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Savings Guide 2006

Savvy savers

  There's more to saving than stuffing your extra cash in a mattress.
Savings: The Next Big Thing
   
Money market accounts 529 accounts
Christmas/vacation clubs Savings bonds
Money market mutual funds Treasuries
   

If you think you have a smaller savings cushion than you used to, you're not alone. Americans are saving less money now than at any time since the Great Depression. On average, consumers today are spending about 1 percent more than they earn, according to recent figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. And they are borrowing and dipping into their savings to do it.

The irony is that there are more savings vehicles with more convenience features than ever. Some institutions will allow customers to open accounts online and access them online or by phone, while other national (and federally insured) institutions operate almost exclusively online. Which means that, in many cases, you don't even have to put on a suit and shake hands with your banker to start saving.

For some, the menu of options, features and rates is confusing. But one strategy is crystal clear: Don't put off saving while you scramble for the best rate. Unlike a 30-year mortgage, where a quarter of a percent can mean thousands of dollars in your pocket, most savings vehicles -- aside from college savings plans and Treasuries, for example -- usually are short-term instruments. You want to get some interest so that you're not losing money to inflation. The growth, however, comes from adding more to the account, rather than the magic of compounding interest, says Dave Ramsey, author of "The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness."

With savings, says Ramsey, "You're the big thing -- the money that you put in."

To help you decide the best savings vehicle for you, use the drop-down menu and select one of the eight most popular:

Select:

Create a news alert for "savings" -- Posted: Oct. 1, 2006


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