If you're doing okay financially and have paid off all your high-interest debts, it might be time to start growing your hard-earned cash. Opening a savings account is a simple and effective way to do that.
Generally, you could earn a much higher rate of return from investing in stocks or property, but investing also comes with risk. Your investments could decrease in value, making those funds difficult to access in the short term. Plus, some investments have high minimums, meaning you might need thousands of dollars to start.
While investing your money in the market certainly has a place in your financial strategy, there are situations in which a savings account could be the best investment to earn interest -- whether you're putting money aside for a rainy day or planning for future spending.
But how much should you save? Financial services company Fidelity suggests keeping at least enough to cover three to six months of necessary expenses, but some experts recommend more than that to achieve true financial security. Personal finance guru Suze Orman recommends saving enough to cover eight to twelve months of expenses.
Of course, that's just for emergency costs -- if you're planning for a vacation, wedding, or other special expense, you'll want to put aside extra. But don't let the amount deter you from saving what you can, even if it will take a while to reach your goals.
What kind of savings account do you need?
A savings account gives you the opportunity to easily access your money, though there will probably be a limit to how many times per month you can do so. And most importantly, you can earn interest and keep your money protected. A high-yield savings account could earn you up to 2.5 percent per year, according to current offers.
Here are some situations where it might be a good idea to open a savings account:
1. You need a place for your emergency fund.
It's easy to open a savings account, even with a small amount of money, which makes it a great option if you're just getting started.
An emergency fund should be stashed somewhere where you can access money quickly when you need it. A savings account is ideal, since it is both liquid and easy to withdraw from. Many banks will even let you make a transfer online.
When you open your account, choose a bank with FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) insurance or a credit union with NCUA (National Credit Union Administration) insurance to keep your money protected.
2. You're saving for a house in the near future.
If you plan to become a first-time homebuyer in the next few years, you'll want an easy and convenient way to save.
Because saving up for a down payment is no small task, consider a high-yield savings account -- especially if you've got a chunk of change already. The higher the interest rate you earn on your savings account, the quicker your money will grow.
3. You have smaller short-term spending goals.
Whether you're saving for a wedding, vacation, new refrigerator, home repairs, or even holiday gifts, everyone has financial targets they hope to reach soon.
If you're planning for a large expense that will cost more than your monthly expendable income, a savings account is a great way to accomplish your aim. You can earn interest while you wait and access your money as soon as you're ready to spend.
4. You plan to retire in the next five years or are already making maximum contributions.
If you want to retire comfortably and you're already contributing the most you can to your retirement accounts, it could be a good idea to invest any additional money into a savings account.
If you're intending to retire early, you'll want to keep some money in a savings account to avoid withdrawal penalties from your retirement accounts. Or, if you're retiring soon, it's a good idea to keep some cash conveniently accessible to you.
5. You'll have expenses like taxes or premiums this year.
Even if you'll need to withdraw a chunk of money to pay taxes or pricey insurance premiums, it's worth keeping that cash in a savings account so you can earn interest until that time approaches.
What to look for in a savings account
The best savings account for you will depend on how much you're depositing and when you'll need to access your savings. Here are some things to consider:
- High APY (Annual Percentage Yield). If you've decided to open a savings account, you'll want to make sure you get the best possible return each year. Some high-yield savings accounts require you to keep a minimum balance, while others have no such rule. Often, you'll get a higher yield with an online savings account.
- Ease of access. If you're only going to access your money periodically and don't care about the convenience of using an ATM or physical location, this might not matter much to you. But if you'd like the option to quickly access your cash, look for an account with plenty of options for access and transfers.
- Low or no fees. Make sure you understand all the fees associated with an account, including withdrawal and minimum balance fees. There are plenty of fee-free accounts out there, so you shouldn't need to pay anything to a bank for opening your savings account.
Putting money into a savings account can help you gain financial security, accomplish your goals, and enjoy a more comfortable future. It's a great way to start growing your money without taking on much risk, and that cash will be available to you when you need it. And if you manage to go through life without facing any costly emergencies, we're sure you'll still put your savings to good use.
This article originally appeared on FinanceBuzz.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.