Overview: Sallie Mae may be mostly associated with student loans, but it also provides a range of savings products for consumers. The bank offers a money market account, high-yield savings account and CDs. And its rates are very competitive. Sallie Mae's yields are frequently among the highest in the country across all of its product offerings, something that can largely be attributed to its status as an online bank. Low overhead costs allow it to return those savings to its customers in the form of higher rates. Those higher yields extend to its money market account, which makes it a great option if you're looking for a place to keep your savings while earning interest.
Money market funds seek a stable net asset value, or NAV per share (which is generally $1.00 in the United States); they aim to never lose money. The $1.00 is maintained through the declaration of dividends to shareholders, typically daily, at an amount equal to the fund's net income. If a fund's NAV drops below $1.00, it is said that the fund "broke the buck". For SEC registered money funds, maintaining the $1.00 flat NAV is usually accomplished under a provision under Rule 2a-7 of the 40 Act that allows a fund to value its investments at amortized cost rather than market value, provided that certain conditions are maintained. One such condition involves a side-test calculation of the NAV that uses the market value of the fund's investments. The fund's published, amortized value may not exceed this market value by more than 1/2 cent per share, a comparison that is generally made weekly. If the variance does exceed $0.005 per share, the fund could be considered to have broken the buck, and regulators may force it into liquidation.
The first money market mutual fund to break the buck was First Multifund for Daily Income (FMDI) in 1978, liquidating and restating NAV at 94 cents per share. An argument has been made that FMDI was not technically a money market fund as at the time of liquidation the average maturity of securities in its portfolio exceeded two years. However, prospective investors were informed that FMDI would invest "solely in Short-Term (30-90 days) MONEY MARKET obligations". Furthermore, the rule restricting which the maturities which money market funds are permitted to invest in, Rule 2a-7 of the Investment Company Act of 1940, was not promulgated until 1983. Prior to the adoption of this rule, a mutual fund had to do little other than present itself as a money market fund, which FMDI did. Seeking higher yield, FMDI had purchased increasingly longer maturity securities, and rising interest rates negatively impacted the value of its portfolio. In order to meet increasing redemptions, the fund was forced to sell a certificate of deposit at a 3% loss, triggering a restatement of its NAV and the first instance of a money market fund "breaking the buck".
The monetary policies of the Federal Reserve Bank during the 2010s led to the short-term interest rates—the rates banks pay to borrow money from one another—hovering around zero percent. The near zero rates meant money market fund investors saw returns significantly lower, compared to those in the prior decades. Further, with the tightening of regulations after the 2008 financial crisis, the number of investable securities grew smaller.
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In general, the NAV will stay close to $1, but is expected to fluctuate above and below, and will break the buck more often. Different managers place different emphases on risk versus return in enhanced cash – some consider preservation of principal as paramount, and thus take few risks, while others see these as more bond-like, and an opportunity to increase yield without necessarily preserving principal. These are typically available only to institutional investors, not retail investors.
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