Can You Lose Money in a Money Market Account?

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

In today’s comprehensive look at money market accounts, we’ll explore why they’ve long been seen as a haven of stability in a volatile financial landscape and tackle pressing questions you may have, such as “Can you lose money in a money market account?” and “Can you lose money in a money market fund?” While these accounts are often considered a conservative choice for parking your hard-earned cash, the short answer to whether you can lose money is yes. However, the likelihood and specific circumstances this might happen are not always straightforward. Buckle up as we dive into the nitty-gritty details, aiming to provide an enhanced understanding of this classic financial tool and make you feel like a personal finance insider.

Why Money Market Accounts Are Considered Safe

Before we delve into the less-known risks, we must recognize why money market accounts have been popularly regarded as a safe investment option. Banks generally offer them and come with FDIC insurance, which guarantees the safety of your deposit up to a specific limit—typically $250,000 per depositor, per institution. Moreover, money market accounts and certificates usually invest in low-risk, short-term debt securities like Treasury bills, which the U.S. government backs.

Example: The Cushion of FDIC Insurance

Imagine Jane has $100,000 in a money market account at a local FDIC-insured bank. If the bank goes under, she’s covered up to $250,000, effectively securing her deposit. Jane can breathe easily.

Can You Lose Money In A Money Market Account

When Money Market Accounts Go South: The Risks You Should Know

Despite the comforting qualities, there are instances where your money isn’t as bulletproof as you’d like to think. Let’s explore those.

Interest Rate Risk

Your money market account earnings can take a hit in fluctuating interest rates. When interest rates plummet, the yield on your account could sink to negligible levels, effectively causing you to lose purchasing power due to inflation.

Example: Losing to Inflation

Consider Joe, who has his savings in a money market account yielding 0.5% annually. With an inflation rate of 2%, Joe is losing 1.5% in purchasing power each year. That’s an actual loss, albeit a silent one.

The Illusion of Money Market Funds

One common misunderstanding is between money market accounts and money market funds. While they may sound similar, they’re inherently different. A money market fund is a mutual fund that aims to keep its net asset value (NAV) at $1 per share. Unlike FDIC-insured money market accounts, these funds come with a level of risk that can result in loss of principal.

Example: The Breaking of the Buck

During the 2008 financial crisis, a prominent money market fund known as the Reserve Primary Fund “broke the buck,” meaning its NAV fell below $1. This rare but eye-opening event led to a rush of withdrawals and proved that you can lose money in a money market fund.

Can A Money Market Account Lose Money

Pulling Back the Curtain: Can Money Market Accounts Lose Money?

In short, money market accounts are safer than many other investment vehicles, but they are not without risks. Whether it’s the quiet loss due to inflation or the risk of mistaking a money market fund for a money market account, you should approach these accounts with both eyes open. So, can you lose money in a money market account? The risk is minimal but present. Can you lose money in a money market fund? The potential is higher.

Can You Lose Money in a Money Market Account: Conclusion

By now, you should have a nuanced understanding of money market accounts and their related cousins, money market funds. If you’re contemplating where to park your cash, make sure you’re clear on the type of account you’re considering and its associated risks. This knowledge is your safety net, empowering you to make smarter financial choices.

Remember, regarding your hard-earned money, there’s no such thing as being too cautious or informed. Keep digging, keep asking questions, and continue learning. The more you know, the better you’ll sleep at night, knowing exactly where your money is and how safe it is—or isn’t.

Can Money Market Accounts Lose Money

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is my money safe in a money market account?

Money in a money market account is generally safe if the account is with an FDIC-insured institution, which provides coverage up to $250,000 per depositor. Money market accounts invest in low-risk assets, making them less volatile than stocks but offering more interest than standard savings accounts.

Do money market accounts ever fail?

Money market accounts at FDIC-insured institutions are generally low-risk and cover up to $250,000 per depositor. While the investment portfolios behind these accounts are designed to be safe, absolute failure is sporadic but not impossible. The key to safety is ensuring the account is FDIC-insured or similarly protected.

Have money market funds ever lost money?

Yes, money market funds, which are different from money market accounts, have occasionally “broken the buck”—meaning the value of a share falls below $1. This is rare but happened notably during the 2008 financial crisis with the Reserve Primary Fund. Money market funds are not FDIC-insured, so while they invest in low-risk assets, a level of risk is involved.

How much money can you lose in a money market fund?

The risk of losing money in a money market fund is low, but it’s not zero. If the fund “breaks the buck,” the net asset value falls below $1 per share. In such rare cases, you could lose a small percentage of your investment. However, these funds are designed to be stable and are regulated to minimize risk. There’s no fixed limit on potential losses, but historical instances of losses have been rare and generally minor.

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

Shawn Plummer is a licensed insurance agent and annuity broker with over a decade of first-hand experience. Since beginning his journey in 2009, he has been pivotal in selling and educating about annuities and insurance products. Still, he has also played an instrumental role in training financial advisors for a prestigious Fortune Global 500 insurance company, Allianz. His insights and expertise have made him a sought-after voice in the industry, leading to features in renowned publications such as Time Magazine, Bloomberg, Entrepreneur, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, Women’s Health Magazine, and many more. Shawn’s driving ambition? To simplify retirement planning, he ensures his clients understand their choices and secure the best insurance coverage at unbeatable rates.

The Annuity Expert is an independent online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. The goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning and find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates

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