I just recently started saving and have accumulated around $1,200. I’m only getting a return of about 40 cents a month. What can I do to help grow the funds?
— C. Thomas, Via the Internet
“Save” isn’t a four-letter word, so you’re to be commended for getting started. The first key to helping the funds grow is going to be maintaining your discipline in adding to your account — whether it’s through an automatic deposit or just a matter of stowing away what you can, whenever you can. And you’ll be tempted to stray: whether it’s the cost of a gallon of gas, or of a gallon of milk that will have you doing a double take in the months ahead.
Next you’ll want to focus on the available interest rates in your area. With the Fed’s series of cuts, yields on standard savings accounts have fallen in turn. Visit www.bankrate.com to make sure you’re getting the best yield.
You have a modest amount saved, but you’ll next want to look into opening a money market account that offers a higher yield. Your funds will still be readily available if, for instance, you’re building your emergency fund — which should be at least six to nine months of your living expenses in a slowing economy.
Finally, I suggest you use the simple savings calculator at Bankrate.com, which can show you how long it will take to reach your desired savings goals given a certain pattern of deposits and interest rate assumptions.