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Best Short-Term Investment Options Right Now

Inflation, volatile financial markets and recession fears can make now feel like the wrong time to invest. At the same time, the risk of hoarding cash is even higher than it used to be: Those dollars under the mattress don’t keep pace with inflation, buying less and less over time.

A short-term investing or savings account acts as an easily accessible place to park money for near-term goals, while also earning some interest to combat inflation. And with today’s higher interest rates, it’s a good time to give these accounts a second look.

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What are short-term investments?

A short-term investment is an investment that you can easily convert to cash — such as a high-yield savings account or a money market account. This is money you might need sooner rather than later.

If you’re investing in the stock market, it’s generally considered a good idea to plan to keep your money invested for at least five years.

But a savings goal of five years or less doesn’t mean you need to let your cash sit idle that whole time. There are several ways to help your money grow even in a limited time frame.

In this article, we break down the best investments for the time frame you need. This includes:

To understand short-term versus long-term investments, it helps to understand the difference between interest rates and investment returns.

For the most part, growing money short-term through interest-bearing accounts is extremely low risk. You go into the agreement knowing how much interest you’ll earn over a preset period of time. Investing in stocks, on the other hand, is far from certain. After a market plunge, it could take months or years to get your money back.

This demonstrates one of the basic tenets of investing: High returns typically require a willingness to take on more risk, while low returns often come with the comfort of low risk — or none at all. So how do you find a balance? Here’s a guide to short-term investment and savings options based on your timeframe.

  • Potential return: Around 5%, which is significantly better than the average at traditional banks.

  • Medium-risk, medium-reward.

  • Potential return: 4% or more for U.S. government bond funds. Potentially more for riskier bond funds.

  • Bank certificates of deposit (CDs).

  • Low risk, medium-high reward.

  • Potential return: Around 5.5% on the high end.

Investments for money you need in less than 2 years

Online savings account or money market account

Potential interest rate: 5% or more

NerdWallet’s analysis shows annual percentage yields for high-yield online savings accounts and money market accounts is currently between 4% and 5%. This may not sound like much, but it’s higher than 0.45%, the current national average interest rate on savings accounts and what you’ll likely be offered at your hometown branch

Both savings and money market accounts are FDIC-insured, meaning your money is protected in the event of a bank failure up to $250,000 per institution, per depositor.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Savings account interest rates are higher than they’ve been in some time. You can take advantage with one of our picks for the best high-yield savings accounts.

Cash management account

Potential interest rate: between 2% and 5%

Another alternative for short-term savings is a cash management account. These accounts are typically offered by robo-advisors and online investment firms (or discount brokers). Some cash management accounts provide check writing, mobile check deposit, bill pay, money transfers, goal-setting and overdraft programs.

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Investments for money you need in 2 to 3 years

Short-term bond funds

Potential interest rate: 4% or more for U.S. government bonds, more for those willing to take on more risk

At the moment, many U.S. government bond funds are lagging behind high-yield savings accounts in terms of annual return. Corporate bond funds — particularly high-yield funds — may return more, but with more risk.

Investments for money you need in 3 to 5 years

Bank certificates of deposit, or CDs

Potential interest rate: Around 5.5% for the highest rates

For money you are sure you don’t need for a set period of time, CDs can be a good risk-free savings option. CDs offer a pre-set, guaranteed interest rate if you lock your money away for a set term (ranging from three months to five or more years). In general, the longer the term, the higher the interest rate.

Keep in mind that you may want to avoid locking your money up in a long-term CD when interest rates are rising, as they are now. If you need to withdraw your money before the CD term ends, you’ll typically pay a penalty of between three and six months’ interest. Also note that CDs may have a minimum deposit requirement.