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The Worst Savings Account Mistakes, According to Financial Experts

The past few years have been challenging for us all, and it’s natural to be fatigued by the yo-yo nature of the economy. But don’t allow that fatigue to prevent you from making moves guaranteed to earn money. Take a look at the following list of common savings account moves. If any of them feel familiar, experts say you’re likely making a mistake.

Not having an emergency fund

At a time when the median savings account balance among Americans surveyed by The Motley Fool Ascent is $1,200, many of us don’t have enough to cover the recommended three to six months’ worth of bills. Building an emergency savings account is about giving yourself some breathing room if something unexpected happens, like a serious illness or job loss. Naturally, most Americans can’t deposit the entire amount into an emergency savings account at one time. But the truth is, building it up a little at a time can be quite effective.

Tip: If you’re not sure how much you should have put away for a rainy day, this easy-to-use emergency fund calculator makes it simple to set a goal.

Not automating your contributions

If you wonder how in the heck you’re going to come up with a few extra dollars a week to save, that’s okay. Most of us are either in that boat or have been in that boat at some point in our lives. One thing that is ridiculously helpful is automating the process. Let’s say you decide you want to deposit $25 a week into a high-yield savings account. There are a couple of ways to go about it.

  • Log into your bank account and set up an automatic recurring transfer to move money from your checking account to your savings account once a week (bi-weekly or monthly work, too). Select an amount you’re comfortable with, and you’re good to go!
  • If you’re paid by direct deposit, you can set up the transfer so that a portion of each paycheck goes into checking and a portion is deposited into savings.

You may believe automating won’t help your situation, but here are three reasons it works:

  1. Helps you avoid the temptation to spend that money. It’s a matter of “out of sight, out of mind.”
  2. Serves as a reminder of your goal. Let’s say your goal is to have $6,000 in an emergency account. Simply checking your balance each month shows you where you stand.
  3. It’s encouraging. If you’ve never been able to save or it’s been a while since you had money in savings, watching your balance grow is a great way to encourage yourself to keep going.

Tip: Take the easy steps to set up an automatic transfer or automatic deposit into savings.

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Using your savings account like a checking account

This is an easy trap to fall into. You have a savings account built up, but it’s the end of the month and your TV conks out, or you really want to spend a weekend away with friends. You dip into your savings account for the money you need.

Whether you occasionally find yourself using your savings account like a checking account or it’s a once-in-a-blue-moon issue, it’s something that only you can control. Savings accounts are for more than building an emergency fund. They can also be a great place to save for a new car, dream vacation, or retirement goals (depending on the interest rate the account earns).

Like any goal, only you have the power to make it a reality.

Tip: Experts say we should “set it and forget it.” In other words, once money hits savings, leave it alone until you absolutely must access it.

Most of us lead busy lives, and the last thing we want to do is shop around for anything. However, one look at the best CD rates or highest savings account rates is enough to illustrate how much more you can earn with one account over the other. Experts tell us we’re leaving too much money on the table.

Thanks to the internet, we now have a fast, easy way to figure out where our money will earn the most interest.

Tip: Take a few minutes to check out the highest rates on certificates of deposit (CDs) before deciding where to park your savings.

Not having a plan

Did you know that Americans spend an average of 1.8 minutes a day on financial planning? Actually, most of us don’t do any financial planning on a daily basis, but when you average it out throughout the year, it amounts to less than two minutes a day.

That’s not to say that anyone needs to spend hours each week planning. However, it is important to at least have a plan. A financial plan is like GPS, guiding you toward where you eventually want to be. Without one, it’s easy to flail around, hoping for the best.

Tip: If you don’t have a monthly budget, there are lots of great budgeting apps that can help you put one together. As you design a plan, consider how much you’ll need to save to realize your goals. After all, it’s your goals that will drive your savings habit.

If you just don’t believe you can come up with extra money to save, there’s no shame in starting out small. It could be as simple as throwing extra change into a jar each evening and depositing it into savings at the end of the week or cutting one streaming service and diverting the money into savings. The first step is to take a step — no matter how small.

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