has never had a bond default, the same cannot be said of bonds issued by other nations, particularly those in emerging economies. The risk may be brought on by a nation’s political climate, problems with its central bank, and the health of its economy right now.

Currency risk, which happens when the value of a foreign currency relative to the dollar declines, is another danger associated with purchasing foreign government bonds. This issue can be resolved by purchasing foreign debt denominated in US dollars.

The Bond Secondary Market

Bonds are traded between investors in the secondary market after being issued. Unlike stocks, most bonds are not traded on exchanges, but rather are exchanged over the counter (OTC) (OTC). Bonds can be purchased and sold by investors through brokers or dealers.

Current interest rates impact the sales price of a bond sold before it matures. If rates have increased since the bond was bought, it could be necessary to sell it below par, or at a discount. If interest rates have decreased since the bond was purchased, it may sell above par, which is referred to as selling at a premium. Bonds that trade at their face value are considered to be trading at par.

Brokers are paid.

Bottom Line

Investments in government bonds are common, particularly for people who cannot take the chance of losing their money. U.S. Treasury rates increased on February 10, 2022, with the 10-year bond’s yield increasing by 12 basis points to reach about 2.05 percent. 0.01 percent is represented as 1 basis point. The yield on the 2-year Treasury note rose by 26 basis points to 1.6 percent, which is the most move in a single day for the 2-year bond since 2009. However, since 2021’s inflation rate was about 7 percent, a bond with a 2 percent yield would have lost 5 percent of its value in that year.

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