The Difference Between an Investment Portfolio and a Savings Account

By Janet Siroto · August 09, 2023 · 7 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right.

The Difference Between an Investment Portfolio and a Savings Account

A key part of wrangling your personal finances can be building personal wealth and preparing for the future, whether that means buying your own home in a couple of years or being able to retire before you turn 60.

There are various ways you can accumulate funds, such as putting your cash in a savings account or investing in the market. If you’re not sure which option is right for you (or are wondering if you should have both), then you’re in the right place.

Here, you’ll learn:

•   How is saving different from investing?

•   Is investing a kind of saving?

•   What kinds of bank accounts should I have?

•   What is an investment portfolio?

What’s the Difference Between Saving and Investing?

Savings accounts and investments can both help you get your finances on track for your future, but they can be used to meet very different goals. A big difference between savings vs. investing is risk.

When to Save

Think of savings as a nice safe place to park your cash and earn some interest.

You probably want lower risk on money you’ll need sooner, say for a fabulous vacation in two years. A savings account will fit the bill nicely for that goal because you want to be able to get to the money quickly, and savings accounts are highly liquid (they can be tapped on short notice).

When to Invest

With investing, you take on risk when you buy securities, but there’s also the potential for a return on investment.

For goals that are 10, 20, or even 40 years away, it might make sense to invest to meet those goals. Investments can make money in various ways, but when you invest, you are essentially buying assets on the open market; however, some investment vehicles are riskier than others.

Ways to Get Started Saving and Investing

So, what are some smart ways to start your savings and investment plan?

•   First, if you’re not already saving, start today. Time works against savers and investors, so write out some of your goals and attach reasonable time frames to them. Saving for a really great vacation may take a year or two. Saving for the down payment of a house may take years, depending on your circumstances.

•   One of the first goals to consider is an emergency fund. This money would ideally bail you out of an emergency, like having to pay a hefty medical bill or buying a last-minute plane ticket to see a sick loved one. Or paying your bills if you lost your job. You should save the equivalent of three to six months’ worth of expenses and debt payments available.

•   When it comes to saving vs investing, investing shines in reaching long-term goals. Many Americans invest to provide for themselves in retirement, for example. They use a company-sponsored 401(k) or self-directed IRA to build a portfolio over several decades.

•   Many retirement plans invest in mutual funds. Mutual funds are bundles of individual stocks or other securities, professionally managed. Because they have multiple stocks within, the account achieves diversification, which can help reduce some (but not all) investment risk.

💡 Quick Tip: Banish bank fees. Open a new bank account with SoFi and you’ll pay no overdraft, minimum balance, or any monthly fees.

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.

Do Investments Count as Savings?

While there are similarities between saving and investing, there are also very important distinctions.

•   When you save, you are putting your money in a secure place. A bank account, with Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, or NCUA (National Credit Union Administration) insurance, is a great example of this. You will be insured for up to $250,000 per account holder, per ownership category, per insured institution. And in many cases, you will be earning some interest.

•   With investments, you have the opportunity to grow your money significantly over time. For almost 100 years, the average return on the stock market has averaged 10%. However, it could be higher or it could be lower. And your funds are not insured, so you could withdraw funds at a moment where the economy is in a downturn and you experience a loss.

Because of this element of uncertainty, it’s wise to understand the distinction between saving and investing.

What Are the Different Bank Accounts I Should Own?

While some first-time savers think it’s either/or, savings account vs. investing, both have their role. Savings accounts can help you get to a spot in life where you can begin investing consistently.

There are two rules of thumb when it comes to savings and checking accounts.

•   On the one hand, you should own as few as you need. That reduces the strain of keeping up with multiple accounts and all those login passwords.

•   On the other hand, don’t neglect the benefits of having an additional savings account that you set aside for a certain purpose, like a house down payment.

You might even want to have additional different kinds of savings accounts. One could be for your emergency fund, kept at the same bank as your checking account. Another might be a high-interest one for that big vacation you’re planning. And the third might come with a cash bonus when you open it and be used to salt away money for that down payment on a home.

Having Multiple Bank Accounts

It can be a good idea to have at least one savings and one checking account. If you’re married, consider owning a joint checking account for paying family bills like the rent, mortgage, groceries, and other monthly expenses. You may also want separate accounts for you and your spouse to allow for some privacy. Decide what is the right path for your family.

There are many good reasons to open a checking account. It can be the hub for your personal finances, acting like bus stations for your money. Money rushes in from your paycheck and it hangs around for a short time before being sent off to pay some bills. Savings accounts are more like long-term car storage, letting you stow away money for longer periods.

Both can be interest-bearing accounts, but don’t simply look for the highest rates. Shop around for low fees, too.

An emergency fund can be tucked away in a savings account, and any income for regular expenses can be placed in a checking account. If you have a business or do freelance work, maybe create a completely different checking account for it.

A money-market account could be good for an emergency fund that has grown to several thousands of dollars, or for a windfall you didn’t expect. It’s an interest-bearing account, and while it historically carried higher interest rates than savings accounts, some savings accounts rival money-market account rates.

Unlike savings accounts, money-market accounts often have minimum deposit requirements — as much as $10,000. Keep an eye out for the lowest limits that suit your situation. The nice thing about money-market accounts is you can often make up to six transfers or withdrawals each month. And typically, money market accounts are insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000.

💡 Quick Tip: If you’re saving for a short-term goal — whether it’s a vacation, a wedding, or the down payment on a house — consider opening a high-yield savings account. The higher APY that you’ll earn will help your money grow faster, but the funds stay liquid, so they are easy to access when you reach your goal.

What Is an Investment Portfolio?

The difference between saving and investing can be summed up with two words: safety and risk. A collection of bank accounts suggests liquidity. It’s where you keep cash so you can get hold of it in a hurry. A collection of investment assets doesn’t have as much liquidity, because you may not want to pull your money when an investment is thriving. It’s riskier, but also has the potential for long-term gains.

An investment portfolio can hold all manner of investments, including bonds, stocks, mutual funds, real estate, and even hard assets like gold bars. A mix is a way to diversify investments and mitigate some market risk.

When you start building your savings and investment, it’s a good idea to learn all you can and start slow. Figure how much risk you can live with. That will dictate the kind of portfolio you own.

What Is a Savings Portfolio?

A savings portfolio can mean a couple of different things:

•   A savings portfolio can refer to the different ways you hold money for the future, possibly a combination of savings accounts and/or investments.

•   There are also savings portfolios which are investment vehicles for saving for college.

How Should I Start a Savings and Investment Plan?

A good way to start your savings and investment strategy is to look into an investment account. These accounts offer services such as financial advice, retirement planning, and some combination of savings and investment vehicles, usually for one set fee. In some cases, fees may be discounted or waived if you meet certain deposit or contribution levels.

In addition, you’ll likely want to make sure you have money in savings. A bank account can be a secure place for your funds, thanks to their being insured. Plus, they are liquid, meaning easily accessed, and may well earn you some interest as well.

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.

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

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 recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit 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, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, 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

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.


TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender