Its been just over a year after the collapse of Lehman Bros. and now Americans are starting to spend less and save more. Of course this can be a good thing during a financial crisis that America is currently going through.
Saving your money might help lower your stress level and help you sleep at night, but it sure won’t make you rich or even close to wealthy. The interest rates of very low risk investments such as CD’s (certificates of deposit) and money market funds, are almost too low to make anything from. You should not expect to make a bundle from your emergency savings account and even now, interest on a $1,000 investment in a one year CD will hardly pay for a movie ticket, a coffee from Starbucks or a dinner at your local family restaurant.
Is there good news? Most definitely yes. The situation that Americans are in now cannot last forever as the economy recovers so will interest rates. Take a look at what you can do to get the most out of some popular low-risk investments while we all wait for the economy to recover:
- Certificates of deposit. Right now the average rate for a one-year CD is 1.71%, according to bankrate.com. By investing in a five year CD, you will bump that rate up to 2.9%, but locking up your money for five years is a bad idea at such a low interest rate. As rates continue to rise you could be stuck at that rate and earn much less than if you had waited a year to invest. Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for bankrate.com says, Investing in CDs with shorter maturities, “will give you the flexibility to reinvest at regular intervals and catch the eventual uptick,” in interest rates.
There are many high yield bank accounts that are paying a little higher interest rates than CDs right now but income looking retirees are still better off with CDs because they offer predictability.
“Even if you lock in a one-year CD at a rate slightly lower than that for a savings account, you know what you’re going to get for the term of the CD.” McBride says. With a high-yield savings account, he notes, “The yield can change at any time.”
- High-Yield Savings Accounts. Some banks are paying 1.75% or more on their savings accounts, while if you searched you could find banks paying as high as 4.3% according to CheckingFinder. There are some banks and credit unions who offer rewards checking account with rates around 4% or more, but to earn these rates you usually have to set up direct deposit, receive your banking statements online (saves your bank money from mailing them to you) and use your debit card a certain number of times per month.
The main reason why someone would opt-in for a high yield savings account is liquidity. You can withdraw your money without taking a penalty. If you are looking at setting up an emergency fund, this would be a great place to park those funds.
As banks keep failing some people may feel uncomfortable with investing their money in an unfamiliar bank, even if they are offering a higher interest rate than a more familiar one down the street. As long as your bank is covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), your money will be insured for up to $250,000. Even married couples with joint accounts are safe for up to $500,000. If you use a credit union, make sure they are covered by the National Credit Union Administration and if they are, your money will be insured for up to $250,000.
- Money Market Mutual Funds. A money market fund is a convenient place to temporarily park money you’re planning to invest in stocks or mutual funds, McBride says. A money market fund allows you to easily move your money quickly if a stock you have been watching hits your target price. To be safe, if you are still looking to stash away some money in your emergency fund, the high-yield bank or credit union accounts are still a better choice.
Even the bank that pays the lowest rate will still pay a higher rate than the average money fund. The current seven day average yield on money market mutual funds is 0.05%, according to the Money Fund Report, serviced by iMoneyNet.
Finding the best returns on your savings accounts, CD rates and mutual funds is a worthwhile endeavor, do not lose track of your main goal. The point of investing is to create a cushion against disaster like we are experiencing with the financial crisis of America. Michael Haubrich, a financial planner in Racine, Wis., says he encourages clients to shop around if it motivates them to save, but if they are more likely to save through a payroll deduction plan offered by their employer, that’s fine, too, he says, even if it’s not the best deal around.
The important part is to do something and start somewhere. Start with a certificate of deposit or find a high yield savings account to create an emergency fund.