CD’s and Money Market Funds As of June, 2018

For many years’ the USA (and much of the developed world) offered very low interest rates on accounts with low risk (guaranteed accounts).  The policy was known as “ZIRP” or “zero interest rate policy”.

As a result of ZIRP, this author started exploring CD’s purchased through a brokerage, which offered a couple of percentage points more in return (than zero) with the same, virtually zero risk.  These brokerage account CD’s typically offered higher returns than you can get from your local bank or savings accounts.

Over the last couple of years, however, the USA has begun to raise interest rates.  Today, the VMFXX money market from Vanguard offers a return of 1.74% (with an expense ratio of 0.11%).  There is also an expectation of continued increases in the future, although no one knows for certain what will occur.

Since the “base” rate is now effectively about 1.75% (more or less), the CD forward “curve” looks like this:

  • Base rate (no CD, leave in money market) – 1.75%
  • 1 year CD – 2.30%
  • 2 year CD – 2.80%
  • 3 year CD – 3.00%
  • 5 year CD – 3.30%
  • 10 year CD – 3.40%

When you buy a CD, you essentially “lock up” your money for that duration.  If you have a 2 year CD, for instance, you can always buy or sell off that CD, but if interest rates go up you won’t receive back 100% of your investment.  For example, if you have a 2 year CD at a rate of 2.80%, and short-term interest rates move from 1.75% to 2.00%, for example, and you needed to sell your 2 year CD, you might receive 99 or 98 cents on the dollar (it could seem higher because you’d also be getting back interest accrued prior to your next payout, for example if you had a semi-annual payout).  These are really minor “losses” in the grand scheme, especially if you are dealing in the thousands or even few hundreds of thousands.

The future of our interest rate policy is (as always), essentially unknown.  Interest rate policy is also closely tied with the value of our currency, although this takes the entire conversation off into a far more complex direction.

In a time of ZIRP for an extended period (we had it from 2008 to 2015), buying products like CD’s was essentially the only way to get any sort of risk free return on interest at all.  With short term interest rates at 1.75% and (likely?) heading upward, now there are more options on the table, including doing nothing and taking the short term rate or locking up funds for the near term or even medium term.

All of this income is taxable.  Thus the effective rate that you receive is lower, depending on your tax rate.  Tax rates did come down a bit with the 2017 tax changes, with most folks in the 12% / 22% / 24% range.  Thus if you get 2% your return is effectively around 1.5% – 1.6% after taxes.

This blog will also look into the current state of iBonds, another product that is essentially risk free that we reviewed in the past, in an upcoming post.

 

Capital Gains Rates in 2018

Taxes changed significantly with the new tax act for 2018.  Here we will briefly talk about short and long term capital gains under the new law.  This is meant to be a summary please do your own research if you have a significant portfolio or complexity.  Here is a good summary from the Motley Fool.

At a very high level:

  • stocks / ETF’s held > 1 year are considered long term gains / losses and taxed at more favorable (lower) capital gains rates
  • If they are held less than one year, they are treated as ordinary income, which is generally higher

For single filers in 2018, capital gains rates are 0% up to $38,600, 15% $38,600 – $425,800, and 20% over that.  The brackets are higher for joint filers.

Short term gains are treated as ordinary income; these brackets range from 10% to 24% in the likely relevant range.

There are different rules / impacts for minors (“Kiddie Tax”) which we will cover (at a high level) in a different post.

 

Portfolio Eight Updated Feb 2018, and It’s Tax Time

Portfolio 8 is 3 1/2 years old.  The beneficiary contributed $1500 and the trustee $3000 for a total of $4500.  The current value of the portfolio is $5409 for a gain of $909 or 20%, which is 9.5% / year over the life of the portfolio adjusted for the timing of cash flows.  Go here for portfolio detail or use the link on the right.

We had 2 sales this year, Tata Motors (TTM) and Gilead (GILD).  Total long term gains from sales were $55 and dividends were $50.  The portfolio has done OK recently and bounced back from February market activity.

Portfolio Seven Updated Feb 2018, and It’s Tax Time

Portfolio 7 is 3 1/2 years old.  The beneficiary contributed $1500 and the trustee $3000 for a total of $4500.  The current value is $5991 for a gain of $1491 or 33%, or about 14% / year when adjusted for the timing of cash flows.  Go here for portfolio detail or go to the link on the right.

During 2017 we sold Spirit Airlines (SAVE) for a long term capital loss of $84 and had dividends of $40.  The portfolio is doing well, with holdings in BABA (Alibaba) and MA (Mastercard) doing very well.  The portfolio has mostly recovered from early February market activity.

Portfolio Six Updated Feb 2018, and It’s Tax Time

Portfolio Six is 5 1/2 years old.  The beneficiary contributed $3000 and the trustee $6000 for a total of $9000.  The current value is $10,716 for a gain of $1716 or 19%, which is 5% / year across the life of the portfolio.  Go here to see detail, or use the link on the right.

We had $157 in dividends and a sale of TTM for a long term gain of $35.  The portfolio has bounced back from February market activity and is doing OK.

Portfolio Five Updated Feb 2018, And It’s Tax Time

Portfolio Five is 8 1/2 years old.  The beneficiary contributed $4500 and the trustee $9000, for a total of $13,500.  The current value is $16,640 for a gain of 23%, which is 4.1% / year adjusted for the timing of cash flows.  You can see portfolio five details here or go to the link on the right.

This year we sold 2 stocks, TTM and SAVE, for a short term tax loss of ($78) and a long term gain of $24.  We also had $291 in dividends.

The portfolio is generally doing pretty well and came back a bit from the early February market activity.  We are watching JNPR because it may be in play as a takeover candidate.

Portfolio Four Updated February 2018, and It’s Tax Time

Portfolio Four is 8 1/2 years old.  The beneficiary contributed $4500 and the trustee $9000, for a total of $13,500.  The current value is $18,309 for a gain of 36%, which is 6% / year adjusted for the timing of cash flows.  Go here for details or use the link on the right.

For tax purposes, during 2017 we sold 2 stocks, Devon (DVN) and Spirit Airlines (SAVE) for $465 in long term capital losses, and earned about $297 in dividends.

The portfolio is doing pretty well and has bounced back from recent market losses.