You have money, you need a place to put it for a while and the financial institutions are lining up at the door. You may be tempted to fall for whatever suitor makes a good first impression, but remember: This choice is all about you.
The best short-term savings account is the one that best matches your needs in the following areas:
- Access: How often will you need to dip into the account, and what's your preferred method of access -- ATM, check writing, online, and the like?
- Interest: How much will the institution pay you for babysitting your money, and does the amount you need to park in the account qualify for the best rates?
- Service: Might you require bells and whistles, such as in-person customer service, or are you more of a DIY, low-maintenance customer?
- Penalties: Should your plans change -- you need to get to your moola sooner than planned, for example -- how harsh of a punishment will you need to endure?
Now, let's review the major aspirants:
Checking accounts are meant for transactions, not savings. That's why many don't pay much, if any, interest. However, some banks do combine the conveniences of checking with the return of a money market account. Also, as "asset management" accounts at brokerages become more feature-rich -- offering unlimited check writing, ATM access, and money market rates -- more folks are shunning the banks in favor of brokers.
- Your money is only a check or an ATM machine away.
- A bank branch is usually not far, often in your grocery store, if you're so old-fashioned as to want to deal with a human being.
- As with all bank deposits, checking accounts are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
- Depending on the bank, you may not earn much, if anything, on the money in your account.
- Many checking accounts require a minimum balance or charge fees, or both, which are a pox upon your pecuniary patience.
In the old days, savings accounts -- or passbook accounts, as they're sometimes known -- were the most popular rest area for short-term savings. Fortunately, folks are getting smarter and parking their pelf in higher-yielding investments. The pittance you earn in most savings accounts isn't enough to even keep up with inflation.
- The money in a savings account is insured by the FDIC.
- Account minimums are often low.
- The return on savings accounts is so low; some mattresses pay more in interest.
High-yield bank accounts
Nowadays, you can find high-yield savings and checking accounts. They're an ideal place to park money for your monthly bills. They offer flexibility (you can add or withdraw funds at any time) and liquidity (your dough isn't locked in for a specific time period). Some even boast interest rates on par with more restrictive investments like CDs. The best rates by far are offered by online-only banks that keep costs low by cutting back on frills.
- Better rates than many standard bank accounts.
- Same FDIC insurance applies to high-yield accounts.
- Bare-bones banks with no ATM/debit access or check-writing privileges can be a big hassle if you need your cash fast.
- Customers must coordinate their cash flow by transferring money back and forth from the online bank to a linked checking/savings or brokerage account. That means delays -- two to five days -- before everything's reconciled.
- Watch out for limited-time teaser rates by researching the product's six-month interest rate history.
Money market deposit accounts
Money market deposit accounts are offered by banks, usually require a minimum balance, and permit a limited number of transactions per month (six transfers, three of which can be checks written on the account).
- Money market deposit accounts are very liquid. Most allow for easy access through checks, transfers, and even ATMs.
- Because they are offered by banks, money market accounts are insured by the FDIC.
- Unfortunately, you may pay for the liquidity by receiving less in return than from certificates of deposit.
- If your account falls below the minimum required balance, or you exceed the limited number of transactions, you might pay a penalty.
Money market funds
Money market funds are offered by brokerages and mutual fund families. These funds invest in highly liquid, safe securities such as certificates of deposit, government securities, and commercial paper (i.e., short-term obligations issued by corporations).
- With a money market fund, you can have the money in your hot little hands very quickly. Often, you can write checks or use an ATM card.
- The returns on money market funds are typically higher than the return on money market accounts.
- Issuers go to great lengths to keep the NAV (the price of each share of the fund) at $1, so your principal is relatively safe.
- Money market funds are not FDIC insured.
- There is no guarantee that the NAV will remain at $1.
Certificates of deposit (CDs)
CDs are debt instruments with a specific maturity, which can be anywhere from three months to 60 months (i.e., five years). Most CDs are issued by banks, but they can be bought through brokerages.
- CDs are very safe because most are offered by banks, so they are FDIC insured.
- Depending on how long it is to maturity, CDs may pay more than money markets.
Your money is off-limits until the CD matures. If you must, you can redeem the CD early, but you'll pay a penalty.
