Safe Asset: What it Means and how it Works (2024)

What Is a Safe Asset?

Safe assets are assets which, in and of themselves, do not carry a high risk of loss across all types of market cycles. Some of the most common types of safe assets historically include real estate property, cash, Treasury bills, money market funds, and U.S. Treasuries mutual funds.

The safest assets are known as risk-free assets, such as sovereign debt instruments issued by governments of developed countries.

Understanding Safe Assets

Safe assets can also be referred to as safe havens, offering investors safe investments thatpreserve capital and withstand high levels of market volatility. Most investors will hold some portion of safe assets as part of a balanced portfolio, and many conservative investors may hold the majority of these assets in their portfolio to ensure capital preservation. Real estate property, cash and Treasury bills are some of the assets investors may consider safe.

A safe asset investment diversifies an investor’s portfolio and is beneficial in times of market volatility, where it often provides liquidity.Most times, when the market rises or falls, it is for a short period of time. However, there are times, such as during an economic recession, when the downturn of the market is prolonged. When the market is in turmoil, the market value of most investments falls steeply.

Treasury bills are backed by the U.S. government and considered to be risk-free. Investors in the U.S. can look to these investments as a safe asset since the default rate is nearly zero. Treasury bills are offered with varying maturities, and yields can vary with market cycles. In the United States, T-bills are considered to be the risk-free asset, and the interest rate attached to them the risk-free rate of return.

Key Takeaways

  • Safe assets are assets which, in and of themselves, do not carry a high risk of loss across all types of market cycles.
  • Common safe assets include cash, Treasuries, money market funds, and gold.
  • The safest assets are known as risk-free assets, such as sovereign debt instruments issued by governments of developed countries.

U.S. Treasuries Mutual Funds

Many investors choose to use safe mutual fund assets as cash sweep vehicles for idle cash in their portfolios. U.S. government mutual funds can provide an ideal investment for this holding. These funds are diversified among U.S. government securities. Money market mutual funds are among the most popular cash sweep vehicles. These funds can offer investors slightly higher returns than standard checking and savings accounts while still remaining risk-free. U.S. government money market mutual funds will hold short-term U.S. government securities. These funds have a mandated net asset value of $1.

Safe assets are a product of time and circ*mstance. During the 2008-09 financial crisis, for instance, money market funds 'broke the buck' and traded under $1 per share causing many to question their status as safe assets at the time.

U.S. government mutual funds outside the money market category canbe another safe asset, as they also hold risk-free government securities. These funds are structured like traditional mutual funds. They can be constructed with government securities of varying maturities. Generally, longer-term U.S. government mutual funds will offer higher returns than short-term or intermediate-term portfolios.

Two of the most popular long-term U.S. government mutual funds include the Vanguard Extended Duration Treasury Index Fund and the Fidelity Long-Term Treasury Bond Index Fund. The Vanguard Extended Duration Treasury Index Fund is a passive fund that seeks to track the performance of the Bloomberg U.S. Treasury STRIPS 20 to 30 Year Equal Par Bond Index. The Fidelity Long-Term Treasury Bond Index Fund is also an index fund and seeks to track the Bloomberg U.S. Long Treasury Index.

Safe Asset: What it Means and how it Works (2024)


What is the meaning of safe assets? ›

There is growing academic and policy interest in so called “safe assets”, that is assets that have stable nominal payoffs, are highly liquid and carry minimal credit risk.

What is the safest asset to own? ›

Key Takeaways
  • Understanding risk, including the risks involved in investing in the major asset classes, is important research for any investor.
  • Generally, CDs, savings accounts, cash, U.S. Savings Bonds and U.S. Treasury bills are the safest options, but they also offer the least in terms of profits.

What are safe vs risky assets? ›

In the financial world “safe” and “risk” reference the potential for you to lose your initial investment. In a safe investment you can expect the possibility of losing what you invested to be low. While you won't likely lose your money in this investment the return on the money you invest will also be low.

How do you explain asset classes? ›

An asset class is a grouping of investments that exhibit similar characteristics and are subject to the same laws and regulations. Equities (e.g., stocks), fixed income (e.g., bonds), cash and cash equivalents, real estate, commodities, and currencies are common examples of asset classes.

What are three types of assets in security? ›

Assets generally include hardware (e.g. servers and switches), software (e.g. mission critical applications and support systems) and confidential information.

What are the most risky assets? ›

Equities and real estate generally subject investors to more risks than do bonds and money markets. They also provide the chance for better returns, requiring investors to perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine where their money is best held.

Is money a safe asset? ›

Safe assets are assets which, in and of themselves, do not carry a high risk of loss across all types of market cycles. Some of the most common types of safe assets historically include real estate property, cash, Treasury bills, money market funds, and U.S. Treasuries mutual funds.

What is the safest investment to not lose money? ›

Here are the best low-risk investments in April 2024:
  • High-yield savings accounts.
  • Money market funds.
  • Short-term certificates of deposit.
  • Series I savings bonds.
  • Treasury bills, notes, bonds and TIPS.
  • Corporate bonds.
  • Dividend-paying stocks.
  • Preferred stocks.
Apr 1, 2024

What are the top 5 assets? ›

The five most common asset classes are equities, fixed-income securities, cash, marketable commodities and real estate.

What is the best asset in the world? ›

The top 10 most valuable assets in the world by market capitalization are 1. Gold ($14.5 trillion) 2. Microsoft ($3 trillion) 3.

What is the most secure asset in the world? ›

U.S. Treasury securities are considered to be about the safest investments on earth. That's because they are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Government bonds offer fixed terms and fixed interest rates.

What is the best asset to invest in? ›

11 best investments right now
  • Money market funds.
  • Mutual funds.
  • Index Funds.
  • Exchange-traded funds.
  • Stocks.
  • Alternative investments.
  • Cryptocurrencies.
  • Real estate.
Mar 19, 2024

What asset gives the highest return? ›

Which investment gives high return? Investments in equity or equity-oriented instruments, such as stocks and equity mutual funds, typically offer high returns. However, they come with higher risk compared to fixed-income investments. Real estate and certain types of ULIPs can also offer high returns.

What are the 4 types of assets? ›

Assets can be broadly categorized into current (or short-term) assets, fixed assets, financial investments, and intangible assets.

What is the best answer to define an asset? ›

An asset is something containing economic value and/or future benefit. An asset can often generate cash flows in the future, such as a piece of machinery, a financial security, or a patent. Personal assets may include a house, car, investments, artwork, or home goods.

Is the dollar a safe haven asset? ›

Common safe-haven assets include gold and other precious metals, safe-haven currencies represented by the dollar, defensive stocks and treasury bonds. In reality, investors may need to analyze the nature and causes of each economic crisis to determine which assets are more risk-averse in the current market turmoil.

What does assets mean in legal terms? ›

An asset is something of value owned by an individual or organization. An asset can be physical property like a building or intangible property such as a patent. Assets are an important part of and differ in many areas of law.

Can I keep my money in a safe at home? ›

Where to safely keep cash at home. Just like any other piece of paper, cash can get lost, wet or burned. Consider buying a fireproof and waterproof safe for your home. It's also useful for storing other valuables in your home such as jewelry and important personal documents.

What does assets mean in housing? ›

In simple financial terms, an asset is anything that can be owned that can also provide value for the owner. Since you have the option of reselling your house or converting it to a rental property, most people assume that their house is treated entirely as an asset.


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