15: Total Return Trusts

From the time the concept of the trust was first developed in the late Middle Ages until about the 1950s, trust assets tended to produce far more income than capital appreciation. The long-term result was typically that early income beneficiaries fared well, while later income beneficiaries and principal beneficiaries fared poorly. (The decline of the English aristocracy was prominently fueled by this quiet phenomenon.) All that began to change half a century ago, and by the end of the 20th century many sensibly invested trusts were yielding well under 2%. Today, therefore, the problem has reversed itself. Sensibly invested trusts – that is, those with predominantly equity-oriented portfolios – tend to appreciate handsomely over time, but they produce little in the way of current yield in our low-dividend, low-interest-rate environment.

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