A place for your cash
- Savings accounts continue to offer historically low yields.
- Choosing the right option for cash depends on your goals, attitude, and needs.
- Higher yields exist, but may require you to accept less liquidity or more risk.
- CDs may be available to provide higher yields, while maintaining FDIC insurance.
- Short-duration bonds and bond funds may offer more yield.
While stock markets have rallied in recent years and helped investment account balances, money in savings accounts has not kept up. Low rates have meant meager interest for cash savings—nationally the average savings account paid just 0.60% interest in August, 2017.
The good news for savers is that interest rates have moved up in recent months. The bad news is that they haven't moved up a lot, at least not when you consider investments that are safe enough to be considered as a home for your cash. But even if you can’t earn a lot on your cash, that doesn’t mean you can't do significantly better.
"There are a range of income options that can offer a meaningful increase in income; you could potentially increase the yield on your savings by a significant amount," says Richard Carter, a vice president of fixed-income products and services at Fidelity. "The key is to understand what you need the money for, and then find an option that makes sense for your situation."
First consider your goals
Before you look for higher-yielding options, take a second to reconsider the role of your cash in your financial plan.
|The goal: Everyday expenses||The goal: Emergency fund|
|The goal: Near-term savings target||The goal: Low-volatility, "short-term" allocation in long-term portfolio|
Once you have decided what kind of savings vehicle might make sense for you, consider these options:
High-yield savings accounts
The good news: While traditional savings accounts offer very little interest these days, some banks offer higher-yielding savings options. In some cases, the yields are as high as 1.3%, and these accounts come with full FDIC protection up to $250,000 per person, per bank, for a given ownership category. (See the callout "Insurance for your cash" for details.)
FDIC insurance means the government would protect you from losses in the event of a problem with the bank. These accounts also offer access to your savings without having to find a buyer and arrange a price, as you would if you were selling a stock or bond. Some banks also offer bonus rates if you sign up for automatic saving services or other perks.
The bad news: While a high-yield savings account can allow you to access your cash, it may not be the same setup as your corner bank. Some of these accounts are offered online only, and some may not offer ATM access. It makes sense to shop around. You need to be aware of fees, which could eat into your interest, and account minimums, which can be required for the best rates. Also, the FDIC insurance limit per account may require you to spread your money across accounts at several banks to achieve insurance protection for all of your savings.
The good news: These days, certificates of deposit offer significantly higher yields than most savings accounts. As of August 1, some one-year CDs offered on Fidelity.com yielded 1.5% interest. For $50,000 of cash, that means $750 in interest, compared with $300 in a typical savings account. If you are saving for a goal in 3 years, investing $50,000 in a 3-year CD would pay 1.95% annually, as of August 1, or roughly $3,000 over the 3-year period.
There are multiple ways to buy CDs. You could buy one directly from a bank, or you could buy one through a brokerage, known as a "brokered CD." If you buy a brokered CD as a new issue, there are no transaction costs or management fees.
For some people, the FDIC protection offered by a single bank account is not enough to cover their full savings. A brokerage account can aggregate brokered CDs from different FDIC banks in one account, so you may be able to put more than $250,000 in CDs without running into the FDIC insurance limit. A brokered CD also allows you to sell your CD if you need the money before maturity (but see the bad news, below). You could also consider a ladder of CDs to balance reinvestment risk and yield.
The bad news: In exchange for higher rates, you have to accept lower liquidity. This means, if you own a brokered CD and need to sell it to access your investment before its maturity, you would have to turn to the secondary market, which would incur transaction costs, and you may need to sell for a loss.
A better way to manage the trade-off of higher yields and lower liquidity from CDs may be with a ladder. A ladder arranges a number of CDs with staggering maturities, freeing up a portion of your investment at preset intervals as each CD matures. If you choose to reinvest, eventually your ladder will yield the prevailing rates of the longest-date CDs. Say you start with 1-, 2-, and 3-year CDs. At the end of year one, you reinvest the maturing one-year CD in a new 3-year CD; at the end of year 2, you reinvest that original 2-year CD in a new three-year CD. Now you have rungs maturing every year, but all offer the yield of a 3-year CD at the time each was purchased. (Watch our video.)
