Do You Need a Long-Term Savings Account?

By Kelly Boyer Sagert · August 22, 2023 · 10 minute read

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Do You Need a Long-Term Savings Account?

Some of the best things in life are worth saving for, from an incredible vacation in Asia to the down payment on your dream house. A long-term savings account can keep your money safe and pay interest as you accumulate funds over time. This is in comparison to, say, a checking account which may have money constantly flowing in and out.

Long-term savings accounts can help you reach goals that take at least a few years or possibly decades to attain. They may be a savings account at a financial institution, a certificate of deposit (CD), a retirement fund, or other financial products.

Here, you’ll learn more about these options, including:

•   What are long-term savings accounts

•   What are the pros and cons of long-term savings accounts

•   What types of accounts are considered long-term savings accounts

Pros and Cons of Long-Term Savings Accounts

If you are wondering about long-term savings, consider the potential upsides and downsides of this kind of account.

Pros of Long-Term Savings Accounts

Here are some benefits of long-term savings accounts:

•   Your money makes money. Compounding interest turbocharges the impact.

•   Your money is safe. Look for an account that’s insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, or NCUA (The National Credit Union Administration), and you’ll be covered for $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for every account ownership category. Some financial institutions may offer ways to cover even larger amounts.

•   Savings accounts are widely available and typically very easy to open.

Cons of Long-Term Savings Accounts

As you might expect, there are also some disadvantages to long-term savings accounts. These include:

•   Relatively low interest rates. If you have your money in a traditional savings account, you may not earn that much. You might do better with a high-interest savings account or investing in the market.

•   There’s no tax advantage to putting your money in a savings account, while some retirement accounts may offer you an advantage on that front.

•   Restrictions and fees. Some savings accounts may limit you to six withdrawal transactions per month, and there’s a possibility that you’ll pay minimum balance or other charges.

💡 Quick Tip: Want to save more, spend smarter? Let your bank manage the basics. It’s surprisingly easy, and secure, when you open an online bank account.

4 Long-Term Savings Options

While savings accounts are one popular way to stash cash, they aren’t the only game in town. Here are five options, along with some pros and cons of each of them.

1. High-Interest Savings Accounts

This type of savings account can provide considerably higher interest rates than the average savings account.

You may hear it referred to as a high-interest, high-yield, premium, or growth savings account.

It’s generally just as easy to access a high-interest savings account as it is a standard checking account, although there may be limits on the number of withdrawals you can make per month with this type of savings account. They often offer ATM access, sometimes with fee reimbursement, mobile check deposit, and online account management via an app.

Financial institutions that offer these accounts include regional banks and local credit unions; online savings accounts will also often offer these benefits.

To open and maintain this type of account, there are often certain requirements that need to be met. This could include setting up a direct deposit, maintaining a minimum balance, or limiting the number of withdrawals per month. Some high-interest savings accounts also offer tiered interest rates for different balance ranges. For instance, a bank might offer a base tier on balances up to $25,000, and an upper tier with a higher rate on balances greater than $25,000.

One item to check for in the fine print: the balance cap on interest earned. If that’s included, this means that there’s a limit to the balance on which interest can be earned. For example, if the interest rate is 4%, but the balance cap is at $2,500, then the interest rate is only earned on money up to the cap. Any amount above the balance cap will not earn a high interest rate.

Earn up to 4.60% APY with a high-yield savings account from SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings account and earn up to 4.60% APY - with no minimum balance and no account fees.


2. Money Market Accounts

A money market account is similar to a high-interest savings account, but it will likely have more requirements for keeping it open. For example, some accounts require initial deposit minimums, and a certain minimum balance may be required to prevent monthly fees from being charged.

With both high-interest savings accounts and money market accounts, funds can typically be deposited and withdrawn fairly easily.

3. Certificates of Deposit

A certificate of deposit (CD) is a deposit account that typically offers higher interest rates than a regular savings account and pays compounding interest. In other words, interest is paid on the interest.

One challenge with a CD, though, is that it’s a time deposit. You’ll usually know the interest rate in advance, but you must agree to keep the funds in the account for a predetermined amount of time. (The range is often from a few months to several years.) So this may not provide the liquidity — the ability to quickly turn the account into cash — that some people want and need. If funds are withdrawn before the maturity date, a penalty will likely be assessed.

Interest rates on CDs are typically structured in tiers, based upon how long a person agrees to keep the money in the account. A short-term vs. long-term CD will probably pay a lower interest rate. A six-month CD, for instance, will likely pay a bit less in interest than a two-year CD.

4. Retirement Accounts

Retirement accounts have one thing in common: they are investment vehicles designed to help people save for their post-working years. They typically have tax advantages. Here are three of the types.

