While they sound highly similar, a money market fund is not the same as a money market account (MMA). The former is an investment, sponsored by an investment fund company, and hence carries no guarantee of principal. The latter is an interest-earning saving account offered by financial institutions, with limited transaction privileges and insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
Money market funds offer high liquidity compared to other instruments with similar expected returns, like CD’s and treasury bills, while still being relatively low risk. You must typically hold a CD until its full maturity date to avoid paying an early withdrawal penalty. Treasury bills also have specific maturity dates. Money market funds, however, don’t have a set shelf life and can be liquidated on-demand when the cash is needed.
The U.S. government issues Treasury bills in the money market, with maturities that range from a few days to one year. Primary dealers buy them in large amounts directly from the government to trade between themselves or to sell to individual investors. Individual investors can buy them directly from the government through its TreasuryDirect website or through a bank or a broker. State, county, and municipal governments also issue short-term notes.
The SEC reports that the popularity of and investments in money market funds has grown significantly and they currently hold about US$3 trillion in assets. They have become one of the core pillars of the present-day capital markets as they offer investors a diversified, professionally managed portfolio with high daily liquidity. Many investors use money market funds as a place to "park their cash" until they decide on other investments, or for funding needs that may arise in the short term.
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In 2008, following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the venerable Reserve Primary Fund broke the buck: It held millions of Lehman's debt obligations, and panicked redemptions by its investors caused its NAV to fall to 97 cents per share. The pullout of money caused the Reserve Primary Fund to close and triggered mayhem throughout the money markets.
While some mutual funds are index funds, which aim to track the performance of a specific market index, most are actively managed, meaning fund managers follow an investment strategy to buy and sell a variety of securities in an attempt to beat the market. There are funds that focus on nearly every part of the market, and buyers can invest in a variety of assets including equities, bonds, real estate and commodities.
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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.
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".