Whether you're saving for your first car or your kid's college education, there are several savings accounts and registry products to help you keep your eye on the financial target.
Here's what to know about goal-setting accounts.
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Goal savings vs. general savings
The benefit of having a checking account for daily expenses and a savings account for emergency funds is that the separate accounts provide a barrier preventing you from accidentally spending money that should go to funding your future. Goal-setting accounts work the same way.
A goal-oriented account allows a consumer to set a specific financial target, figure out how long it will take to reach that target and slowly sock away money in an account far away from the temptations of everyday spending. They are available in three varieties -- registries, savings accounts and subaccounts joined to a regular savings account or checking account.
The accounts are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
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Perks and pitfalls
Aside from simply separating funds, goal-oriented savings accounts offer other benefits.
Some registries allow friends and family to contribute to your savings goal -- for example, a mortgage down payment.
Whether a goal-oriented savings account is right for you depends on how much you plan to save and how long it will take to do it. Goal-setting savings accounts are designed for short- and medium-term goals, not long-term projects like retirement or college savings.
If you are saving more than a few thousand dollars or for longer than a year or two, you would get greater benefit from a higher-interest savings instrument such as a Treasury bond or certificate of deposit.
Mind the pitfalls
Watch out for fees. New account holders should make sure there are no monthly maintenance fees or administration costs before signing up. Those with low savings also should watch for minimum daily balance requirements that could cost them each month.
Before opening a savings account, shop around and make sure to ask their financial institution for a list of any fees associated with the account and whether they charge to close the account after the target is reached.