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Investing 101: What is a CD and are they right for you?
Why do people invest their money? It’s likely because they’re saving for something—a trip, a home, a child’s college education—or simply because they don’t want to work until they’re 108. People earn money by working, but putting your money to work is also an excellent way to build wealth and help you afford the things you want in life.
Investing is the most effective way to grow your money over the long term, but risking what you already have for the prospect of something more in the future can be a scary thought. Couple that with the complexities of the financial markets and it’s easier just to stuff some cash under your mattress.
The truth is, investing doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, there are some conservative options that can help you earn extra cash without pushing you beyond your comfort zone. Both seasoned and novice investors can benefit from the safer, simple choices, like a CD, for instance.
What is a CD and how does it work?
A certificate of deposit (CD) is a promissory note that’s issued by a bank or credit union. It comes with a future maturity date and a fixed interest rate. When you invest in a CD, you, as the investor, agree to loan your money to the issuing institution for a specific period of time and a predetermined rate of return.
When you purchase a CD, you give up access to your funds until the maturity date. For forfeiting your liquidity, you earn compensation in the form of interest. Once the CD matures, the bank refunds your initial investment, which is called the principle, plus your earned interest.
CDs are issued for different terms. Long-term CDs typically offer a higher rate of return compared to short-term CDs. Why? Because your restricted access to the funds is for a longer timeframe and the longer you’re required to hold your investment, the higher level of risk and uncertainty you assume.
How risky are CDs?
On the spectrum of risk and return, CDs are considered conservative investments. Federally-insured bank CDs are backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Company (FDIC), and Credit Union issued CDs are guaranteed by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). Even if the issuing institution collapses, your investments are protected.
The risk that you assume with CDs is interest rate risk. When you invest in a CD, you agree to a specified rate of return. As the financial markets fluctuate in response to economic and political factors, you want your CD’s rate of return to remain competitive. If CD rates rise, your current investments could be locked into a lower rate for an extended period of time. While you don’t run the risk of losing your investment and your earned interest, but you could miss out on the opportunity to earn more money than with your current CD.
One way to reduce that level of risk is called laddering. You can stagger maturity dates among several CDs so that matured deposits can be reinvested at potentially higher rates and you’re able to gain periodic access to cash, if necessary.
Explore your options
As with any investment, be sure to familiarize yourself with the fine print. A common concern with CDs is penalties for early withdrawal. If you experience a hardship and have to cash in your CD, it could significantly affect your earned interest or even your principle. Today, there are specialty CDs like penalty-free CDs, Bump Up or Raise Your Rate CDs, IRA and Jumbo CDs. If you’re considering an investment, be sure to speak with your financial advisor to determine which options will meet your individual needs, both in the short and long term.
Information about Meltdown and Spectre
You may have heard news reports about Meltdown and Spectre, two computer bugs affecting electronic devices. We want to assure you that the security of our members’ information is our top priority and we have, and will continue to protect it from viruses such as these.
We have a robust Information Security Program to keep our members’ information safe and we have been working closely with our vendors to address these bugs specifically. For more information about Meltdown and Spectre, please click here.
Budgeting for College Students: Where to Start
College marks a significant transition period for many young adults — it’s a time of newfound freedom and the financial responsibilities that come with it.
Whether your funds come from family, student loans, scholarships or your own wallet, you’ll need to budget for expenses like textbooks, housing and, yes, a social life. Knowing who’s footing the bill, what costs to expect and which ones you can live without — ideally before school starts — can reduce stress and help you form healthy financial habits for the future.
Have the money talk
Before you build a budget, go over some important details with the people — parents, guardians or a partner — who will be involved in financing your education. Discussing your situation together will ensure everyone is in the loop and understands expectations.
“One of the biggest obstacles we have [with] teaching young people financial literacy and financial skills is not making money and expenses a taboo subject,” says Catie Hogan, founder of Hogan Financial Planning LLC. “Open lines of communication are far and away the most important tool, just so everyone’s on the same page as far as what things are going to cost and how everybody can keep some money in their pocket.”
Here are some topics to start with:
- Who is paying for college and how. Have a conversation before the start of each school year to decide if your family will pay for costs out-of-pocket or if you’ll need to get a job, rely on financial aid, use funds from a 529 plan or combine these options.
