Featured entries from our Journal

Details Are Part of Our Difference

Embracing the Evidence at Anheuser-Busch – Mid 1980s

529 Best Practices

David Booth on How to Choose an Advisor

The One Minute Audio Clip You Need to Hear

Author: Matt Zenz

Why Not Just Invest in Money Market Funds Currently Yielding 5%?

At Hill Investment Group, we pride ourselves on our steadfast commitment to long-term investing principles. Our philosophy centers around ignoring short-term market noise and focusing on sustainable, enduring strategies. Recent interest rate increases have sparked questions among our clients, particularly regarding money market funds and how to approach fixed-income investing in this evolving interest rate environment. If you have questions, we prepared this data with you in mind. 

For over a decade, the Federal Reserve has maintained historically low-interest rates since the financial crisis of 2008. However, more recently, we have witnessed an increase in the federal funds rate (the interest rate at which depository institutions [banks and credit unions] lend reserve balances to other depository institutions overnight on an uncollateralized basis), signaling a departure from the exceptionally low-interest rate environment we have grown accustomed to.

What does this higher interest rate environment mean for investors? 

As investors, we have a range of choices, from safe assets like short-term government debt to riskier alternatives such as venture capital. Each investment option carries a distinct level of risk, and investors typically opt for riskier assets only if they offer higher expected returns compared to safer ones. For example, if a 1-Year Treasury bill (US Government Debt) provided a 5% return, no rational investor would buy a 1-Year General Electric bond (a risker bet) paying a 4% return. Therefore, to entice investors to buy its bonds, General Electric would need to offer more than a 5% return.

To determine the riskiness of different investments, we can compare them to the least risky option, which is typically short-term US government debt. This is where the Federal Funds Rate comes in. The Federal Funds Rate acts as a benchmark for determining the interest rates of the least risky assets: short-term US government debt. As of May 15th, 2023, the federal funds rate was 5.08%.

This means an investor in a money market fund should expect a ~5% return for this low-risk investment. Other investment options need to offer returns surpassing this baseline to entice investors.

For instance, one of the corporate bond funds we like to invest in, Avantis Core Fixed Income ETF (AVIG), has a yield to maturity or expected return of 4.5%. That doesn’t look alluring compared to a money market yielding 5%. Why would any investor choose to invest in AVIG over a money market fund?

This is where the duration or timeline of the investment comes into play. The Federal Funds Rate is reset eight times a year, potentially causing fluctuating returns for money market accounts. For example, over the last year and a half, the return of money market accounts has increased from 0% to 5%. Over the next year and a half, it could return to 0% or rise even higher. No one knows what the Fed will do in the future, but Investors have expectations and use their expectations to invest in bond markets. Their investment sets market prices. A yield curve depicts the aggregate expectations of all investors for how interest rates will change in the future.

Looking at the current yield curve, investors can gauge the return they should anticipate for different investment durations, i.e. holding periods.


US Treasuries Yield Curve




While market predictions are often wrong, there is no way of knowing if the market is over or underestimating future rate changes. Numerous financial blogs and media pundits claim they magically “know” where markets are going.

However, this is precisely where the beauty of markets reveals itself. The market aggregates everyone’s opinion on where rates will go, and rather than trying to outguess, we ignore the noise and trust the information embedded in market prices.

This brings us back to answering the question of “where” to invest. Money market funds typically have short durations of around 15 days. Investing in a money market fund, you could expect that 5% return for about 15 days. A month from now, the return could be higher or lower. The yield curve suggests that the market believes rates will decrease as longer-duration bonds have lower yields. For example, AVIG, our corporate bond fund, has a duration of 6 years. Looking at the yield curve, 6-year treasuries have an expected return of 3.5%. Thus, comparing 4.5% to 3.5%, you are being compensated with about 1% extra return for taking credit risk in AVIG compared to treasuries.

Interest rate changes are like rising or receding tides that lift or lower all boats. As interest rates fluctuate, we adhere to a consistent investment strategy. We understand that the risk/return tradeoffs are linked, and we do not attempt to time interest rate movements. This is why we do not recommend shifting your fixed-income investments to money market funds. We simply don’t know how long those relatively high, short-term rates will exist. The price of the funds we buy already incorporates the odds and risks of rates going up, down, or staying flat.

Instead, we focus on your long-term investment objectives and individual risk tolerances. We create a plan that meets your needs regardless of whether interest rates are rising or falling. Ultimately, all expected future interest rate changes are already factored into market prices, and it is not worth trying to outguess them.

That does not mean there are no appropriate use cases to invest in money market funds though. For example, if you are about to buy a home, it may make sense to invest the down payment in a money market fund to earn some interest with low risk.

We are here for you to review the different investment options and find a financial plan that works for your needs, with the goal of putting the odds of financial success in your favor.


