A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore. -Yogi Berra
How to earn a return on your cash.
In an era of ultra low rates it is challenging to earn a decent return on the cash held in your investment account. Brokerage firms offer a variety of money market and savings products that have yields ranging from zero to two percent.
Our favorite money market fund is the Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund (Symbol: VMMXX). This fund “seeks to provide current income and preserve shareholders’ principal investment by maintaining a share price of $1.” It has an expense ratio of 0.16%, a minimum investment amount of $3,000, and a 7-day SEC Yield of 1.67%. The fund pays a monthly distribution and permits check writing with a minimum per check amount of $250.
If you are not able to purchase Vanguard’s VMMXX money market fund at your brokerage, you might be able to find a reasonable substitute. Schwab Value Advantage Money Fund (Symbol: SWVXX) is available at Schwab. Fidelity Money Market Fund (Symbol:SPRXX) is available at Fidelity. Both of these funds have SEC Yields about 20 basis points lower than Vanguard’s VMMXX fund and expense ratios about 20 basis points higher.
If you are unable to find a money market fund that offers an attractive yield (TD Ameritrade customers!), you should consider using one of these exchange-traded fund (ETF) products. PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity (Symbol: MINT) is our favorite. The fund “is designed to provide clients with capital preservation, liquidity and stronger return potential relative to traditional cash investments”. It has an effective duration of 0.45 years and a 30-day SEC Yield of 1.91%. Now that many brokerage firms offer zero trading commissions, this fund is even cheaper to own as you can avoid those transaction fees. The expense ratio for this fund is 0.36%.
Another ultra-short ETF to consider is the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (Symbol: BIL). This fund seeks to match the performance of the 1-3 month Treasury Bill Index. It has a duration of just 0.10 years and a 30-day SEC Yield of 1.37%. The expense ratio is very low at 0.14%.
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