- What expenses to expect. In addition to tuition, you’ll have to budget for other college costs, like transportation and school supplies. Make a list of likely expenses, estimate the cost and agree who pays for what. (See more on expenses below.)
- FAFSA and taxes. Whether a parent or guardian claims you as a dependent or you file taxes on your own determines whose information is required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and who can claim tax credits and deductions. Discuss your financial status before each school year and address any changes, like a raise or job loss.
- Credit cards and bank accounts. If you’re considering opening a credit card account for the first time, are younger than 21 and don’t work full time, you’ll need a co-signer: a parent or other adult. You’ll want to talk about ground rules, like only using a credit card for emergencies and defining what constitutes an emergency. Approach new financial products with caution and be careful not to take on debt. If you plan to directly deposit funds from a job or allowance, look for a checking account that offers low (or no) fees.
Anticipate your expenses
To determine what you’ll spend each term, keep these college-related expenses on your radar:
- Textbooks and school supplies. Course materials could eat up a large chunk of your budget. The average estimated cost of books and supplies for in-state students living on campus at public four-year institutions in 2016-2017 was $1,250, according to the College Board. Also plan for purchases like notebooks, a laptop, a printer and a backpack, and read the do’s and don’ts of back-to-school shopping for money-saving tips.
- Room and board. When it comes to food and living arrangements, weigh your options. Compare the cost of living on campus and getting a meal plan versus renting an apartment and shopping for groceries.
- Transportation. Will you take a bus, bike or walk to and from campus or work? If you absolutely need a car, be prepared to cover gas, maintenance and insurance.
- Clothing. Budget for seasonal clothing and job-fair outfits.
- Discretionary spending. You deserve a break from studying. Leave room in your budget for fun stuff like entertainment, travel and social activities.
Track your spending and cut back where you can
The basic principles of budgeting, like living below your means, still apply regardless of the source of your funds. Whether you’re working or receiving help from your parents or financial aid — or all of the above — figure out how much money flows in and out.
You don’t have to go through a grueling process, like filling out a spreadsheet every day; you’ll have enough homework. Just set aside some time at least once a month to review your money situation. Budgeting apps and online banking can help make the process more manageable.
“Just knowing that you can log into your online banking and take inventory of what you have and the income coming in, I think that’s more than enough,” Hogan says.
Start with the common culprits: food and fun. “Looking at what is the least expensive meal plan you can get without going hungry is a big money-saving tip,” Hogan says. “And a lot of campus activities and groups and all that [are] really great, but they can weigh really heavy on your budget, so don’t overcommit.”
Keep your future self in mind
If you’ve managed to stay afloat as a student, you’re in good shape. Continue on a financially healthy path by thinking about life after graduation. If you’re working and able to build a cushion, set financial goals, like creating an emergency fund or saving for a trip — and don’t forget about any student loans you might have to pay off after graduation.
“You obviously don’t want to burden yourself so much that you have anxiety about it while you’re in college, but I think having a healthy grasp of reality … is helpful in terms of knowing what kind of lifestyle you can really afford to live in college,” says Kyle Moore, a certified financial planner in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The article Budgeting for College Students: Where to Start originally appeared on NerdWallet.
Georgia’s Own and Gas South
Some things just go well together
Georgia’s Own and Gas South are serving up savings.
Georgia’s Own members are now eligible for exclusive savings on their Gas South service. Members who are existing Gas South customers will receive a discount on Gas South’s already great everyday low rates. Members who switch their natural gas service to Gas South as part of this program will receive the same discount and $50 in bill credits on their Gas South statements.
Georgia’s Own Member & Existing Gas South Customer
+ 2 Cent Discount on Already Great Low Rates
Georgia’s Own Member & Signs Up With Gas South Via This Offer
+ 2 Cent Discount on Already Great Low Rates
+ $50 in Bill Credits on Gas South Statements
+ No deposit (up to $150 in savings)
Millennials saving for uncertain future
How are millennials (we) saving for an uncertain future? According to an article by Michael Douglass from CNNMoney, millennials are saving earlier for retirement than their parents were. This is great news for us, but unfortunately the financial outlook is dimmer than in years past. In fact, recent figures from the Employee Benefit Research Institute state that millennials may need to DOUBLE how much we are saving for retirement. This is due in part to expert projections of how the stock market will perform in years, and decades to come. Experts have stated they expect to see a steady decline in average stock gains. In addition to the declining stock market, Social Security might not be available for us when we turn 67.