1.    Traditional Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)

The account holder opens this account and makes contributions on their own instead of through an employer. There may be an income tax deduction allowed on contributions made, and the funds are tax-deferred, meaning the contributions aren’t taxed but the withdrawals are. For tax year 2023, the maximum allowable contribution amount is $6,500 annually or $7,500 if age 50 or older. If funds are withdrawn before the account holder is 59 and a half, there is a 10% penalty levied on the amount withdrawn in addition to the usual tax on the withdrawal.

Contribution limits and how much is tax-deductible will depend upon factors such as whether you are filing singly or jointly, how much you earn (your modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI), and whether you are covered by a retirement plan at work.

2.    Roth IRA

A Roth IRA is another type of individual retirement account that a person opens and funds without the involvement of an employer, this time using after-tax money to contribute. This means that account holders cannot deduct contributions on their income tax. However, the balance grows tax-free, and when funds are withdrawn during retirement, they are also tax-free. Annual contribution caps are the same as a traditional IRA.

To contribute to a Roth, the account holder must be earning an income. Once that person’s MAGI reaches a certain level — for the 2023 tax year, this is $153,000 — then the ability to continue to contribute will begin to phase out. If the account holder is filing joint federal income taxes, then the amount is $228,000 for the 2023 tax year.

As noted above, the maximum total annual contribution to all your IRAs when combined is $6,500 for those under age 50 in tax year 2023; $7,500 if you are 50 or older.

This type of account is typically best for someone who appreciates the ability to withdraw funds in retirement without paying taxes, and a Roth IRA can work especially well for people currently earning a lower income than they expect to earn in the future.

3.    401(k) Retirement Account

What is a 401(k)? It’s a retirement plan offered by an employer to qualifying employees. Contributions are made with pre-tax money, which means they will reduce the person’s taxable income. The money grows tax-free, with taxes paid when funds are withdrawn in retirement.

For the 2023 tax year, the maximum annual contribution amount is $22,500; an additional catch-up contribution of up to $7,500 can be made by account holders over the age of 50. These contributions are taken from the employee’s paycheck, and some companies provide matching funds up to a certain amount. Sometimes these accounts have fees that must be paid.

Although these are not the only kinds of retirement accounts available, they are among those most commonly used.

💡 Quick Tip: Most savings accounts only earn a fraction of a percentage in interest. Not at SoFi. Our high-yield savings account can help you make meaningful progress towards your financial goals.

Long-Term Financial Goals

By setting long-term financial goals, people can create a plan for a more comfortable future and make a commitment to stay on track with savings goals. The reality is that, according to a recent survey, 37% of Americans have no retirement savings at all.

Creating a long-term financial plan and focusing on that plan can help people reach money goals. Keeping cash in a savings account long-term can help you reach those aspirations.

Steps include setting goals with these five components:

•   Clarity

•   Challenge

•   Commitment

•   Complexity

•   Feedback

These components are included in “A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance,” published by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham.

•   First, be clear about what, specifically, you want to accomplish — and don’t be afraid to dream big.

•   What challenges might you face? Break your goals into smaller parts to simplify the journey.

•   Prioritize them and make a commitment to follow shorter-term goals, one step at a time, which also helps to gain momentum on the longer-term ones.

•   The excitement that may be felt about this process can help to solidify a sense of commitment.

•   For some people, it can help to partner with another person and share goals, keeping one another accountable. Or perhaps a mentor can be helpful. Other people may find it more effective to reward themselves when certain goals are met. Whichever method is chosen, it typically works best when progress is regularly reviewed and adjusted, as needed.

Emergency Savings Account

Although saving for long-term goals is wise, it can make sense to prioritize creating an emergency fund if one doesn’t already exist. It’s usually wise to choose an account type that offers liquidity because this is one where you’ll want quick access if an emergency occurs.

A typical recommendation is to keep three to six months’ worth of living expenses in this account. That way, if someone in the household loses a job, an emergency home repair seems to come out of nowhere, or medical bills need to be paid, money in these funds can help to keep all on track or at least mitigate the impact of the expenses.

Opening a Savings Account With SoFi

If using separate savings accounts for different financial goals isn’t something you want or need to do, consider using one main account that lets you save for your financial goals, spend money, and earn money. You might want to take a closer look at what SoFi offers.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

What type of account is best for long-term savings?

If you are interested in a highly liquid account that is insured, you might look for a high-yield savings account. These are typically found at online banks and can offer significantly higher interest rates than traditional banks.

What is a long-term savings account called?

You may see different terms used for long-term savings accounts, such as high-yield, high-interest, and premium savings.

What is considered long-term savings?

Long-term savings are typically money that is being set aside for a goal that is at least several years or possibly a few decades away. If you are starting to save for the down payment on a house, your child’s college education, or your retirement, those might be considered long-term goals.


Photo credit: iStock/AndreyPopov

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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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