The table below shows how the rates available increase the longer investors are prepared to commit their money—currently providing more than a 2% yield on a 5-year CD.
|3 mo.||6 mo.||9 mo.||1 yr.||2 yr.||3 yr.||5 yr.|
|Source: Fidelity.com. As of August 1, 2017.|
Money market mutual funds
The good news: Money market funds offer easy access to your investment and low risk. Held in your brokerage account, they may come with check-writing and ATM card access similar to a savings account, making these investments a good option for funds you may need in a hurry. And, as interest rates rise, those higher rates typically pass through to money market funds quickly. Money market funds have recently seen yields rise with the Fed's increase in rates and shifts in demand due to regulatory changes implemented in October. As of August 1, yields on some prime funds, which primarily invest in riskier corporate debt and may pay higher yields, were as high as 1.2% for a minimum initial investment $2,500 to $1 million or more, with an industry average 0.64%.
The bad news: The 2016 regulatory changes for prime and municipal money market funds helped to boost their yields – but in a time of market stress, these non-government types of funds could be subject to a fee or temporary halt on withdrawals. So they may no longer be as liquid as U.S. Treasury or government money market funds. U.S. Treasury and government funds are not subject to these potential fees or temporary withdrawal halts – but while their yields also rose when the Fed began to raise rates, as of August 1 they were roughly half those of prime funds, with the industry average at only 0.38%. Learn more about money market mutual fund regulatory changes.
|Average yield (seven-day yields)|
|Source: iMoneyNet, as of July 25, 2017. Yields show the average seven-day yield for money market mutual funds in the category.|
The good news: Individual bonds offer a range of credit risk levels and yields for a variety of maturities. These securities could be laddered, and the range of credit risk in the market means that you can select a yield–risk option that suits you.
The bad news: Unlike CDs or savings account, individual bonds don't offer FDIC insurance. There is, however, Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance for brokerage accounts. SIPC protects against the loss of cash and securities — such as stocks and bonds — held by a customer at a financially troubled SIPC-member firm. SIPC protection is limited to $500,000 and has a cash limit of $250,000. SIPC does not protect against declines in the value of your securities, and is not the same as FIDC protection.
A corporate bond also comes with the risk that the company will not make good on its obligations, known as credit risk. You also may not be able to find a buyer if you decide to sell, forcing you to accept a lower price if you need to sell your bond. And interest rates rise, the price of your bond will fall. So if rates have gone up since you bought your bond, you may experience a loss. These risks mean it is important to consider whether a bond is an appropriate alternative investment for your cash. You should also try to diversify among individual bonds, perhaps by holding a number of securities from different issuers. To achieve diversification, it might require that you invest a significant amount of money. You also have to account for transaction costs—the fees to buy or sell individual securities.
|3 mo.||6 mo.||9 mo.||1 yr.||2 yr.||3 yr.|
|CDs (New issues)||1.25%||1.40%||1.45%||1.50%||1.70%||1.95%|
|U.S. Treasury Zeros||1.07%||1.11%||1.18%||1.25%||1.36%||1.52%|
|Corporate (Aaa/AAA)||0.90%||- -||1.30%||1.44%||1.59%||1.61%|
|Source: Fidelity.com as of August 1, 2017.|
Short-duration bond funds and ETFs
The good news: Bond funds aren't insured the way CDs are, but many actively managed bond funds and ETFs do offer professional credit research, portfolio construction, and broad diversification to help manage credit risk. They also offer competitive yields.
The bad news: Bond funds come with management fees, and the value of your investment will change as the market rerates the prices of the bonds in the fund's portfolio. You can't hold a fund to maturity, so you may suffer a loss when you try to access your money. Defined maturity funds offer professional management and diversification, with declining price volatility as the fund approaches its target maturity. (Learn more about defined maturity funds.)
