Interest rates continue to rise, with the Federal Reserve recently raising its benchmark rate to a range of 5.25% to 5.5%. While borrowers may face higher costs, new investors in short-term Treasurys now realize these higher annual rates. However, investors in certain bond ETFs could also realize this rate with added liquidity, and convenience, while potentially avoiding state and local taxes.
Short-term investment options
There are several common approaches for investing in the short term, which we characterize as less than one year. Thankfully, these investments have zero default risk because the full faith and credit of the US Government backs them.
These investments include bank CDs, direct purchases of US short-term Treasury bills, money market funds, and certain Bond ETFs. Firstly, bank CDs and money market funds may be the most convenient for individual investors. Short-term bank CDs are currently yielding over 5%, and money market funds provide similar returns within most brokerage accounts. Unfortunately, both of these short-term investments are often subject to both state and federal income taxes. For residents of California, Hawaii, and New Jersey, the top state income tax rate exceeds 10%.
Bond ETFs for Tax-efficient investing in the short term
Alternatively, similar returns are possible if an investor chooses to purchase short-term Treasury bills from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Or, an investor may purchase US Government Bonds ETFs. Both of these options are exempt from state taxes. However, treasury bills have maturity dates of 4, 8, 13, 26, or 52 weeks. So, at maturity, the investor receives back their investment plus interest. That means that an investor would need to regularly re-invest in treasuries at TreasuryDirect.gov.
To avoid the need to continually re-invest, and likely avoid state taxes, there are several short-term Bond ETFs to choose from. Here are just a few, that with reinvested dividends have returned 2.5-2.8% so far this year (e.g. from December 30, 2022, to July 28, 2023).
- SPDR Bloomberg 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (ticker: BIL)
- iShares Short Treasury Bond ETF (ticker: SHV)
- Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (ticker: GBIL)
- iShares 0-3 Month Treasury Bond ETF (ticker: SGOV)