No. of Recommendations: 0
LF,

Jack's advice is solid and sound. If he suggested paper-trading, then that's what you should do. But, frankly, I don't know how it could be done with bonds in any meaningful way, due to the following problems:

(1) Atrociously-wide spreads.
(2) A frequent dearth of offers and bids for outstanding issues.
(3) Onerous, minimum-position sizes getting in.
(4) The frequent near-impossibility of getting out, as in, no bids for the bond you're trying to sell.
(5) The near-impossibility of obtaining historical data more than a year back.
(6) The near-impossibility of doing conventional technical work (MA cross-overs, etc.)

With stocks and Forex, paper-trading is simplicity itself, and there are many places where it can be done with virtual cash and real-time data. But nothing similar exists for corporate bonds, agencies, or munis that I'm aware. For treasuries, one could use futures contracts as a proxy for individual bonds. But it's going to be tough to "dip a toe" in a virtual bond market, because one doesn't exist.

In lieu of that, I'd suggest that you begin to learn how to screen for bonds using E*Trade's search-engine. Also, begin to set up a go/no-go check-list for yourself of what a prospective bond must meet in terms of min yield, min credit-quality, max maturity, presence/absence of tax and structural features, as well as a couple of benchmarks that let you guage where bonds are trading relative to their short, intermediate, and long-term trends.
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