Alternatively, consider Treasury securities from the U.S. government. Like bank CDs, they pay a guaranteed fixed rate of return for a fixed period of time as long as you hold them to maturity. You can purchase Treasuries from the government at TreasuryDirect.gov, or invest in them through a brokerage account.
If you’re willing to risk fluctuating yields, a bank money market account or a money market mutual fund can help you easily take advantage of the Fed’s largesse. These accounts typically track the yield on short-term Treasury bills, which currently pay between 4.94 percent and 5.52 percent. Today, the average money market fund yields 5.19 percent, according to Crane Data, which tracks the funds, and high-yielding bank money market accounts yield about the same.
There are two big differences between a bank money market account and a money market fund. The first is that the bank has federal deposit insurance, while the money market mutual fund doesn’t. The other is that a bank account has an administered rate that depends, in part, on the bank’s need for funding. Your bank could lower its money market account rate to whatever it likes, whenever it likes, no matter what Fed Chair Jerome Powell thinks. Money funds can only promise you the best yields it can find in the short-term money market.
The upside of a money market account or money fund compared to a CD is you can withdraw the money whenever you need it. CDs have penalties for early withdrawals. The downside is the rate of return for a money market account or money fund fluctuates.
Normally, if you want to lock in rates for a long time, you simply buy a CD or Treasury security that has a longer maturity – say, 5 years. Unfortunately, that tactic doesn’t work well in today’s market, where short-term rates are higher than long ones. (This is called an inverted yield curve, and it’s unusual.) “Yields are peaking now, and from the standpoint of income investors, there’s no incentive to wait,” McBride says.
Banks tend to lower savings rates quickly and raise them slowly. If you want a guaranteed yield for the next five years, you’ll have to find one that’s better than the highest-yielding money market accounts (or money funds) offer. Currently, the highest-yielding 5-year bank CDs yield between 4.25 percent and 4.9 percent.
The Treasury also has options for short-term savings. You can buy Treasury securities, such as the five-year T-note, which yields 4 percent. You might also consider Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS, which pay about two percentage points above inflation, currently 3.1 percent. Note that TIPS returns adjust as inflation changes; the rate of return isn’t fixed. Interest from Treasuries is generally free from state income taxes, but they are subject to federal income tax.
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