What is a CD, or a Certificate of Deposit?

Deposit Calculations

You've probably heard of Certificates of Deposit at your local bank, but just what is a CD? Like a savings account, CDs act as a place to store your money while earning interest. But unlike savings accounts, CDs typically have a higher interest rate. So what's the catch? You must leave your money in the CD for a set period of time. In this guide, we'll go over the benefits and drawbacks of Certificates of Deposit, so you can plan your finances wisely!

CDs vs. Savings

While most people have a simple savings account, not everyone has a Certificate of Deposit. Both are fairly simple to open, so what are the main differences between the two?

  • A CD typically has a term length of a few months to a few years. After the CD matures, you can cash out. A savings account can be stored indefinitely.
  • You can withdraw your money from your savings account whenever you'd like, but your money stays in the CD until the term length has been reached.
  • While both savings account and CDs will accrue interest over time, a CD is usually a higher-interest option.

Why Choose a Savings Account?

If you prefer to have very fluid funds, then the savings account is probably the better option. Withdraw your money from a CD prematurely, and you'll face a penalty. Savings accounts may generate far less interest, but they are much more forgiving. You can easily withdraw the money you need for an unexpected emergency, for example.

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Discover Our Top Five Financial New Year's Resolutions for 2018

Our Top Five Financial New Year's Resolutions for 2018

The start of a brand new year is a fresh start for everyone, so why not use this opportunity to get your finances in check? Take a look at our top five financial New Year's resolutions to help you find success in 2018. From setting goals to reducing debt, these small habits and simple strategies can lead to big payoffs in your life. Start planning today!

1. Create Clear Goals

Sure, everyone wants to be rich and successful - but what does that mean to you? Do you want to clear your student debts as soon as possible, or are you trying to grow your portfolio? Think about your dreams for both the short-term and long-term. Write them down in a notebook, and come up with a plan to achieve them. Maybe you want to pay off your student debt by the end of the year, or maybe you want to build your retirement account by $6,000 in the next 12 months. Setting clear goals is the first step toward success.

2. Organize Your Accounts

What kind of saver are you? Do you keep your money in one place, or is it scattered across multiple banks and accounts? It may be time to do a little financial housekeeping.

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Understand the Process: Tips for Buying a Foreclosed Home

Gavel

Buying a house that’s in foreclosure sounds great, right? It can save you big money, but it’s not an easy process. These tips for buying a foreclosed home will help you understand what you’re in for.

A Different Deal

In a typical home sale, there are usually two different agents involved, with an inspection process and negotiations. Pretty standard. With a foreclosure, you only interact with one real estate agent, and because the house is bank-owned, you don’t have any real negotiating power. It’s an as-is sale, which means no inspection, and you’ll have to pay for repairs.

Get Pre-Approved

Foreclosures usually have many competing offers, so if you want to get in on the action, getting pre-approved is the first step you should take. Before you even start looking, have a lender write a letter that clearly states how much money you’re approved to borrow. There’s no time to do this when the offers start coming in.

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Realistic Last-Minute Retirement Planning Strategies

Pig Bank

If you haven’t been able to consistently save for retirement and now it’s looming closer, here are some realistic last-minute retirement planning ideas for you:

Start Saving Now

Saving when you’re young is so important because of the power of compounding interest. If you haven’t been able to consistently save 15% of your income throughout your career, then you need to save at a higher rate, starting now. Good news! The IRS allows people over age 50 to contribute more toward IRAs and 401(k)s. For the 2017 tax year, you can max out your IRA contributions at $6,500 and 401(k) contributions at $24,000. $7,000 a year more than younger workers!

Cut Your Costs

If you can make some changes to your lifestyle spending, that can have a great impact on how long your savings will last. For example: If your cost of living is $80,000 a year and you have $400,000 in the bank, then you have enough savings to last about five years. If you could slash your spending by 50%, then your savings would last you ten years. And, it would be earning interest for longer.

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Estate Planning Basics: Everyone Needs a Plan

A will

Wills and estate planning are not just for rich people. Everyone needs a strategy for what will happen to the financial assets you leave behind, no matter how much or little you have. Try these estate planning basics:

What is an Estate Plan?

The term “estate” is referring to whatever you own that has value – your home, cars, jewelry, investments, etc. When you pass away, those items will be given away, and an estate plan ensures that it happens the way you would want it to by defining what assets you have, how they’re protected, and how they’ll be distributed.

Wills

The first, and most important, document you need in your estate plan is a will, so your intentions are clearly stated regarding the disposition of your property. They’re not difficult or expensive to create. The important elements include:

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4 Life-Changing Personal Finance Tips

Light Bulb And Brain

You’ve probably gotten a lot of advice about money, and maybe you’ve even taken some of it. If you’re really ready to get control of your financial life, then it’s time to take a look at these personal finance tips:

Take a Financial Snapshot

Your first step is to take a good hard look at where you are today financially.

  • What’s your net worth? That’s the difference between what you have and what you owe.
  • How much debt do you have? Be sure you know the interest rate you’re paying on each outstanding balance. How will you pay them off?
  • Where do you want to be? It’s crucial to set goals. Put everything down on paper, with dollar amounts and what it will take to accomplish them.

