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Getting a Decent Return on Safe Investments

Finding the Best Returns

As opposed to stocks and bonds, safe investments are pretty straightforward. The price you pay for safety and liquidity is a lower rate of interest than bonds and other longer-term investments yield. And while cash-equivalent investments hardly offer breathtaking returns, you might as well earn as much as you can on them. With a little bit of effort, you can make the most of these otherwise mundane investments. Here are some suggestions:

Shop for CDs. If you're in the market for a CD, a little shopping around—even outside your hometown—could reap some rewards. First, compare rates among banks in town. If you have a broker, check with him or her about CD offerings the brokerage firm may have. Finally, several Web sites list the highest-yielding CDs in the country, including www.bankrate.com. Remember, as long as the issuing bank is FDIC-insured (or, if offered by a credit union, is backed by credit union insurance) you really shouldn't care where you invest in your CD. You just want the best yield.

Compare yields on money market funds. If you have an account with a mutual fund or a broker offering several different kinds of money market funds (taxable and tax-exempt, for example), be sure to compare yields to make sure the one you select offers the best after-tax return. Of course, you also have to be comfortable that the money fund meets your safety requirements. This may require you to periodically compare the returns among various money market funds, but if you can improve your return by periodically switching among money market funds, you'll have more money in your pocket.

I recently compared money market fund yields among several different financial companies and was surprised at the differences. Some companies are paying considerably higher interest than others. If you have a lot of money residing in money market funds, you might want to shop among the big financial companies to see if you might benefit from switching from a company offering a paltry yield to one with a higher yield.

Save on Treasury bill purchases. Although current convoluted market conditions have driven Treasury bill yields way down, this won't last forever. If you regularly buy T-bills, consider buying them directly from the U.S. Treasury at no cost. Simply visit www.treasurydirect.gov  for information and applications for buying Treasury securities online. If you don't want to go through the effort of buying T-bills directly online, compare fees between your bank and your brokerage firm.

All the information presented on AARP.org is for educational and resource purposes only. We suggest that you consult with your financial or tax adviser with regard to your individual situation. Use of the information contained in this Web site is at the sole choice and risk of the reader.

Also of interest: What are my odds of a flush retirement? >>

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