Hill Investment Group is a registered investment adviser. Registration of an Investment Advisor does not imply any level of skill or training.  This information is educational and does not intend to make an offer for the sale of any specific securities, investments, or strategies.  Investments involve risk and, past performance is not indicative of future performance. Return will be reduced by advisory fees and any other expenses incurred in the management of a client’s account. Consult with a qualified financial adviser before implementing any investment strategy.

April Showers…and Taxes

If it’s April, taxes are on the minds of most Americans. Based on decisions made throughout the prior calendar year, investors might be caught with a nasty tax surprise and need to write a large check to Uncle Sam. We consider your taxes daily to avoid these surprises at Hill Investment Group. Practices we implement, like tax loss harvesting and asset location (tax-inefficient asset classes in tax-deferred accounts), can meaningfully reduce the taxes an investor may owe annually. However, we are talking about one of the most impactful practices today: investing in ETFs rather than mutual funds.

ETFs and mutual funds are two types of investment vehicles and are simply different ways of holding a group of underlying securities like stocks or bonds. Most investment strategies can use either structure to execute their investment strategy. For example, Dimensional Fund Advisors and Avantis Investors, two companies we invest with, have both a mutual fund and an ETF for their US Small Value strategies. For each firm, the strategies are run the same way. However, they have a different legal structure that, in turn, has different tax consequences. 

ETFs rarely distribute capital gains at the end of the year because of the way they rebalance and trade.

On the other hand, mutual funds almost always distribute some capital gains. The table below outlines the capital gain distributions for four specific funds in 2022.

Vehicle Ticker Fund Capital Gain Distribution (%) Taxes Owed (%)
Fund DFSVX Dimensional US Small Cap Value Fund 5.0% 1.0%
ETF DFSV Dimensional US Small Cap Value ETF 0.0% 0.0%
Fund AVUVX Avantis US Small Cap Value Fund 5.6% 1.1%
ETF AVUV Avantis US Small Cap Value ETF 0.0% 0.0%


Both the mutual funds distributed ~5% of their value in capital gains, whereas the ETFs did not distribute any. This means that investors in the mutual fund owed about 1% (assuming a 20% capital gains tax rate) in taxes to the government. For every $100,000 invested in the small value strategy, they owed $1,000 in taxes this April. Investors in the ETF, the same strategy but with a different legal structure, owed $0 in taxes this April.

By investing primarily in ETFs across our models, we avoid capital gain distributions for our clients in those funds and meaningfully reduce their tax bills yearly.

Let me know if you have questions or comments about this or any other investment-related topics by emailing me at: zenz@hillinvestmentgroup.com.


Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies.  Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed.  Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed here. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Play this Game

Timing the market can take on many different forms, but we’ve all done it at some point in our lives, even me. Sometimes the market is at an all-time high and we feel there is no way it can keep going up for much longer. We decide to wait for that market correction before investing. Sometimes there is turmoil in the world, markets are falling, and we want to wait to invest until that volatility subsides. In the moment, it always seems to feel obvious what the correct “market timing” strategy is.

Unfortunately, in the real world, timing the market is extremely difficult to do. As a firm of investment professionals, we recently tried to artificially time the market during a team Zoom…and we failed miserably. We used the website: Try to Time the Market to test ourselves. The website simulates a random 10-year historical return sequence from the US stock market. Over those ten years, you get one chance to sell and go to cash, and one chance to buy back into the market. You will beat the market return if you pick the right time to get out and get back in. Sounds easy, just sell when the market is at a high, and buy when it’s at a low.

As a firm, we only outperformed the market 40% of the time. Meaning 60% of the time, we would have been better off if we had just stayed invested the entire 10-year period. To make matters worse, when we did beat the market, it was only by a few percentage points, but when we lost to the market, it was usually by 50+%.

The game only takes a minute to play. Give it a few tries, and see how you fair.  We’d love to hear how you did.

Why did we fail at trying to time the market? On average, the market goes up a few hundredths of a percent every day. This means that each day your money is out of the market you are losing out on that potential gain. If the market actually went up a tiny bit every day, no one would ever think to try and time it. However, the volatility of the market makes trying to time it so enticing. If you just avoid some of those bad days, months, or years, it can make a drastic difference in your net wealth. The trouble is if you miss out on those great days, months, or years, it can also make a drastic difference in your net wealth. Given, on average, that the market goes up every day, you are better off not trying to play the timing game and simply stay invested. 

You’re better off taking the long view.

Featured entries from our Journal

Details Are Part of Our Difference

Embracing the Evidence at Anheuser-Busch – Mid 1980s

529 Best Practices

David Booth on How to Choose an Advisor

The One Minute Audio Clip You Need to Hear

Hill Investment Group