U.S. government bills or notes
"Treasuries" are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Treasury bills mature in less than a year; Treasury notes mature between two and 10 years.
- Treasuries are considered the safest investments in the world.
- They can be bought directly, commission-free, at TreasuryDirect.
- They are exempt from state and local taxes.
- If you shop around, you might get a better return from money markets, CDs, and corporate bonds.
- If you need your money before the security matures, you may not get back all of your original investment.
No, they have nothing to do with the Internet. I Bonds are inflation-indexed savings bonds issued by the U.S. government. The amount an I Bond pays is adjusted semiannually to keep up with inflation and protect the purchasing power of your money.
- I Bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.
- The "I" in I Bond protects your investment against inflation risk.
- They are sold in manageable denominations, ranging from $50 to $10,000.
- They can be bought from most financial institutions, including TreasuryDirect.
- The earnings are exempt from state and local taxes, and can be tax-free if used for post-secondary education expenses.
- Taxes on earnings can be deferred for up to 30 years.
- You must hold an I Bond for at least 12 months, and you will pay a penalty of three months' earnings if you redeem the bond before owning it for five years.
Municipal bonds (or "munis," as the big talkers refer to them) are issued by state and local governments in order to build schools, highways, and other projects for the public good. Municipal bonds are most attractive to high-income investors looking for tax-friendly income.
- Munis are just a step down from U.S. securities in terms of safety.
- Income is exempt from federal taxes, and might be exempt from state and local taxes if you live in the municipality that issued the bond (check on the tax implications beforehand).
- Interest from munis is relatively low. Unless you're in a high tax bracket, you'll usually get a better return from other investments.
- You may have to pay a commission to buy municipal bonds.
- If you need your money before the bond matures, you may not get back all of your original investment.
Corporate bonds represent debt issued by companies, from the blue chips to the "cow chips," if you know what we mean. The more creditworthy the company, the less it'll pay in interest. Moody's and Standard & Poor's rate companies as to their ability to meet their debt obligations. Only short-term bonds are appropriate for short-term savings.
- Corporate bonds usually pay more than government securities, money markets, and CDs.
- The company that issued the bond could suspend interest payments, or even go belly up.
- You may have to pay a commission to buy bonds.
- If you need your money before the bond matures, you may not get back all of your original investment.
Bond funds are mutual funds that pool the money of investors to buy bonds of all stripes.
- They are an efficient way to buy bonds in small increments and get the diversification that minimizes the risk that you picked a bond from a deadbeat company.
- The NAV (i.e., the share price) of a bond mutual fund fluctuates, because of interest rate movements and the bonds bought and sold inside the fund. Therefore, you're not sure exactly how much of your original investment will be around when it's time to take your dough. Likewise, the yield on a mutual fund fluctuates.
- You will pay an ongoing expense to own the fund, called the "expense ratio," and you may have to pay a commission, called a "load."
Could you cover the cost of a new water heater if yours suddenly went on the fritz? Would you have to put the unplanned purchase on a credit card, and then adopt a Ramen-only diet for months afterwards just to cover the tab?
Having money at-the-ready for life's financial hiccups -- both planned and otherwise -- can cut a lot of stress from your life. Give us just 60 seconds, and we'll show you how to establish a short-term stash of cash in no time.
0:60 Calculate how much you spend every month
The first rule of savings is to bank enough to cover the necessities if -- knock on wood -- an emergency arises. How much do you need? Well, how much do you spend on a monthly basis?
Add up what you spend each month on necessities such as food, shelter, transportation to work, and anything that you promised to buy your kids. (If you're not into keeping detailed records, Mint.com's free online service can give you a pretty good immediate snapshot of where your money goes.)
0:52: Add some padding for "just-in-case" scenarios
There are small emergencies (bad perm) and big ones (job loss). Bump up your monthly spending number a tad to account for things like job-hunting expenses, should you suddenly find yourself in need of a new gig. Then multiply that figure by three or six (for the number of months that you want to cover), factoring in other available monetary resources and the number of people for whom you're financially responsible.
Voila! Now you have the amount of money you need to stash in your emergency savings account.
0:48: Gaze into your 1- to 5-year "big expenditures" crystal ball
With your emergency savings covered, now it's time to figure out what other kind of cash you should put aside. Planning a renovation, extreme dental work or a family vacation? These things are also part of your short-term savings strategy. Put 'em down on paper and estimate how much these purchases will cost.
