Financial Literacy: Savings and Investing

Wealth Wednesday: How to start saving and investing your hard-earned cash.

Posted: 04/24/2013 08:00 AM EDT

“A penny saved is a penny earned,” is a long-lost motto that our ancestors swore by, but that many African-Americans ignore as they go about their day-to-day business unaware of the need to save and invest their money. According to the ING Retirement Research Institute, African-Americans contribute about $157 per paycheck (versus $220 for all ethnic groups) to workplace retirement savings plans and also tend to save less (54 percent of the population versus 58 percent overall) in non-employer-based plans.

On average, African-Americans currently have $31,000 saved, versus $46,000 for the overall survey sample. ING says just 21 percent of African-Americans have a sufficient amount of savings (six months’ living expenses or more) in reserve, versus 32 percent overall, and cite high debt levels as their biggest barrier to savings. For example, African-Americans have the highest amount of student loan debt at 35 percent versus 25 percent of the overall population.

Concerns over a lack of savings aren’t limited to individuals who are nearing retirement; both older and younger workers are equally likely to lack confidence in their ability to save for their golden years. On the bright side, if you are looking for a good place to start storing away cash for a rainy day, to cover a large expense, or to cover you during your retirement years, there are plenty of options to explore.

Start With a Basic Savings Account

If every dime you make flows in and out of a checking account every month, it’s time to set up a savings account where you can store some cash. Be sure to review your options with your bank, as most offer a range of savings programs for college students, seniors, and other consumer groups. Having this additional account will not only earn you some interest, but it will also help you delineate between “saved” money and “spendable” cash.

You can also use your savings account balance to cover overdrafts (by linking the two accounts), in case of emergency. Most banks offer mobile apps, online banking and other tools that you can use to manage your savings and to move any extra, unaccounted for cash from your checking and into your savings account.

Move Up a Notch With a Money Market Account or CD

Once you begin accumulating a nice nest egg in your savings account, check out some of the options for earning higher interest rates. A $2,500 savings account balance that you won’t need for the next six months, for example, will earn more interest if it’s converted into a 6-month certificate of deposit (CD).

Money market accounts, which offer higher interest rates on larger balances, are another good option if you want to make the jump from a basic savings account. These accounts are FDIC-insured and allow consumers to make safe, low-risk investments.

Step Into the Stock Market

Despite the ups and downs that investors in the stock market have experienced over the last few years, over the long-term stocks have historically outperformed all other investments. A great way to start claiming your piece of this pie is via your employer’s retirement plan. You can also work with a financial planner to create a road map for meeting your long-term investment goals, or with a full-service stockbroker who will execute trades for you, help you pick stocks and make other financial moves. By putting aside money in a retirement fund, mutual fund, or other vehicle you’ll be able to start building a nest egg and working toward your long-term financial goals.

 

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