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Money Market Fund Breaks $1, Is Your 401(k) OK?

Traditionally, money market funds are a safe haven for investors.

But the Reserve Primary Fund became one of the few to display any risk when the money market fund's shares lost 3 cents, and went down to $0.97. Despite the news, “the fundamental structure of money market funds remains sound,” said Investment Company Institute CEO Paul Schott Stevens in a statement.

“Money Market funds historically are very stable and very safe investments and that’s a statement that’s still true today,” says Don Phillips, a Managing Director at Morningstar.

If you’re a 401(k) holder or an investor, then you probably have dollars stored away in a money market account. Here are some tips:

Usually money market funds try to keep the net assets at $1 and you receive interest payments (in the 2% range) that are typically more than bank accounts, says Phillips.

There are very strict rules on what money market funds can invest in, the investments have to be very liquid, or have very short maturities, says Phillips. A few examples: They are investing in very short term [sometimes 3 month] treasury bills or even shorter term federal debt instruments, says Stephen T. McClellen, author of Full of Bull.

“These funds are subject to strict regulation governing credit quality, liquidity, diversification, and transparency," says Stevens. "Securities held by money market funds must be judged highly credit-worthy by both objective and subjective tests, and Rule 2a-7 imposes strict requirements for diversification of assets.”

In the past, if a money market fund dipped below $1, the firm would provide capital to keep the fund safe. Only two money market funds have broken the dollar to date.

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