Savings should be a part of everyone’s financial plans. We all need some money put back for a rainy day. Saving for our children’s college education is also important. And having a retirement fund is a must.
Putting our savings under a mattress isn’t a very good strategy. Not only could it be stolen or burned up in a fire, but it doesn’t earn interest. Putting our savings in the bank keeps it safe and allows it to earn interest, allowing us to come out ahead. But how far you come out ahead depends on the bank and the account you choose.
When it comes to general purpose savings, most people opt for a regular savings account. Such accounts earn rather low interest, but they give us quick and easy access to our money. Some banks allow us to link them to a checking account for quick deposits and withdrawals, and some even provide debit cards.
In order to earn higher interest rates, we must usually deposit larger amounts of money. Some accounts pay varying interest rates depending on the balance. Others have a minimum balance that must be met to avoid fees, but pay higher interest no matter what the balance. And then there are money market accounts and certificates of deposit, which are best suited to those who plan to leave a significant amount of money in the bank for several months or years.
For retirement savings, a 401K is usually the best option. These plans are made available through employers and allow employees to make pre-tax contributions from their earnings, and interest earned is not taxable. The employer may even match the contribution up to a certain amount. If a 401K is not an option, an IRA can be opened at a bank. Contributions are made with after-tax dollars, but the interest earned is not taxed.
There are a few options for college savings. A 529 plan is similar to an IRA, but is used for college expenses instead of retirement. The Coverdell ESA is often used in conjunction with a 529 plan, but there are some differences such as contribution and age limits.
When planning to open a savings account of any kind, it’s important to do some research. High interest rates are a definite advantage. But you also need an account that gives you the level of access to your money that you want. Fees should also be taken into consideration, as they can cancel out your interest earnings.
Credit unions are one of the best places to start your search for a savings account. These member-owned institutions usually offer competitive rates and many other benefits. Membership is usually restricted to those who live in certain areas or work for certain companies.
Online banks have been giving traditional banks a run for their money when it comes to savings accounts. They tend to offer more competitive rates, and may offer features that you can’t get from your local bank. But some local banks are more competitive than others, and they offer something that online banks cannot: face-to-face service.
Finding the right savings account can help you get the most out of your money. But it’s important to consider your needs carefully before you choose. The best account for your neighbor, sister or friend could be completely wrong for you.