0:40: Figure out how quickly you will meet this goal
You want to fund your cash kitty ASAP (emergency expenses tend not to wait around until it's convenient). Come up with an amount you can afford to contribute each month. Make it one of those must-pay expenses -- just like your electric bill and grocery money. Yes, it's that important. Once the emergency stash is stashed, move on to the non-emergency short-term savings goals. (Use our savings calculators to crunch the numbers.)
0:37: Pick a parking spot for your cash
Easy access is essential when we're talking about emergency savings, so your money should be stashed somewhere you'll be able to get your hands on it quickly ... in case of, well, an emergency. It should also be in a "safe" investment -- meaning one that won't tank every time the stock market takes a tumble. That narrows it down to:
- High-yield savings accounts.
- Money market accounts.
- Money market mutual funds.
For non-emergency savings (where you pinky-swear to let the money sit untouched until you need it) less liquid investments -- such as certificates of deposit -- may offer you a better interest rate on your money. (We've covered the ins and outs of all these types of accounts in "Where to Park Your Cash.")
0:29 Click around and comparison-shop
Look at bank ads in newspapers, check out the best national rates on Bankrate.com, see what your broker is paying on cash in your brokerage account, ask your regular bank or local credit union what they offer, and get information on money market funds from websites like iMoneyNet. Find out:
- What interest rates are available.
- What are the comparable yields over identical time periods.
- What timeframe the rate applies to.
- What fees (if any) there are to purchase and maintain the investment.
- The minimum investment required to get favorable interest rates.
(Investors beware: Some institutions will offer aggressive rates in order to lure you to send them your dinero, only to lower the rates soon thereafter. Check historical rates at Bankrate.com to test the interest rates over time.)
0:17 Just do it
The clock is ticking. There's no time to waste. A short-term emergency fund is one of The Motley Fool's top money "must-haves." In fact, it may be the very thing that saves you from a long stretch of high-interest credit card debt after a fender-bender, chipped tooth, basement flood, or really unfortunate haircut.
0:03: Extra credit: Automate it!
If you're having trouble saving, we highly recommend an automatic transfer program. You can also see if your employer will split your paycheck (direct deposit) between your ordinary account and your short-term savings account, or you could set up an auto-transfer from your checking account into your emergency account.
Got a few minutes to spare?
Here's more advice on socking away your cash:
- Where exactly to park your cash.
- How to create a cash cushion.
- Disaster-proof your finances and sleep easier at night.
- Do some quick savings calculations to see how much you need for a rainy day.
Everyone is hoping for a better year and MWI Consultants Inc wanted to be a part of it. Here’s some of the basic financial tips we prepared on how to have a successful year.
A. File your taxes early
We’re certain that you’ve heard this a thousand times before, but it’s really effective. Scammers are everywhere, so file your taxes as soon as possible just to be safe. They might steal your Social Security number and file your taxes electronically, and leave you with a big tax refund on their hands. You don’t want that to happen, right? So accumulate your tax documents now!
B. Increase your contributions
Make sure to increase your contributions to your employer retirement plan with a minimum of 1 percent. You should be maximizing your tax-deferred contributions and aim to contribute enough to get all of the matching funds from your employer.
C. Get started on your estate planning
Schedule a meeting with an estate-planning attorney in 2016 and begin your estate planning. Everything must be in order just in case something happens to you for the benefit of your loved ones.
D. Give importance to your health
MWI Consultants Inc strongly believes that health is wealth and we’re aware that health care is expensive. We’re certain that the biggest part of your retirement expenses will be health care-related. Even if you deny it, it is the reality that’s waiting for all of us and different studies from various organizations support that. It is necessary to invest in your lifestyle today by acquiring that gym membership and actually begin using it. You can hire a personal trainer if you’re not that motivated to do so. You MUST give great importance to your health and start working out. Good health yields enormous savings, not to mention quality of life. Health is your most powerful weapon against all odds, so cherish it as long as you live.
E. Learn financial education
You cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. Dedicate your time in learning financial education to become prepared for the odds of the future. With this, you’ll be able to spend your money wisely and you’ll be smarter in managing your money. If you need help regarding this matter, MWI Consultants Inc is always available to guide you.
