Strengthening Native American Communities & Economies
Dear Dr. Per Cap: Some of my friends have suggested that I open a savings account, but I don’t know how to do that. I looked into it online a little bit, but it just seems kinda confusing. Can you help? ~ Signed, Save Me
Dear Save Me:
Congratulations! Opening your first savings account is a big step toward taking control of your personal financial matters. And don’t worry, because it’s not difficult to do.
You probably already have a checking account, which many would consider their basic “day to day” bank account. You can easily take money out of it to pay bills (by writing checks, using a debit card, or by taking cash out at an ATM), and easily put money into it by having paychecks deposited on a regular basis or by making your other deposits.
A savings account isn’t much different, except it usually pays a small amount of interest that is added to your account each month. And depending on the type of savings account you have, there might be some other restrictions to keep in mind. In any case, these accounts provide a safe and secure place for you to store your money and, hopefully, really start to “grow” your money by regularly adding additional dollars to your savings account while collecting the interest payments each month.
Many people find that it’s easy and convenient to open a savings account at the same bank or credit union where they already have their checking account. That way they see both accounts on the same monthly bank statement, they can deal with the same people if they need assistance, and they can easily transfer funds between accounts as needed. But you don’t have to use the same bank or credit union. You can usually open an account anywhere. In today’s web-wired world, you can even open an online savings account without ever having to go into a building.
When opening an account, you’ll need to fill out forms with some personal information, so be sure to bring along your driver’s license, Social Security number, and your checkbook. When you open the account, they’ll ask you to make your first deposit, which you can do by writing a check or handing them cash.
There are many types of savings accounts, so research the various options or discuss them with your banker when you meet. Some have requirements for minimum balances that must be maintained or you could face a penalty, some might charge fees, some might pay higher interest rates, and some might even allow you to write checks directly on the account.
But, since this is your first savings account, the “basic” account is probably the right choice for you. As you become a savvy saver over time, you can always upgrade or change your savings account to meet your changing wants and needs.
Ask Dr. Per Cap is a program funded by First Nations Development Institute with assistance from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. For more information, visit www.firstnations.org. To send a question to Dr. Per Cap, email firstname.lastname@example.org.