Markets In Action

Free Online Course Is Your Guide to the World of Municipal Bonds

You’re ready to get serious about investing for your future goals. You’ve read about municipal bonds to diversify your portfolio and think they sound promising—but are you sure you know enough to get started with investing in munis?

If you’re not sure, check out the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board’s (MSRB) new MuniEd Pro online course, “Exploring Muni Bonds: A Course for Investors”. This free online course (registration required) will help you clarify your larger investment goals, determine if munis are a good fit for your portfolio, and give you the tools you need to get started working with an investment advisor or other financial professional.

Long-term borrowing through municipal bonds is a popular form of financing for U.S. communities. Munis allow the borrowing entity, like a state or local government, to invest in long-term needs like street and bridge construction, water and drainage systems, transportation facilities, and schools and hospital construction in a cost-effective way.

Munis are also a favored investment option for investors seeking to manage risk and returns within a diversified portfolio. This preference is highlighted by the fact that many muni bonds enjoy tax advantages—the interest an investor receives on a muni bond investment is often exempt from federal, state, and/or local taxes. (If you’re unsure about the tax status of a particular municipal bond, you should talk to an investment professional for guidance).

But even if you understand those basic elements of munis, you need to know more if you’re thinking about these bonds as an investment. That’s where the MSRB’s new course comes in.

“We wanted to leverage the latest in online technology to engage investors seeking a deeper understanding of municipal bonds,” said Ritta McLaughlin, MSRB’s Chief Education Officer. “Our investor course enables them to experience a variety of scenarios to explore how municipal bond investing would have an impact on their portfolio and their income. It is an exciting addition to the growing catalog of MuniEdPro® courses.”

Once you complete the course (which should take less than an hour), you’ll understand key muni investing concepts such as:

  • The basic terminology of bond investing
  • The different types of risk and how to assess those risks when making investment decisions
  • How to calculate the yield of a muni investment
  • How to use the MSRB’s Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) database, a free comprehensive repository of data on muni bonds

The MSRB is a self-regulatory organization chartered by Congress to regulate municipal securities firms, banks and municipal advisors. It’s governed by a 21-member board of directors and subject to SEC oversight, with the mission of promoting a fair and efficient municipal securities market to protect investors, government entities, and the public interest.

The free muni course is the latest offering in a series of interactive courses about municipal market activities and regulations. Other topics in the series include primary market offering disclosure responsibilities, roles and responsibilities of market participants in a primary offering, and the role of the regulator (although we should note that most of those courses are designed primarily for financial professionals seeking continuing education credit, rather than the average investor).

Project Invested doesn’t provide investing advice, but we like sharing information to help savers and investors enhance their financial literacy. The MSRB’s MuniEdPro course is one option to learn about municipal bonds. Give it a try, and when you’re up to speed, you’ll be more confident about the questions you need to ask your investment advisor as you evaluate whether to make these bonds a part of your investing strategy.