F. Pay yourself first
When it comes to budgeting, it’s not only about paying the bills; it’s also about paying yourself. The level of priority you give in paying your bills should be the same level with handling your savings account. Always include your savings in your monthly budget – consider it as one of the necessary bills you need to pay.
G. Set up an emergency fund
There are a lot of unexpected situations that could happen in your life, such as job loss, decrease in income, or medical emergency, so it’s important to have an emergency fund.
How you handle your money today will define your future, so be careful. MWI Consultants Inc promises to post a lot of different financial tips in the future to help everyone achieving their financial goals.
Perhaps you’ve already seen hundreds of articles telling you how to save money, but MWI Consultants Inc has much better tips to give you for a better and smarter future! We list all of the best possible tips for you to consider and should accomplish. You should definitely do these things even if you’re still young – it is much better, believe us.
Contribute to 401(k) ASAP!
New research from Fidelity Investments states that 36 percent of retirees wished they had saved more during their working years and 33 percent wished they had started saving earlier. Imagine how many individuals regret of not having earlier savings.
MWI Consultants Inc has this particular strategy that will pay off more in the long run – it is to make the most of your 401(k) now and max out your employer-match contribution. Don’t let that free cash disappear and negotiate to be vested sooner and/or receive a higher match opposed to $1k to $2k more every year.
Don’t tell yourself you’ll pay yourself back later because you won’t
Most of us has this attitude of getting some money into our personal savings or 401(k) for some emergencies or something recreational (or buying the newest brand of smartphone that’s really, really cool) and then we convince ourselves that we’ll pay ourselves back for the deduction soon so that we feel less guilty about it, but there’s a higher chance that it will never happen! MWI Consultants Inc believes that after going through this post, you’re going to be more careful in spending your money. Don’t be a capricious individual when it comes to money. Be more responsible as possible. Emergencies tend to happen sometimes so make sure you have a separate fund for it.
Credit cards are not free money!
Once you’ve turned 18, don’t be surprised if you’re targeted by credit card companies. MWI Consultants Inc advises you to become more cautious and don’t fall into their trap. Numerous students with no job have been victims of this scheme. Some of them maxed out their cards in months and was unable to pay the bills. They missed the payments for years until their debt was in such dire straits that they were offered payoff deals. The debt, and the permanent mark it left on their credit score, followed them for years, making it difficult to buy a car, purchase a home, or even build their savings.
Don’t be too big-headed
There are some people who want to buy some luxurious stuffs once they got their first paycheck on their high-paying job with the sole reason of just showing off to their friends and impressing them with what they achieved. Believe MWI Consultants Inc when we say that 70 percent of the people around you doesn’t care about what you have and what you do. You’ll just waste your money trying to impress them. You must spend your money on much more important things.
Pay your bills first and then yourself
When you receive your paycheck, the largest part of your salary should be intended for paying all your bills for the month. Second, pay yourself by putting the money into your savings account and setting aside the cash for budget items like gas, groceries and rent. And if there’s money left, you can use a little of it for the things you’d like to do, like eating out, seeing a movie, or buying your favorite book. MWI Consultants Inc understands that it is not the most exciting way to live, but it is the smartest.
Don’t buy something if you don’t have the cash for it
You’ve already read the cons of credit cards earlier, right? So if it’s all possible, you should not have credit cards. You should also remember that you don’t need anything if you can’t pay for it in cash. Remember this tip as if it is a mantra. MWI Consultants Inc is sure that you can totally live without any fancy flat-screen TVs or expensive sneakers, right? However, if you already have a credit card, just be smart in handling it.
Negotiating can save you money
On the other hand, if you can buy it, chances are you can negotiate the price down. Keep in mind that you can save a lot of money if you learn how to drive a hard bargain.
Invest in real estate
You should buy a property as soon as you can. It might set you back financially at first, but that sacrifice by way of real estate investment will be paid off over the years. This is because instead of paying someone else a fee to live under a roof, you can pay yourself in the form of equity, which you can use to continue purchasing a real estate as a means of earning passive income. MWI Consultants Inc suggests that you should research more in depth regarding this topic because this is one of the most worthwhile tips on the list.
