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A Stock-Free Portfolio

Given the goings-on in the market, we understand if you're reluctant to buy common stocks. But you can make a decent return without owning a single share.

GOLD (5%)

The yellow metal doesn't pay any income, and it's plenty volatile. But it's a good defense against inflation -- which will surely rear its head when business picks up steam -- and the likelihood of a weaker dollar down the road. With iShares Comex Gold Trust (symbol IAU), you can track the price of gold without having to buy the stuff and store it. It recently traded at $90 per share.

CASH (25%)

With yields generally at less than 1%, cash is trash nowadays. But you won't lose money on your cash investments, and their yields will pick up when the economy recovers and the Federal Reserve begins to lift short-term interest rates. (For ideas on how to invest your no-risk money, see Where to Stash Your Cash Now.)



REIT preferreds, like REIT common stocks, have been clobbered this year. As a result, they are delivering extraordinarily high yields. For instance, preferred shares of both Alexandria Real Estate Equities and Corporate Office Properties trust recently yielded 11%, and a Duke Realty preferred yielded 14% (for more suggestions, see A Real Estate Play That Pays).


Although interest from municipal bonds is generally exempt from federal income tax, many high-quality munis are yielding far more than Treasuries of like maturity. Some AAA-rated tax-free bonds to consider: Puerto Rico 5.5% general-obligation bond due in 2019. Yields 4.7% to maturity. New Jersey 5.25% transportation bond due in 2022. Yields 4.0% to maturity. University of Texas 5.25% revenue bond due in 2022. Yields 4.0% to maturity.

ENERGY (15%)


Thanks to the recession, oil and natural-gas prices have plunged. But those prices have fallen too far and will almost certainly rise when global economies recover. Two exchange-traded funds -- U.S. Oil Trust (USO) and U.S. Natural Gas Fund (UNG) -- follow these commodities and will appreciate when oil and gas turn up.


These days, high-quality corporate bonds sport unusually generous yields (see Best Buys in Bonds. We found a few that pay well, can't be called before maturity and aren't issued by financial firms: Wal-Mart 5.875% bond due in 2027. Yields 5.6% to maturity. Rated AA by Standard & Poor's. Eli Lilly 7.125% bond due in 2025. Yields 5.4% to maturity. Rated AA. Northern States Power 7.125% bond due in 2025. Yields 6.2% to maturity. Rated A.



Yes, junk bonds are speculative, but they're yielding gazillions more than Treasury securities of the same maturity. That's a risk worth taking with a small portion of your money. Funds are the best way to buy junk bonds. Good choices: Payden High Income (PYHRX), recently yielding 10%, and Vanguard High Yield Corporate (VWEHX), also yielding 10%.