For the first time in nearly a decade, yields on some money-market mutual funds are topping 1%. The yields still are far short of the nearly 5% levels available a decade ago, but if you are an investor seeking to temporarily park some assets in a very safe fund, the current yields are much more tempting than the near-zero yields that were prevalent over the past several years.
Recent examples of annual percentage yields (APYs): Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund (VMMXX), 1.44%…Fidelity Money Market Fund (SPRXX), 1.24%…Schwab Value Advantage Money Fund (SWVXX), 1.23%.
Those still are below the highest yields on money-market accounts at banks, which unlike money-market funds are FDIC insured. For example, money-market accounts recently yielded 1.51% at North Bank Direct and 1.45% at Sallie Mae. What to do…
Make sure cash at mutual fund firms is placed in a money fund, not a “sweep” account. If you don’t, cash generated by dividend and interest payments may go into a sweep account, which is FDIC insured but provides tiny yields, recently averaging 0.11%.
Choose the right money fund. Fidelity alone offers dozens, ranging from those that hold US Treasury debt to those that invest in state-specific securities that provide tax-exempt income. Funds that offer the highest yields, called “prime” or general-purpose funds, can invest in a mix of certificates of deposit (CDs) and short-term, high-quality government and corporate securities.
Caveat: Although all money funds seek never to suffer losses in share price, one did during the 2007–2009 financial crisis. But since then, new federal regulations place strict limits on what the funds can hold.