Investment trusts are a great way to boost your returns, thanks to low charges and transparency, but what is the best way to invest?
Making the most of investing is not just about picking investments wisely, it's also important to make sure you hold them in the best place.
Costs are consistently being trimmed and investors can now choose to hold all everything within one handy online wrapper.
What are investment trusts?
Investment trusts are listed companies with shares that trade on the stock market.
Trusts invest in the shares of other companies and are known as closed end, meaning the number of shares or units the trust's portfolio is divided into is limited. Investors can buy or sell these units to join or leave, but new money outside this pool cannot be raised without formally issuing new shares.
Investment trusts can be riskier than unit trusts because their shares can trade at a premium or discount to the value of the assets they hold, known as the net asset value.
Why use investment trusts?
Fees for investment trusts tend to be lower than funds, which means your returns are not as affected by charges.
An investment trust is closed ended, meaning there is a fixed amount of shares, unlike in a fund where you risk having your returns diluted if more people invest or if a whole load of people try to sell out their holding.
There is an old Square Mile adage that ‘unit trusts are sold, but investment trusts are bought’.
What the City veterans are getting at here is that the investing public is bombarded by advertisements and mail shots about the vast universe of open-ended funds, i.e. unit trusts and OEICs, which tend to have large marketing budgets.
But people typically have to do a bit of work themselves to discover the advantages of the much more introvert investment trust world.
The fact is, investment trusts don’t advertise anything like so much because, as so-called closed-end funds, they have a fixed number of shares in issue.
Therefore, the argument goes, if you are inviting one person to buy then you are also asking someone else to sell. Not much point – and certainly no money – in that.
Those who take the time to research the fascinating but understated investment trust sector are unlikely to regret it.
In fact, delve a little deeper and ask a few pointed questions and you will find that many fund management professionals put their own money into investment trusts as the vehicle of choice.
The problem for those who prefer investment trusts to funds (Oeics and unit trusts) is that while their management charges are lower and there are no initial fees, they are traded like shares and so attract dealing charges.
Buying investment trusts
You can either invest in a trust via a stockbroker, as you would do shares, or through an online investing platform.
Some investment houses will also allow you to invest in their trusts direct, either as part of an Isa or a straightforward investment.
If you are happy investing without financial advice, the best option tends to be through an online platform as these tend to have cut dealing fees below tradition brokers' levels. It may cost more than buying direct but allows you to hold all your investments in one place.
The important questions to ask yourself before you decide how to invest is whether you want to hold your trust in an Isa and hold all your investments in one place.
By choosing an online Isa platform product, you essentially invest in an Isa wrapper which you can put round and number of trusts in the same year, as long as you don't exceed the annual Isa limit.
The advantage of investing through a platform is also that you can see and monitor your holdings in one place, you can do this whether you opt for an Isa product or just a straightforward investment account. The disadvantage is that you may pay a small fee for holding trusts. Dealing charges can also range from £5 to £12.50.
If you buy direct with an Isa wrapper, then that is your investing Isa allowance for that year and you may only be able to invest tax-free either in that trust, or the investment houses other trusts in that financial year.
As an example of investing direct Aberdeen Asset Management allows investors to buy into its selection of trusts either with an Isa wrapper or as a straight investment (it also offers Isa transfers in).
For straightforward investing, buying carries no charges but selling costs £10, there is no annual administration fee and the minimum lump sum is £250 and regular investing sum is £100. For an Isa wrapper, there is no buying charge, a £15 selling fee, and a £24 plus VAT annual administration fee. Minimum lump sum investment is £1,000 and regular investment is £100.
Using a platform
You could access investment trusts from different companies and combine them with other products such as shares and funds by using a platform.
Hargreaves Lansdown is one example of a platform that will let you do this in a number of ways.
Investment trust dealing costs £11.95 per trade (for one to nine trades per month, more trades brings the price down), and this fee applies for both one-off investments and regular investing. Regular investing is now £1.50 per month
Investors with an Isa holding investment trusts have an annual charge of 0.45 per cent of their value, capped at £45 per year.
Non-Isa investors are not charged. The Hargreaves Lansdown platform is really best suited to fund investing rather than investment trusts, but is useful if you plan to hold the two together.
