It’s OK If Your Savings Account Doesn’t Make You Money

One of the basic pieces of advice is to make sure that your money is working for you.  And of course you want that work to yield maximum returns.  Finding good investments at low cost is a perfect example of a way to make this happen.  While you definitely want to make your money work for you, don’t get carried away.  See, some people fall into the belief that every single dollar has to make money.  While this would be nice in a perfect world, it isn’t always possible.  This is no more true than with a savings account.

The Savings Account: Then And Now

Until the recession that started around 10 years ago, a savings account was a great way to earn a little money.  You could stash money away, risk free, and still earn some interest.  It wasn’t a whole lot, but it was generally enough to keep up with inflation.

Then, the recession hit.  In order to spark the economy, interest rates fell to all time lows.  This was great for borrowers, but for savers it meant that interest rates on savings accounts fell to zero, or pretty darn near that level.  While interest rates have creeped up a tad, they still remain at practically historic lows.  Again, it’s great if your borrowing, but not so much for savers.

Should You Ditch The Savings Account?

With savings accounts paying nothing or close to it, the money you keep there isn’t earning you anything.  In fact, when you factor in inflation, a savings account could actually be costing you money.

So the logical question becomes whether it is time to get rid of the savings account.

To that, I say, take a deep breath, relax, and hold on to your savings account.

In short, no.  Don’t get rid of the savings account.

Why A Savings Account Matters

The fact is that a savings account still holds value in the personal finance world, and should be part of almost every household.  The value, however, isn’t in the interest it pays.  Savings accounts provide value in the easy access to money and the security in knowing that you have money available quickly.

Think of some of these possible scenarios:

  • What if your credit cards get stolen and you need to pay for stuff before new ones come up?
  • What if you have a natural disaster strike and cash becomes the only way to get goods?
  • How about if an unexpected bill comes your way?

In many cases, the window for getting access to money held in different types of accounts is shortening.  Without a savings account, you could theoretically sell an investment in a brokerage account, and transfer the money over within a day or two.

That’s all and good, but that’s still an entire day or two that you have to wait.  Is that a matter of life and death?  I certainly hope not!

Keep A Nominal Amount In Savings

The smartest strategy is to keep a small amount in your savings account.  If you have $100,000 in savings, chances are you won’t need access to that amount, and the potential lost earnings is meaningful.

But $2,000.  That’s certainly manageable.   And if that costs you, say, 2% a year, that amounts to $40.  I think that little bit of lost income is worth the peace of mind of knowing that you have quick access and are covered for anything that comes about that might require up to $2,000.

Don’t you?

Readers, what do you think?  Do you think savings accounts are obsolete?  Do they still hold value?  What is your strategy with a savings account?  Let me know in the comments below.  Thanks so much for reading!

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Breaking Down Our Madeira Beach Vacation

A couple of weeks ago, I was enjoying life a little bit more.  As they say, life is always better at the beach!  We took a family trip down to Florida.  Here are some things I thought I’d share about our Madeira Beach vacation.

Familiarity Helps

We rented a condo that worked out great for us.  What really helped is that we’ve stayed in this condo complex before.  Back in 2010 we took a trip, also with my in-laws and stayed in a different unit.  On top of that, this area was where my wife and her family vacationed when she was a girl.  So, knowing so much about the area in general was a big help too.  Familiarity definitely helped improve our Madeira Beach vacation.

We Saved On Travel But Added Stress

Originally we were planning to drive, but ended up flying.  However, since all public schools in Michigan are off at the same time, the airlines all jacked up their prices flying out of Detroit.  We found some great fares out of Columbus, Ohio, which was about a four hour drive.  Saving money was great, but the added stress of driving kept me on edge.  After all, it would only take one accident along the way to take away our cushion.  Luckily, we were fine, but I was nervous.

Walking Distance

Because of our familiarity with the area, we knew that we could survive without a car.  And we did just fine!  We

Madeira Beach Vacation 2017

ended up taking Uber rides wherever we needed to go. All told, our Uber rides added up to about $125 plus tips, which was a significant saving over renting a car to drive while there.

Pool And The Ocean Added Up To Fun

We had warm, sunny weather for most of the trip, which was great.  However, a good portion of our trip was very windy.  This made being near the water very difficult with blowing sand.  But, having a pool right there definitely kept us exactly where we needed to be.  Having both options was great.

Renting A Condo Was Great

We had a really great condo that we found.  It was two bedrooms.  Each bedroom had a TV.  Having a TV in the kids room was great because they could have some down time after coming back tired from being at the water.  It was also fully furnished and had lots of supplies needed for the pool and water.

Supplies When Renting A Condo

The condo had just about everything we needed, but we ended up forgetting a few things on our shopping trip.  Paper plates, napkins, and salt and pepper were all things we would have liked but didn’t think of.  There was nothing we didn’t have but lots of things we would have loved to have had.  We made a list!

Eating In And Eating Out

We ate at a lot of different restaurants, but also made quite a few meals in.  This mix kept our costs down a bit, and made a good mix of ‘on the go’ versus enjoying the moments.  We ate all of our breakfasts in, and then would generally have lunch or dinner out.  It still wasn’t exactly cheap but it kept things in check.

We Loved Our Madeira Beach Vacation

If you can’t tell we loved our vacation.  All of us came back tan.  We all came back tired. Our son came back with a sore ear from all the swimming.  All told, those are all signs that we had lots and lots of fun.  And we did.  So much so that we already put a deposit on the same unit for next year! And did I mention that repeat visitors get a 10% discount?  Woo-hoo!

Readers, do you have any great family spring break stories?  Please let me know what you did in the comments below.  Thanks so much for reading!

