The Center For Debt Management
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Get The Facts On
Saving and Investing

The Differences Between Saving & Investing

Saving

Your "savings" are usually put into the safest places, or products, that allow you access to your money at any time. Savings products include saving accounts, checking accounts, and certificates of deposit. At some banks and savings & loan associations your deposits may be insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). But there’s a tradeoff for security and ready availability. Your money is paid a low wage as it works for you.

Most smart investors put enough money in a savings product to cover an emergency, like sudden unemployment. Some make sure they have up to 6 months of their income in savings so that they know it will absolutely be there for them when they need it.

But how "safe" is a savings account if you leave all of your money there for a long time, and the interest it earns doesn’t keep up with inflation? What if you save a dollar when it can buy a loaf of bread, but years later when you withdraw that dollar plus the interest you earned on it, it can only buy half a loaf? This is why many people put some of their money in savings, but look to investing so they can earn more over long periods of time, say three years or longer.

The Basic Types of Products:

Savings:

  • Saving Accounts
  • Certificates of Deposit
  • Checking Accounts

Investments:

  • Bonds
  • Stocks
  • Mutual Funds
  • Real Estate
  • Commodities (like gold or silver)

Investing

When you "invest," you have a greater chance of losing your money than when you "save." Unlike FDIC-insured deposits, the money you invest in securities, mutual funds, and other similar investments is not federally insured. You could lose your "principal"—the amount you’ve invested. But you also have the opportunity to earn more money.

What about risk?

Investors protect themselves against risk by spreading their money among various investments, hoping that if one investment loses money, the other investments will more than make up for those losses. This strategy, called "diversification," can be neatly summed up as, "Don’t put all your eggs in one basket."

Once you’ve saved money for investing, consider carefully all your options and think about what diversification strategy makes sense for you. You should know that a vast array of investment products exists—including stocks and stock mutual funds, corporate and municipal bonds, bond mutual funds, certificates of deposits, money market funds, and U.S. Treasury securities.

Diversification can’t guarantee that your investments won’t suffer if the market drops. But it can help you balance risk.

What are the best investments for me?

The answer depends on when you will need the money, your goals, and if you will be able to sleep at night if you purchase a risky investment where you could lose your principal.

For instance, if you are saving for retirement, and you have 35 years before you retire, you may want to invest in riskier investment products, knowing that if you stick to only the "savings" products or to less risky investment products, your money will grow too slowly—or, given inflation and taxes, you may lose the purchasing power of your money. A frequent mistake people make is putting money they will not need for a very long time in investments that pay a low amount of interest.

On the other hand, if you are saving for a short term goal, you don’t want to choose risky investments, because when it’s time to sell, you may have to take a loss. Since investments often move up and down in value rapidly, you want to make sure that you can wait and sell at the best possible time.

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