Money-Market Funds Waive Fees to Boost Yields
Sunday, February 22, 2009; Page F03
The borrower's boon is the saver's bust: With yields on short-term Treasury bills stuck near zero percent, money-market funds that hold these securities are struggling to keep their returns positive, after fees. Some funds are investing in longer-term securities, which extends the average maturity of the fund and garners a little extra yield without compromising safety.
And don't be concerned if your fund has closed to new investors or limited deposits, as Vanguard, Schwab and Fidelity have. It's easier to maintain yield without dealing with heavy cash flows in and out of the fund. To earn the best returns, follow these rules:
Shop around. Vanguard's Treasury fund currently yields 0.84 percent, more than four times the average. Manager David Glocke anticipated the rate decline and locked in higher yields.
Move your cash. U.S. Treasury funds yield just 0.18 percent on average. Other money-market funds can invest more broadly and are still safe. U.S. government funds, yielding 0.47 percent on average, can purchase federal agency debt. Prime funds, yielding 0.89 percent, can buy higher-yielding commercial paper, floating-rate notes and bank deposits.
Look for a fee waiver. Some 60 percent of money-market funds already waive a portion of their fees; others may follow.
Insist on rock-bottom expenses. The two top-yielding funds, Vanguard Prime, currently yielding 2.35 percent, and Fidelity Select, 2.05 percent, both sport lower-than-average expense ratios: 0.28 percent and 0.36 percent of assets, respectively.