Why invest through an Isa?
Investing with an Isa is one of the few opportunities we have for making money with very little tax but it doesn't offer complete tax-free status.
Every year the Government gives us a tax-free Isa allowance. For 2015/16 the allowance is £15,240.
You are able to move money from an investment Isa into cash Isa under the rules or put your whole allowance in a cash Isa. This applies to any money you have invested in previous years.
Any gains within an Isa are free from capital gains tax. Everyone has a CGT allowance, currently £11,000 per year, and many may feel they are unlikely to ever make more than this in profit each year from selling their assets.
However, those who invest consistently over time may one day be surprised at how much those investments are worth and holding them in a tax-free wrapper makes sense.
This is because if they opt to sell all or a large amount of their investments at one time and they are not held in an Isa, then they may be over the capital gains tax limit and face a tax bill. Whereas, hold them in an Isa and you have no such problem and will not even need to fill in a tax form if you sell.
Income from investments is also treated in a more tax-friendly way in an Isa. Corporate bonds and gilts income is tax-free.
Dividends and shares income are still taxed at 10% before they are received, so basic rate taxpayers will not gain any extra benefit, but higher rate taxpayers do not have to pay any extra tax that would normally be incurred.
If you are a basic rate taxpayer you may hope to be a higher rate taxpayer one day, so putting your investments in a tax-free wrapper is a sound tactic. Investing through an Isa also removes the headache of filling in a tax return for both income and capital gains.
Investing in funds and investment trusts is the route often recommended to small investors by the experts.
Picking individual shares means you need to do plenty of research and spread your risk carefully, whereas buying a fund allows investors to pool their money with others to access a range of investments and avoid putting all their eggs in one basket.
There are a variety of ways to do this, from the most popular 'fund' options, to investment trusts and exchange traded funds.
Some tap into professional's expertise while others simply track a certain index, some follow popular markets while others allow access to obscure and adventurous corners of the world.
We explain what funds are, how to invest, and how to save money by using a DIY investing platform.
What are funds?
When investors talk about funds they are typically referring to either unit trusts, or open-ended investment companies, Oeics.
This jargon may make them sound complicated but they are essentially just funds where investors' money is pooled to invest in shares, bonds or other funds.
The idea is that as the fund invests in lots of different companies' shares or bonds, the risk of you losing all your money is less than it would be if you were in a single company's shares.
Similarly, most funds will have a fund manager. This will be someone, typically with substantial investing expertise and experience, who will aim to beat the market and provide the best return for investors (although, often they do not manage to do so.)
When times are good a fund manager aims to do make higher gains than their peers, when times are bad a good manager will come into their own by continuing to make money, or just not losing as much as their peers.
Investors have to make a minimum investment, usually £500 to £1,000 to access a fund, and their investment will either go up or down in value depending on how the assets it has bought have performed.
Funds typically have two versions: and accumulation class (acc) which rolls all dividend income back into the fund to boost growth, or an income class (inc) which pays out dividends to those who wish to have them as income.
Investment funds, the typical term for Oeics and unit trusts, carry two sets of charges - an initial charge, which can take a chunk of your money when you put it in, and annual management charges, which go towards the cost of paying the fund manager and running the fund.
Initial charges can be up to 5 per cent but are easily avoidable through a good broker or platform. You do not want to be paying these.
Annual management charges vary, but were traditionally about 1.5 per cent with half of that going to financial advisers and platforms that sold the fund.
Financial regulations stopped these payments for new investments and new clean funds have been brought in, which typically charge 0.75 per cent to 1 per cent and pay no commission back to advisers or platforms
The arrival of clean funds has delivered a somewhat baffling array of types of the same funds. Each tends to have a letter than follows and there is little consistency as to what they mean. If you are looking for the new clean fund then you want what is called the unbundled version, the higher annual management fee types are called inclusive.
Annual management charges are taken from your investment every year and act as a drag on its performance.
Investment trusts, explained in more detail below, have typically had lower charges and did not pay any commission to advisers or platforms.
The annual management charge is not the true cost of investing, however, a closer estimate is the total expense ratio or its replacement measure ongoing charges.
The best way to invest is through an Isa wrapper which shields your investments and their growth from the taxman.
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