What is a money market fund? Typically, they invest in higher-yield, short-term debt securities. Are they right for your portfolio? Learn more here to find out.
Consider the following scenarios:
Money market funds are essentially mutual funds that invest in money market instruments: U.S. Treasuries, municipal securities, certificates of deposit (CDs), commercial paper, repurchase agreements, and bankers’ acceptances. Not sure what these instruments are? Keep reading.
First, note that a money market “fund” is not the same as a money market “account.” A money market fund is a type of mutual fund that invests in money market instruments; hence, it’s an investment product that you must directly buy or sell.
But let’s back up for a moment. In case you aren’t familiar with any of these terms, here’s a brief explanation:
In general, money market mutual funds invest in six types of securities. Depending on a given fund’s specific target (as detailed in its prospectus), it may invest in some or all of these security types:
You may not be as familiar with the last three asset classes—commercial paper, repurchase agreements, and bankers’ acceptances—as you are with the first three. No surprise: They’re generally unavailable to retail investors. Instead, they’re traded between financial and corporate institutions. But money market mutual funds make them available to retail investors.
Money market funds can be grouped into three general categories:
Each type of money market fund is typically considered to be a lower risk investment (and we’ll look at the potential risks below). But in general, prime funds are the most risky of the three, followed by muni funds. Government funds are seen as having the least amount of risk of the three, and within that category, government funds with a high concentration of Treasuries—with full government backing—are seen as having the least amount of risk.
TD Ameritrade tools and services can help you decide.
As with every investment product, money market mutual funds have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to assess how these opportunities and limitations align with your financial goals, investment style, and risk tolerance as you consider money market investing.
Money market mutual funds are designed to provide steady interest income with low risk. Shares held by “retail” investors, although not guaranteed, seek to maintain a NAV of $1 per share.
Some money market funds, namely those investing in certain municipal securities, can provide a tax advantage at the state and federal level. Unlike actual money market accounts, money market funds generally require a comparably lower minimum investment. Remember: Because money market funds pool assets from multiple investors and typically invest in a wide array of investments, they can give retail investors exposure to a diversified portfolio of securities at a lower minimum investment. Some money market funds are more diversified than others, so it’s important to read each fund’s prospectus before investing.
Also, if you’re a retail investor who wishes to gain exposure to commercial paper, repos, or bankers’ acceptances—investments typically available to institutional investors—money market funds allow you such exposure.
Money market funds generally have a lower expense ratio and don’t impose withdrawal fees. However, keep in mind, some companies charge a small annual fee or may charge a fee if the amount invested in the fund is below a minimum threshold. Also, many money market funds limit the number of times you can withdraw in a month.
Although money market mutual funds are typically considered a lower risk investment, it is possible to lose money by investing in such funds. They aren’t FDIC insured, nor are they guaranteed by the U.S. government or a government agency. Money market funds aren’t deposits or obligations of or guaranteed by any bank (unlike the money market accounts offered by your local bank, which are typically FDIC insured). And it’s important to remember that because mutual funds aren’t traded during the day like stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), you may not have intraday access to money held in money market funds.
Another thing to consider when you invest in money market mutual funds is that their yield may not always keep up with the rate of inflation, meaning your gains may experience erosion during periods of higher inflation. Finally, money market funds may not match the higher growth potential of stocks and other investment products that carry higher risk.
Tax-advantaged funds may pay dividends that are subject to the alternative minimum tax and, despite the name, may have tax obligations if they happen to hold investments in taxable obligations.
You can learn more about these funds by visiting the TD Ameritrade Money Market Funds page. Remember that these funds are part of a much larger family of mutual funds offered at TD Ameritrade.
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