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How to Choose a Savings Account

Photo Credit: WWarby

Today’s post is a guest post by Fred Schebesta who writes for Savings Account Finder where he helps people to choose the best savings account and term deposits.

While it is easy to spend all the money which comes in from your wages, and then some, today is the day you will start a savings plan and start using your money more wisely, for two reasons – firstly you’ll see how important it is to have a savings plan, and secondly you’ll see how easy it is to open a dedicated high interest saving account which practically manages and runs your savings plan for you.

Who Needs a Savings Account?

Not everyone needs a savings account, for example if you have a mortgage you should be directing your extra funds to pay off your debt before you start trying to earn interest on a savings account. Similarly if you are nearing retirement then an approved Retirement Savings Account will offer you better tax benefits and more attractive fee structures than a typical high interest savings account could offer in your situation. Instead, a savings account can benefit:

  • · Children learning to save. Opening a savings account for your child can be the best gift you will ever give them as you are starting them on the road to financial knowledge and stability. Learning to save is an important skill and the earlier you teach your children about making regular deposits and how compounding interest is calculated, the sooner they will be in control of their money, rather than having it control them in the form of credit card and uncontrollable debt.
  • · Young people saving for a house. A new home is a big investment and usually requires a big deposit too. Therefore, opening a high interest savings account can help you achieve the goal of a house deposit a lot sooner, as you can set up automatic transfers from your transaction account when your wages arrive so you are paying yourself first and allowing your house fund to regularly increase. You’ll also be earning a high rate of interest which is calculated daily and paid monthly so the more regular deposits you make, the more interest you will be able to earn on top of your own contributions.
  • Families looking for more fun. When you are managing the family funds it can seem like there is never enough to go around. Unfortunately this could mean missing out on family holidays, trips to the movies or new bikes for Christmas. Whatever your family’s goals are, a dedicated high interest savings account can help make them a reality because your savings account safely guards your funds, adds interest to them and makes for a simple place for your family to save together and achieve their goals.
  • · You there, with your dream purchase. If you have a dream purchase in mind, big or small, a high interest savings account can help make it a reality. By separating your savings from your everyday funds you are less tempted to spend the money you have so carefully saved, and you can instead watch it grow, contribute or reinvest it all online.

Features of the Best Savings Account
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Gifts for Investment Nerds

As a finance nerd who is very hard to shop for, I thought I might take some time to give some hints to those of you who have to shop for people like me. Here are some clues of gifts you can get for boring folks who only like to talk about the stock market and economics:

A Subscription to the Economist – I have had subscriptions before, but I can’t ever get through them in a week so pretty soon I have a pile in my entryway.  That being said it’s SO much cheaper to get a subscription and if you giftee is a frequent reader of the Economist it could be a very appreciated gift.

A copy of Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics – This is a great read for someone who is interested in economics.  While he occasionally dabbles in partisan politics, this book is much less “agenda driven” than many of his other books, particularly Economic Facts and Fallacies.

A Single Share of Stock Cerificate - Most of us trade almost completely electronically anymore and we almost never actually get to hold any physical symbol of our interests. You can get these from OneShare.com. Right now you can get $20 Off Complete Framed Stock: Use code HOLIDAY09.

Gold Coins – Much like the stock certificate, this gives us something physical to represent what we spend so much of our time doing.

Classic Books – Even if they’ve already read them, it can be nice to own a copy of something like one of Peter Lynch’s classics, or the Intelligent Investor.

Stress Relief – Get something to take the edge off during the trading day.  I like stress balls, but there are tons of options.

Report or Newsletter Subscriptions – If you’ve ever heard them mention a newletter or a research service they’d like a subscription for, this can be a great gift.  I’d never go out and buy one myself, but if I got one as a gift I’d use it.

Of course, in the end we know that we’re hard to shop for and will be happy with whatever you give us.  Especially if it’s not depreciating rapidly!

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Four Ways To Focus Your Finances Tomorrow

For so many of us, the problems in our life can be attributed to insufficient attention. One of the most important things we can do to solve a problem is to stop ignoring it. Financial problems are no exception. In fact, getting focused on your finances can often be the difference between success and frustration.