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Giving Up Facebook

Last month I wrote about how I gave up snacking at work.  I know my weaknesses and I finally accepted that occasional snacking leads to regular snacking.  So, I haven’t snacked since the beginning of the year.

Giving Up Facebook

I grew up Catholic, and one tradition that I’ve always had is to give up something for Lent.  The Lenten season runs between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, a period of 46 days.  People are encouraged to give something up that’s important or difficult.  The idea is to give ourselves a small reminder of what Jesus gave up during his 40 days in the desert.

In the past I’ve given up a variety of things, including:

  • Chocolate
  • Ice Cream
  • Candy
  • All Sweets
  • Alcohol.

This year, I decided to take on a different approach.  It was time to take on the idea of giving up Facebook.

Why Facebook?

There are many things to love about Facebook.  These include:

  • The ability to connect with friends.
  • Getting news and other information real time.
  • Keeping in touch with acquaintances, people you don’t necessarily want to interact with daily, but like keeping tabs on.
  • Having lots of things to laugh at.

So why would I want to give it up?  Well, there some things I don’t like.

  • I didn’t like how often I would be checking it.  I’d usually have a tab open at all times with Facebook when on a computer.  On a phone, each time I picked it up, one of the first things I did was thumb to the app.
  • The tone of Facebook has changed.  Ever since the election, Facebook just has not been fun for me.  I get that people aren’t happy, but for some, their posts suggest that they think about this 24×7.  Maybe they do?
  • It was a new challenge.  As you can see from the list of things I’ve given up in the past, most involved junk food.  Since I’m largely working on that anyway as an ongoing thing, I felt I needed a new habit.

How Did It Go?

Before giving it up, I was a little nervous.  Since I had it open all the time, I was afraid I would instantly miss it and end up going another direction.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

On the day before Lent, I went onto my laptop, phone and tablet, and signed out of Facebook.  I also removed the icon from my phone and from my browser shortcuts.

I found by not having it right there as an option to open, it helped right away.

Quite honestly, once I started going without Facebook, it was pretty easy.  I browsed to websites (you know, the old-fashioned way) for news.  I e-mailed people or even *gasp* called them.  I downloaded a couple of games to play.  Maybe not the best alternative, but at least I was keeping my brain busy, right?   Generally, I found that I was probably on my phone less times and for less minutes of the day.

I did miss a few things:

  • I missed seeing what my friends were up to.
  • I missed posting a bit while we were on our recent trip to Florida.
  • I missed posting the occasional post that I’d put up when something witty came to mind. Though let’s face it, I’m probably not as witty as I think I am.

Will I Stay Away?

For now, with Lent having ended, I’m not going to lie.  I’m back on Facebook.

However, I think this has shown me that I should and can cut back on Facebook.  Maybe I’ll try to avoid putting the shortcuts back where they are front and center.  I think that’d be a good start.

All in all, it was definitely a cleansing time in many ways.  Technology has advanced so much over the past couple of decades.  So many things have come into our lives as new things that we quickly adapt and make part of our lives.  Browsing the Internet.  E-mail.  Blogging.  Chat.  Videos.  Social media.

Giving up Facebook is a reminder that these things, and the things that come along, are tools.  Facebook and other social platforms have not just given us new ways to communicate, but in many ways they’ve taken over.  That’s not a good thing.

Maybe being a little more old school is a good thing, you know?

Readers, do you give up anything for Lent?  If so, what?  Also, what do you think about Facebook and other like items?  If asked to give them up, how long could you go?  Drop me your thoughts in the comments below.  And, thanks for reading!

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Is AmEx Customer Service Better Than Citi?

Last year, the Costco branded credit card switched from American Express to Citi.  Since we use ours to gather the maximum cash back rewards, we decided to carry both.  We opened an American Express card after the switch.  This is a great strategy for us.  When the switched was announced, we heard a lot of complaints about customer service.  Specifically, many said that American Express had good customer service, and that Citi did not.  I decided to give a spot test.  While this isn’t conclusive, I thought it’d be fun to share whether AmEx customer service came out ahead, behind or equal to Citi.

Traveling Notification

We were heading on vacation.  I always like to notify the credit card companies.  That way, the company won’t see us making a bunch of charges from an unusual location and disallow charges for potential fraud.  I couldn’t imagine it’d be fun to be on vacation and have your card come up declined.

Since we’ll probably be using both of these cards during our trip, I decided to call and notify both companies.

Honestly, the process and the experience was about equal.

Number

Both cards had the phone number for customer service on the back of the card.

Routing

Both cards pick up and ask what you’re calling about.  The voice recigniton systems used are very similar, if not actually the same software package.  They will try to get your request handled. I knew I’d want to speak to an agent so I told it ‘Customer Service’.  Both of them tried to convince me to provide more detail, but after repeating ‘Customer Service’ took me to the next step.

Verification

Both systems knew that I was calling from my primary number.  Citi only asked me to punch in the last four digits of my card.  American Express made me punch in my full card number as well as the last four digits of my social security number.

Helpfulness

Both of the calls were picked up right away.  Both of the agents were friendly.  They both knew exactly what I was calling to do when I explained it to them.  They both made sure to verify the dates and locations where I’d be making charges.  Both thanked me and wished us a good trip.

Follow Up

Citi actually sent me an e-mail verifying the conversation and the travel information.  I thought that was a nice touch.

Summary

In the end, both companies provided top notch service.  I know it was a simple request and it was only one, but both experiences made me happy to be a customer with their company.  That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Readers, have you had any really good or really awful experiences with a credit card company?  Please share your experiences in the comments below.  Thanks very much for reading!

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.