Monday, January 30, 2012

It's Time To Drop Those Money Funds

If you are still invested in money funds, Bernanke's announcement that the Fed plans on keeping interest rates the same for the foreseeable future should help spur you into action. With returns near 0%, if you keep money in a money fund, you are simply losing buying power everyday to inflation. Tim Iacono from The Mess That Greenspan Made, takes a closer look at money fund investments in his blog post below.

More fallout from last week’s Fed announcement of a one-and-a-half year extension to their freakishly low interest rate forecast comes via this MarketWatch story about the dim prospects of money market returns between now and sometime in 2015 (or later).

Money funds are designed to be ultra-safe cash-equivalents, and traditionally they provided a bit more return than bank certificates of deposit or savings accounts.

But for about 18 months now, nearly two-thirds of all money funds have yielded under 0.01%. To see just how horrible that is, consider that if you had $1,000 and split it evenly between a money fund and a piggy bank, at the end of a year the fund would only be ahead by a nickel.

This is not a new problem, but the Fed paints it in a new light. Central bankers made it clear that savers will not see any boost in money-fund returns for the foreseeable future, and can be sure that inflation will take a bite out of their cash. So if you use a money fund for emergency savings, the dollars aren’t growing even as the cost of insurance is rising.

Even when rates rise, money-fund yields aren’t likely to go up. Financial-services firms have been waiving costs, basically operating them at a loss to keep assets in-house; many smaller firms have simply shuttered their money-market funds. When rates finally do go up — and the Fed forecast doesn’t mean it can’t happen, it just suggests that it won’t until 2014 — firms will first take much of any increase for themselves.

By the way, does anyone know how stable value funds are doing these days? I was tempted to not convert one of our 401ks to a self-directed IRA when we left our cubicle jobs back in 2007 in order to get the 3 or 4 percent these funds paid in the event that the early-decade low rate environment returned which, as it turns out, it did with a vengeance.

I regret that decision a little more each year…

This post was republished with permission from Tim Iacono.

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