What to do with such a glum outlook? Well, first things first, you need to have a plan. Do you know how much money you need to save for retirement? Does your job offer a 401k plan with a match? If not, have you considered opening an IRA and investing in mutual funds? Experts say you should be saving roughly 10% to 15% of your income to live comfortably in retirement. Some experts suggest as much as 25% to ward off the potential financial woes of the future economic climate. Starting earlier is better, so the sooner you can start saving, the better off you’ll be. Even a few years can make a substantial difference.
Here are a few quick tips to help you along your path to retirement:
- Have a plan
- Know your retirement savings goals
- Pay yourself first – set aside a planned percentage of money from each paycheck (preferably at least 10-15% or more, if possible)
- Talk to a financial advisor about your situation (they can be free of charge)
- Perform regular assessments of your retirement accounts and contributions to make sure that you’re on track for your goals
- Adjust your contributions as necessary to meet your goals
- Don’t live beyond your means – if you are living paycheck to paycheck, reassess your situation and find ways to make cuts or, better yet, increase your income earning potential
Retirement savings plan
Investment experts suggest you should save double your annual income by the age of 35. The chart below is an “estimated” projection based on a starting annual income of roughly $35k at age 21, with regular 3% annual cost of living raises, a regular contribution of roughly 10% of your paycheck, and a 3% rate of return from your retirement account.
*The retirement chart is for illustration purposes only, and not to be used as a guidepost.
Note: This blog post is intended as informational only, and is not investment advice, consult a financial advisor before making any financial investment decisions.
When should I start saving for retirement?
When you are young, retirement is likely the last thing on your mind but planning for it shouldn’t be. The earlier you start saving, the more time your money has to grow and the more financially healthy you’ll be in your retirement years.
The magic of compound interest
The biggest benefit to starting early is the value of compounding interest. Compounding interest is when the earnings of an investment are reinvested into that same investment and continue to grow. It’s like earning interest on interest, and it can lead to substantial investment rewards. The critical component in compounding is time. In fact, the amount of time you have even outweighs the amount of money you invest.
Here’s an example: let’s says you want to start saving and invest $1,000 with the credit union. You also decide to save $150.00 each month after that. After 30 years, assuming the average interest you’ve earned is around 5%, you’ll have over $125,000! The total amount of money you invested was $55,000, but through the magic of compounding interest, you were able to earn an additional $70,000.
If you follow the same scenario but only save for 15 years, your total is only $40,000, and your net return is $12,000. Those extra years make a BIG difference so the sooner you start, the better. Want to run the numbers for yourself? Check out this calculator to see what compound interest could do for you.
If you do want to start investing, here are two common ways to get started.
Ideally, you’ll be able to start saving as soon as you begin earning a paycheck. If you employer sponsors a 401(k) plan, that’s a smart option, especially if they offer a matching contribution. The money you contribute to the plan is automatically deducted from your paycheck and deposited into your 401(k) account before it’s taxed which allows you to save a little more. It also lowers your current tax liability since you won’t have to pay taxes on the contributions or the earnings until you take a distribution from the account. Generally, a company will match your contribution to the plan up to a designated percentage. It’s essentially free money so the sooner you take advantage of this benefit, the better.
Another way to start saving for retirement is by contributing to an IRA. With a Roth IRA you contribute after-tax money to the account, but any money withdrawn later is tax-free. You can also arrange for a monthly direct deposit into your Roth IRA which will help you stick to a savings plan. If you’re self-employed, you have the option of opening a SEP IRA. You won’t have the benefit of a company matching contribution, but it will still offer the ability to save on a tax-deferred basis.
The sooner, the better
When it comes to compounding, time is your friend. The smartest step you can take today is to start saving for tomorrow. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, especially since most retirement savings plans are set up for automatic investment. Just remember, the earlier the better because tomorrow will be here sooner than you think!