For an example of short-duration bond funds, here are the top results for short-term bond, and ultra-short bond category funds from Fidelity's mutual fund evaluator. (Note: The top results are as of January 30, 2017, sorted by 3-year return, and show top results for Fidelity funds and for all funds.) You should do your own research to find bond funds that fit your time horizon, financial circumstances, risk tolerance, and unique goals.
|Ultra-short Term Bond Funds|
|Fidelity Conservative Income Bond Fund (FCONX)|
|Semper Short Duration Fund (SEMRX)|
|Western Asset Adjustable Rate (ARMZX)|
|Short-Term Bond Funds|
|Fidelity® Limited Term Bond Fund (FJRLX)|
|Fidelity® Short-Term Bond Fund (FSHBX)|
|Frost Total Return Bond Fund Investor Class Shares (FATRX)|
|Morgan Stanley Institutional Fund Trust (MLDAX)|
|Thompson Bond Fund (THOPX)|
|Note: Search results as of August 1, 2017. Fund search searched for taxable bonds, short-term bond funds and ultra-short-term bond funds. NTF funds only. Results show to Fidelity results and top overall based on three year performance. Complete your own screen at Fidelity.com/fund-screener.|
What about higher yielding options?
High-yield savings accounts, CDs, money markets funds, and short-duration bonds all have the potential to help you generate more income from your cash. But what about higher-yielding options? Longer-dated bonds, high yield bonds, preferred and convertible securities, or even dividend-paying stocks all may offer higher yields than these options. But beware of chasing yield—the risks of these higher yielding options is such that they should not be considered as a way to improve the yield on your cash.
Credit ratings can also speak to the credit quality of an individual debt issue, such as a corporate note, a municipal bond, or a mortgage-backed security, and the relative likelihood that the issue may default.
'AAA'—Extremely strong capacity to meet financial commitments; highest rating.
'AA'—Very strong capacity to meet financial commitments.
Lower yields - Because of the inherent safety and short-term nature of a CD investment, yields on CDs tend to be lower than other higher risk investments. Interest rate fluctuation - Like all fixed income securities, CD valuations and secondary market prices are susceptible to fluctuations in interest rates. If interest rates rise, the market price of outstanding CDs will generally decline, creating a potential loss should you decide to sell them in the secondary market. Since changes in interest rates will have the most impact on CDs with longer maturities, shorter-term CDs are generally less impacted by interest rate movements.
Credit risk - Since CDs are debt instruments, there is credit risk associated with their purchase, although the insurance offered by the FDIC may help mitigate this risk. Customers are responsible for evaluating both the CDs and the creditworthiness of the underlying issuing institution.
Insolvency of the issuer- In the event the Issuer approaches insolvency or becomes insolvent, it may be placed in regulatory conservatorship, with the FDIC typically appointed as the conservator. As with any deposits of a depository institution placed in conservatorship, the CDs of the issuer for which a conservator has been appointed may be paid off prior to maturity or transferred to another depository institution. If the CDs are transferred to another institution, the new institution may offer you a choice of retaining the CD at a lower interest rate or receiving payment.
Selling before maturity - CDs sold prior to maturity are subject to a concession and may be subject to a substantial gain or loss due to interest rate changes and other factors. In addition, the market value of a CD in the secondary market may be influenced by a number of factors including, but not necessarily limited to, interest rates, provisions such as call or step features, and the credit rating of the Issuer. The secondary market for CDs may be limited. Fidelity currently makes a market in the CDs we make available, but may not do so in the future.
Coverage limits- FDIC insurance only covers the principal amount of the CD and any accrued interest. In some cases, CDs may be purchased on the secondary market at a price that reflects a premium to their principal value. This premium is ineligible for FDIC insurance. More generally, FDIC insurance limits apply to aggregate amounts on deposit, per account, at each covered institution. Investors should consider the extent to which other accounts, deposits or accrued interest may exceed applicable FDIC limits. For more information on the FDIC and its insurance coverage visit www.fdic.gov.
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The analysis on these pages may be based, in part, on historical returns for periods prior to the class's actual inception. Generally, these calculated returns reflect the historical performance of an older share class of the fund, which (for non-Fidelity funds) is adjusted to reflect the fees and expenses of the newer share class (when the newer share class's fees and expenses are higher). Pre-inception returns are not actual returns and return calculation methodologies utilized by Morningstar, other entities and the funds may differ. Pre-inception returns generally will be replaced by the actual returns of the newer share class over time. Please click on dedicated web page or refer to your fund prospectus for specific information regarding fees, expenses and returns.
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