What is a money market fund?
In South Africa a money market fund is a type of a mutual fund that invests in short-term debt securities such as cash, cash equivalent securities, and high-credit-rating. Money market funds are managed and run with the aim of sustaining a highly stable asset value through highly liquid investments, while paying dividends to investors. In South Africa, money market unit trusts were introduced in 1997.
Cash in Investing
The term “cash” is used rather loosely. Sometimes it refers to cold hard cash in your wallet and other times it refers to money in your checking or savings account. But when it comes to investing, cash describes an entire asset class. But what exactly is cash in the investing world?
Cash typically describes funds held in money market accounts, which are relatively low-risk investments that pay a small amount of interest, usually once per month. Money markets are highly liquid, meaning you have instant access to your funds.
Some investors use the liquidity of money markets to pay for expenses, while others might use it to move in and out of investments like stocks or bonds. Money markets are liquid and low-risk because they invest in short-term debt such as Treasury bills, commercial paper, and repurchase agreements, among other investments.
This is because most of these investments mature in less than one year, and, on average, the maturities are as short as 60 days or less meaning investments are frequently maturing and being replaced to limit exposure to losses.
While these investments are maturing and being replaced, they pay a small interest payment and offer investors ample liquidity. Keep in mind these investments are exposed to risks similar to other debt investments such as changing interest rates.
Differences between money markets
There are generally two types of money markets: accounts and funds. Banks and credit unions offer money market accounts and the investing world offers mutual funds. In this article we will focus on money market mutual funds.
Interest payments of money market funds
The interest payments of money market funds are usually a little higher than similar savings vehicles, such as checking and savings accounts. But with the money market fund, interest rates are usually variable, which means they might increase or decrease.
With the slightly higher interest rate comes slightly more risk. This is an important distinction between money market funds and checking and savings accounts.
Money Market Funds Risks
Although rare, it’s possible to lose money in a money market fund. Such losses did occur in a few money market funds during the 2008 Financial Crisis.
Another aspect that sets money market funds apart from traditional savings accounts is the management fees. In money market mutual funds, fees are assessed in the form of an expense ratio and although these fees are small, they’re another drawback of money market funds.
Types of money market funds
There are many types of money market funds, but they’re generally divided into two types: taxable and non-taxable.
Like the label implies, interest from taxable money market funds are subject to taxes, while interest from non-taxable funds may be exempt from certain taxes depending on local laws and individual situations.
Non-taxable money market funds generally invest in short-term municipal securities. But before investing in a non-taxable money market fund, you’ll want to check with your accountant or the South African Revenue Authority (SARS) to make sure the fund you’re considering qualifies for tax exemption.
In a retirement account, a money market fund allows investors to allocate a portion of their portfolios to the cash asset class. This can be useful when investors want to move out of riskier assets, such as stocks and bonds, during volatile times.
Top 10 money market funds in South Africa
- 27Four Money Market Fund – A1
- Cadiz BCI Money Market Fund – A
- Prescient Money Market Fund – A2
- Ninety One Money Market Fund – A
- Allan Gray Money Market Fund – A
- Hollard Prime Money Market Fund – B
- Coronation Money Market Fund – P
- BCI Money Market Fund – A
- Citadel SA Money Market H4 Fund – B1
- Counterpoint SCI Money Market Fund – A
The goal of a money market fund is to limit losses and pay a small amount of interest. However, one drawback of money market funds is that interest paid may not keep pace with inflation.
This means your cash may lose value. But, while no investment is 100% safe, these investments are among the lowest risk investments.
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