investing

4 Smart Places to Park Your Cash Now

Happily, you can do better than a 1% yield without taking extraordinary risks.

So much is happening in so many places—from Wall Street to Europe to America’s fracking fields—that your portfolio is probably suffering from motion sickness. Consider that in the first 25 trading days of 2015, the Dow Jones industrial average posted triple-digit moves on 17 occasions.

Then again, high-quality bonds, both taxable and tax-free, and high-yielding stocks, including utilities and real estate investment trusts, have begun the year in fine form. There has also been some good news on the energy front: Even as their profits slide because of the collapse in oil prices, energy giants such as ExxonMobil (symbol XOM) and Chevron (CVX) have resisted the temptation to cut dividends. Rather, they’re postponing exploration projects and paring share buybacks. Meanwhile, energy-related master limited partnerships continue to increase cash payouts.

On the fixed-income side, I grant that many bonds are expensive. How could they not be when the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond yields just 1.9%? Yet my fellow Kiplinger’s columnist James Glassman posits that the yield on the 10-year bond will sink below 1%. If he’s right, holders of long-term bond funds will reap additional capital gains because bond prices move in the opposite direction of yields.

It’s a different story if you’re seeking steady income. A 1% yield for 10 years just doesn’t cut it. You can get as much in an insured online savings account (see Best of the Online Banks).

Happily—and this is my primary message this month—you can do better than a 1% yield without taking extraordinary risks. Naturally, you’ll have to go beyond the bank for better cash returns. As always, I strongly advise against tearing up any successful income plan because of transitory news events. A broadly balanced collection of dividend stocks, high-quality bonds, and securities that pass along energy and real estate income is as sensible a strategy today as it was last year.

We offer four worthy holding tanks for your cash—three mutual funds and one exchange-traded fund—listed in descending order of current yield. Each pays you monthly. I suggest putting 25% of your short-term, low-risk money in each. (Yields and returns are through February 6.)

Fidelity Floating Rate High Income (symbol FFRHX; current 30-day yield, 4.4%; one-year total return, 0.6%), the original no-load bank-loan fund, delivers a generous yield. The fund carries some credit risk; the loans it invests in are made to companies with subpar credit ratings. But because the rates on those loans adjust regularly, the fund should maintain its share price in the unlikely event that short-term rates surge.

William Blair Income Fund (WBRRX; yield, 1.7%; one-year return, 2.7%) owns mortgage securities and high-quality corporate bonds with an average maturity of about four years. It provides decent yield without taking on too much interest-rate risk.

Metropolitan West Low Duration Bond Fund (MWLDX; yield, 1.1%; one-year return, 1.2%) sports a modest yield, but its low average maturity pretty much eliminates any price erosion from a bump in short-term rates.

Vanguard Short-Term Bond ETF (BSV; yield, 0.9%; one-year return, 1.2%) tracks an index of government and corporate bonds with one- to five-year maturities. It pays a hair less than 1%, but on any given day, the yield can climb above 1%. Because it’s an ETF, you can get in and out of it during the trading session. Annual expenses are a rock-bottom 0.10%.

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