The key is to get started immediately. Don’t wait. Start tomorrow. Here are four things you can do tomorrow to start focusing your attention on your finances and start getting them in order:

1.) Have a family meeting
Get everyone on the same page. You can’t do anything until you’ve discussed how financial issues affect your family. Your family can tell you what they think is going wrong and you can also share your thoughts with them. This consensus and making sure the whole family understands, and is on board with, the financial goals can be the tipping point for success.
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The Joneses Are Your Enemy

Photo by: Chapek Sergey

Probably the most self-destructive thing that a person can do for their financial future is to pay undue attention to what those around them are doing.  Obviously this has limits, but using your friends, family or neighbors as benchmarks for “success” can manifest itself in many ways and almost all of them can sabotage your financial progress.  You should always remember that what a person presents as their situation can be very different from their true situation.  Let’s look at some ways the Joneses can sabotage you.

Status Symbols

Typically when talking about “keeping up with the Joneses” we’re referring to buying status symbols.  Maybe your neighbor bought a new BMW, and it sure looks nice.  Or maybe you’d like to host the football watching party sometime, but your TV just doesn’t match up to your friends’.  These types of situations can inspire us to make purchasing decisions that may provide a short-term high for a lot of pain.

Almost all status symbols are depreciating in nature.  Your car and that new TV are going to lose their value over time.  The more purchases like that you can avoid the better your financial future is going to be.  This isn’t really very tricky, and most of us are aware of this, even if we don’t always follow through.

Debt

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Should You Ever Leverage Yourself?

Photo by: fairlightworks

The typical American is leveraged.  They have borrowed money to buy things.  This is not necessarily bad in and of itself, but if you start to think of your household as a business, you may stop and question whether the leverage you’ve taken on makes sense.

What is Leverage?

Leverage is the use of debt to magnify the outcome of an investment.  Say, for example, you are a company, and you trade widgets.  On each shipment you can buy widgets in one location for $10 and sell them in another for $12.  If you only had $100, you could only do this in shipments of 10 widgets and make $20 per shipment.  However if you could go and borrow $10,000, you could buy shipments of 1000 widgets and make $2000 per shipment.  Even after you paid back the party that loaned you the money, along with any interest, you would have made considerably more money per shipment.

Appreciating Assets

One of the most compelling reasons for an individual to leverage themselves is to buy an appreciating asset.  An appreciating asset is one that gains value over time.  The most common form of this in recent history has been real estate.  Leverage, in the form of a mortgage, is very common for an individual buying a house. (more…)

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Should You Be In the Stock Market?

Photo by: mvhargan

I often hear people tell me that they’ve stopped contributing to their retirement account because they don’t think the stock market is going to go up.  It seems many of these people assume that a retirement account and the stock market are one and the same.  Most plans have many options, and nearly 64% have actively managed bond funds as an alternative.[1]

The fact that many people don’t even know what their options are in their retirement accounts suggests to me that they probably shouldn’t have been in the stock market in the first place.  Many people were initially sold on stock market-based retirement account options by claims that the stock market returned 8%, or 11%, or whatever their advisor was telling them. They put their finances on autopilot and never looked back.  At least they never looked back until 2008.

The Risk Premium

The philosophical rationale for why stocks should outperform “safe” investments, like government treasuries, is something called the risk premium.  In theory, if equities did not outperform safe investments, then rational actors would cease to buy the equities. The prices would decrease to a level where there would be an adequate risk premium.

This theory was put to the test during the recent financial crisis when, at the nadir of stock prices, there essentially was no risk premium for the previous thirty years.[2]  Since then, stocks have rebounded a good deal and the risk premium has returned. However, it points out an important fact: the risk premium is only likely in the long term and is not guaranteed.

Risk Tolerance

Because of the wild variability of the risk premium, the value proposition of equities decreases as you get closer to an expected retirement date.  Once you have a near-term window for beginning withdrawals, the amount of time your returns have to “average out” decreases, and your exposure increases.  As you get closer and closer to retirement, equities should become a smaller and smaller portion of your portfolio. (more…)

  1. PSCA.org51st Annual Survey of Profit Sharing and 401(k) Plans []
  2. Bloomberg.com – Bonds Beat Stocks in ‘Earth-Shattering’ Reversal: Chart of Day []