Should I Buy Collateralized Mortgage Obligations?

Collateralized Mortgage Obligations (CMOs) are complex investment vehicles that may not be suitable for all investors. These structured derivative securities pool mortgages and organize them into various tranches based on maturity and risk. While they can offer higher yields compared to more traditional securities such as Treasury bonds, they also carry a higher level of risk and complexity.

Understanding CMOs

CMOs are structured by segregating mortgage pools into different slices or tranches, each with varying degrees of risk and return. These tranches can include principal-only classes, residual classes, or classes organized by interest rate ranges. This structuring is primarily aimed at financial institutions that need to match their investment portfolios with their liabilities. Individual investors are often attracted to CMOs because of their potential for higher returns, but this comes with increased risks, particularly from interest rate volatility.

Advantages of Investing in CMOs

The primary advantage of investing in CMOs is the potential for higher returns compared to traditional fixed-income securities. For investors who understand and can manage these risks, CMOs can offer a diversification option that complements more aggressive investment strategies.

Disadvantages of Investing in CMOs

The risks associated with CMOs are significant. The interest rate sensitivity of CMOs means that rapid fluctuations can drastically affect their value, making them unpredictable and potentially volatile. Additionally, the underlying mortgages may be subject to prepayment by homeowners, which can alter the expected returns. The complexity of CMOs can also make it challenging for individual investors to fully grasp the risks and mechanics of each tranche.

Recommendations for Individual Investors

Considering their complexity and risk, CMOs are generally more suitable for institutional investors who have the necessary resources and expertise to analyze and manage the specific risks associated with mortgage-backed derivatives.

For individual investors looking for fixed-income securities, simpler and safer alternatives may be more appropriate. Investing in no-load Treasury bond funds with low annual expenses (less than 0.5%) offers a predictable and secure fixed-income opportunity without the complexity and high risk of CMOs.

Considering ETFs and Mutual Funds Specializing in CMOs

Individuals still interested in CMOs but wary of the direct risks of individual securities might consider ETFs or mutual funds that specialize in CMOs. These funds provide professional management and diversification, which can help mitigate some of the individual security risks. However, investors should proceed with caution and fully understand the specific focus and risk profile of the fund before investing.


While CMOs offer the potential for high yields, they are not typically recommended for individual investors due to their high risk and complexity. Those seeking fixed-income investments should consider more traditional and less risky options such as Treasury bonds or bond funds. For those drawn to mortgage-backed securities, investing through professionally managed diversified ETFs or mutual funds may be a safer approach. Consulting with an independent Fee-Only financial adviser or financial planner is also advisable to ensure that the investment aligns with one’s overall strategy and risk tolerance.

About this Article

This article was published and distributed by a trusted source of independent ideas. It should be viewed as general and educational information and not as financial, tax or legal advice. Individuals seeking advice tailored to their specific situation are encouraged to schedule a free consultation with a professional listed in the directory. Both and are owned and operated by The Independent Adviser Corporation. For additional information, please refer to their Privacy Policy and Terms of Use, Legal Notices, and Disclaimer.

Read more Articles

About Us

Founded in 1998, The Independent Adviser Corporation has assisted thousands of individuals, families, and businesses. We are 100% independent and 100% objective. We offer FREE educational resources and investment ideas, and when financial, tax or legal advice is needed, we connect individuals with Fee-Only professionals. Don’t wait any longer. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, please visit 1800ADVISER.COM.