Why open a savings account?

While the vast majority of households have at least a checking account, many don’t also have a dedicated savings account. They may tuck their savings away in their checking account, on prepaid debit cards, under a mattress — or not save at all.

But savings accounts can be the key to planning for the future. While checking accounts handle today’s bills, and 401(k)s take care of your future, a savings account can handle all the in-between.

Here’s why you open a savings account in the first place, and how a savings account or two can help you meet your future financial goals.

Why should you open a savings account?

Saving for the future often takes a multifaceted approach. Opening a savings account (or 10) can be a great way to identify savings goals, work toward those efforts, and track progress along the way. With the right savings account, you can also maximize your interest earned and give yourself a financial buffer if it’s ever necessary.

Here are six reasons to open a savings account.

You can compartmentalize and work toward individual goals

For most adults, saving money can be really difficult.

Life tends to throw unexpected expenses in our path when we need them least. Combine that with the natural temptation to spend and the challenge of financial discipline, and it’s easy to see how saving can fall by the wayside.

If you put all of your money into one bank account, such as your everyday checking account, you’re likely to make meeting your savings goals even harder. It can also be difficult even to know how close you are to those targets if all of your money is together in one account.

By opening one or more savings accounts, you can track your progress and dedicate your cash to multiple goals as you go. For example, you can open individual savings accounts for:

  • Kids’ college education

  • A down payment on a home

  • An emergency fund

  • A down payment for a new car

  • A vacation

Kids’ college education

A down payment on a home

An emergency fund

A down payment for a new car

A vacation

You can then allocate funds to these accounts on a regular basis, seeing where you stand with each one at just a glance. Often you can automate regular transfers into each.

You’ll earn (free) money on your savings

The money you hold in a savings account will usually earn interest over time, which is free money in your pocket. The annual percentage yield, known as APY, on savings accounts is typically much higher than on checking accounts and gets even higher if you opt for a high-yield savings account.

This means that your money will earn you more while it sits in your accounts, notably more than if you keep the cash in a checking account or in a coffee can under your bed.

Your money will be in a safe place

Speaking of stashing cash under the mattress, a savings account is a much safer place to keep your hard-earned money.

If you bank at an FDIC-insured institution, up to $250,000 of your deposits (per person, per account type) will be protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. This gives you the peace of mind that your money is safer than it would be at home because you are covered if your bank goes under while holding your money.

Access in an emergency

Investments are an important tool for building wealth for the future, but they aren’t ideal if you need cash unexpectedly.

If all of your savings are tied up in investments, such as a retirement portfolio or real estate equity, you won’t have any quick and easy options if you incur an emergency expense. You may even be subject to penalties and losses if you’re forced to pull money from these accounts or sell off assets. Even certificates of deposit, or CDs, typically have penalties for early withdrawals.

A savings account, on the other hand, earns a return on your savings while remaining liquid and accessible. Whether you need to cover sudden medical bills or replace the water heater, you can pull your money out of an emergency fund as quickly as the same day.

But if liquidity is not your priority, consider savings account alternatives such as CDs, which allow you to lock in a high interest rate for a specified term.

If you’d like to earn a higher rate but still need the option of immediate access, most money market accounts offer limited checking and debit card access.

You can give your other accounts a buffer

While it’s wise to leave your savings untouched until it’s time to use the money, those funds can provide you with a financial buffer.

Many checking accounts allow you to link a savings account at the same bank. This savings account can then be used to cover overdrafts if and when they occur. This prevents you from incurring overdraft fees or dealing with the hassle of declined transactions.

You can reduce the temptation to spend

Your savings account doesn’t have to be at the same bank. Many consumers prefer to keep their savings at other financial institutions, as those funds being "out of sight, out of mind" can help them meet their savings goals without temptation. However, if you need a personal loan or quick payday advance, you can still pull from your savings within a business day or less and avoid interest, fees, and other penalties.

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