Create Good Habits

Next, be sure you spend time regularly paying attention to what’s going on with your money.

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Budgeting for the Holidays Makes Everything Less Stressful

Christmas presents

Yes, you heard that correctly. Budgeting for the holidays doesn’t add stress. In fact, budgeting for these additional expenses actually makes life less stressful because you’re only spending the money you can really afford. So, how about feeling calm and peaceful in January because you made smart decisions instead of experiencing buyer’s remorse?

Where Should You Begin?

Well, first let’s talk about the fact that the holidays are supposed to be fun, and the real satisfaction comes from the act of giving something special, not from giving expensive presents. So, with that in mind, make a list of all the expenses you expect to incur during the holiday season. Try to think of everything that might come up. Your list may include:

  • Family gifts
  • Cards and postage
  • Decorations
  • Christmas tree
  • Other gifts for teachers, gift exchanges, etc.
  • Charity donations
  • Holiday meals

Set Your Limit

Next, take a hard look at the money you have available to cover all your holiday expenses, and decide on your spending limit. Be sure that you’re planning to use only money that you’ve saved up or set aside for Christmas. People often make the big mistake of spending money that’s not truly available.

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Tracking Monthly Expenses Can Lead to Significant Savings!

Piggy Bank Savings

Checking up on your finances is important, but it is only the beginning when it comes to saving money each month. It is also important to track monthly expenses so you not only see where your money is going, but where you want it to go as well. By keeping an eye on your finances, it is easier to create a budget and stick to it, which can lead to significant savings in the long run.

How Can I Get Started Tracking Monthly Expenses?

There are several easy ways to begin tracking monthly expenses.

  • Take a look at account statements - Be sure to look at all of your accounts to see where you have been spending. This will help you get a sense of your monthly cash flow. You need to see how much money is coming in and how much is going out.
  • List your expenses by category - it is a good idea to group your expenses together by category. This way, you can see what areas are causing the biggest hit to your wallet. It may also help you see where you are spending money on things you don’t really need.
  • Adopt a consistent tracking method - A budgeting app is a great way to consistently track your expenses each month. If you don’t like using apps, a simple spreadsheet will also do the trick.
  • Identify where you can make changes - Tracking monthly expenses is a great way to see what has been costing you and what areas of spending are not as bad as you may have thought. Be ready to make adjustments in spending and stick with your plan.
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How to Save on Your Electric Bill

Light Bulb

Is your energy bill costing you a fortune each month? There are many ways that you can reduce your energy consumption, and in turn, lower your electric bill. If you have been wondering how to save on your electric bill, these simple steps and large investments can help you save significantly in the long run.

Reducing Energy Bills: Summer and Winter

One of the biggest causes of outrageous energy bills is heating or cooling your home. When there is a large temperature difference inside your home and outside of it, your home will lose the heat or cool air until the temperature matches the outdoors. The only ways to stop the loss of heat or cool air is to keep adding heat or cool air or insulate your home to prevent it from leaving. Here is where you can begin to look for cost-cutting options for a more affordable utility bill.

Simple Fixes

There are plenty of easy ways to cut back on your energy bills:

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How to Consolidate Debt

Young Family Having Debt

Have you wondered what it means to consolidate your debt. This helpful strategy allows you to combine several old debts into a single debt with a lower interest rate. This can lead to a shorter payoff period or make your current payments more manageable. There are several options available, so it is important to find a method that best suits your needs.

Debt Consolidation Methods

  • Balance transfer card - The benefit of this option is the 0% introductory interest rate. There are a few drawbacks, however, such as interest payments after 12-18 months, a balance transfer fee, and the need for good to excellent credit.
  • Home equity - Home equity offers a lower interest rate than an unsecured loan and you do not need good credit for this method. There are significant disadvantages with this option. If you do not pay off your debts, you could end up losing your home. Repayment terms are also lengthy, sometimes 10 years or more.
  • 401(k) loan - This type of loan is not included on your credit report. With this method, you borrow the money from yourself, and it has a lower interest rate than an unsecured loan. Consequently, a 401(k) loan cuts down your retirement fund, and there are large fees if you are unable to repay the loan. If you happen to leave or lose your job, you must pay the loan back within 60 days.
  • Unsecured personal loan - This type of loan has a fixed payment period, monthly payment, and interest rate. There is usually an origination fee with an unsecured loan, and you have to have excellent credit to receive the lowest rates.

Breakdown of Options

  • With a 0% balance transfer credit card, there is no interest during a promotional period, and you can transfer all of your other credit card balances to this one card. To qualify, you will most likely need a credit score above 690. This method is great if you make a budget to eliminate your debt during that interest-free introductory period.
  • If you own a home, you have the option to take out a line of credit or a loan on the equity in your home. A line of credit works much like a typical credit card and has a variable interest rate. A home equity loan has a fixed interest rate, and it is a lump sum loan.
  • If your employer sponsors your retirement account, it may not be the best option to select a 401(k) loan unless you have already ruled out other methods. A major benefit is that a 401(k) loan will not appear on your credit report, but penalties and taxes are extensive if you are unable to pay back the loan.
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