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4 Tips on Finding a Good Money-Market Mutual Fund

Money-market mutual funds hold about $3.9 trillion in assets, and have become increasingly popular places to park cash amid the beating that stocks and even bonds have taken lately. Here are tips from experts on how to find the best money funds:

1. FIND THE RIGHT FIT: While their yields are pretty low across the board, different types of money funds invest in different types of debt. So pick the right type to balance how much safety you're willing to give up for a slightly higher yield.

Many funds buy super-safe government debt such as Treasury bills, and generally carry the lowest yields — currently averaging a minuscule 0.1 percent or so. So-called prime funds seek slightly higher yields but accept marginal risk by venturing into some forms of corporate bonds, which carry the risk of default.

Money-market funds can also invest large sums in bank certificates of deposit, and command higher interest rates than you could get on your own. So-called tax-free money funds can invest in debt issued by state or local governments, which can offer tax advantages.

2. RESIST THE CHASE FOR YIELD: If you're comparing money fund yields, resist the temptation to buy a fund just based on a higher yield. Be sure to research the fund. Try to determine what risks the fund may be taking to generate the higher return — such as a soured investment in Lehman Brothers bonds, that led one money fund to expose investors to losses last fall.

3. CHECK EXPENSES: Fund expenses are a big consideration because a small difference in the amount you pay can offset the relatively modest yield of a money fund. Generally, look for expense ratios below 0.5 percent.

4. MONITOR FEES: With money fund yields at historic lows, fund companies are finding they can barely meet fund expenses and make a profit. That pressures the companies to pass on higher fees. Monitor disclosures about such fee increases.



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