Opening savings accounts is easy. Coming up with a savings strategy? That can require effort. You need to figure out which types of savings accounts you need, how much money to put in them and when to take it out.
To help you plan, we turned to Andrea Woroch, a savings expert who has appeared on broadcasts such as Today, Good Morning America and The Dr. Oz Show, and who has been quoted in publications such as The New York Times, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, and SmartMoney.
Below, Woroch answers our savings accounts questions:
What’s the purpose of savings accounts?
Savings accounts help individuals prepare for short and long-term plans. With predictable income and predictable expenses, individuals can ultimately spend less and hold on to extra money in a savings account.
There, they can watch their money grow toward a goal – whether that be saving for retirement, putting away for emergencies, buying a house or preparing for a vacation.
Savings accounts also help you stay motivated. The more money you add, the closer you come to attaining your financial goals.
How many different types of savings accounts should a person have?
You should have a retirement savings account/plan, an emergency savings account with six to nine months of living expenses (for unpredictable life circumstances), as well as a savings account for specific short term goals, like buying a home, or going on vacation.
Some people also choose to open a Roth IRA, which is a much more flexible retirement savings plan, since you can withdraw money for emergencies without penalty and it offers tax benefits.
What kinds of savings accounts do you recommend for different kinds of life goals?
For retirement, you should – at minimum – max out your employer contributions, because it’s basically free money. If your employer matches up to 4 percent of your 401(k) contributions, you should always contribute at least 4 percent of your pay, if not more.
Set up a second retirement savings account through a Roth IRA and invest however much money you can part with each month – $50 to $200 each month will add up quickly. Since Roth IRAs are flexible, you won’t get penalized if you withdraw for an emergency or even, say, a home downpayment. But at least you know that money is being put aside for the long term.
Online savings accounts, or regular savings accounts, are great for short-term planning. Otherwise, people who aren’t as strict with their savings (i.e., those who dip in too easily) may consider a locked CD for short-term goals. For instance: Say you plan to buy a house in two years and you have saved up $5,000. Keep it locked in a CD for that specified time and you’ll know you can’t touch it.
How “off-limits” should your savings accounts be? Is it ever okay to dip into them?
Emergency savings accounts are set aside for unpredictable occurrences like medical expenses, unplanned job loss, car accidents, emergency home repairs, etc.
But lots of times people dip into their long-term-goal savings for such emergencies. That’s why it’s crucial to have an emergency account set up so you don’t have to dip into other savings accounts.
Which kinds of savings accounts do you have? Do you ever “dip” into your long-term savings?