Savings accounts: Gimme shelter - MoneySense

Savings accounts: Gimme shelter

Waiting out the stormy markets? Here’s where to stash your cash.

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Many investors have decided to sit out the tempest that’s currently lashing the markets by converting a portion of their portfolio to cash. But where should you stash that cash? Safety is paramount, of course, but it would be nice to get a decent return.

Norm Rothery, MoneySense columnist and chief investment strategist at Dan Hallett & Associates, says the safest harbor may be the lowly savings account. “They are a surprisingly good option,” he says. “If you choose a high-interest account, you’ll often find a better rate than you can get with a money market fund.”

As of early April, banks such as ICICI Bank Canada and credit unions such as Steinbach were offering accounts with annual rates of return higher than 3.5%. Deposits of up to $100,000 are guaranteed by the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation at banks such as ICICI, and deposits of any amount are guaranteed at Steinbach by the Credit Union Deposit Guarantee Corporation.

If you want to keep your money inside your trading account, there is another option. Toronto’s Claymore Investments recently launched the Premium Money Market ETF (TSX: CMR), which invests in the same T-bills and commercial paper (but not asset-backed commercial paper) that traditional money market mutual funds do. You can buy the ETF the same way you would a stock on the Toronto Stock Exchange. It charges only 0.25% in annual fees — just one quarter of the median fee charged by money market funds in Canada — and as of early April, it was offering a distribution rate after fees of 3.4%.

The Claymore ETF trades at a set price of $50 at the start of each month, and the price goes up during the month as the fund earns interest. At the end of the month, that interest is paid into your account in cash, and the price resets to $50. You can buy at any point during the month without affecting your return.

Rothery likes the low fee on the Claymore fund, but he still recommends a savings account if you’re sensing an impending apocalypse. “The ETF is not as safe, as it has about half of its money in commercial paper,” he says. “Plus there’s no deposit insurance. So I wouldn’t call it comparable to a bank account.”

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