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There’s a bank account for everything
But you don’t need every bank account!
In this solo episode, host Tori Dunlap is taking you through a scenic tour of almost every kind of account you can think of. From checking to high-yield savings to HSAs and 529s, we’ve got your bases covered.
What you’ll learn:
The difference between all the savings accounts –– from CDs to Money Market and more
How much you should aim to have in each kind of account
The difference between HSA and FSA and who they might best serve
Why you should NEVER use your retirement to pay for school
Hi, financial feminists. Welcome back to the show. Before we dive in today, producer Kristen and I are looking at Co-Star. I’m never on here. I haven’t logged in a very long time. I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t do the whole horoscope thing. I just don’t. And then I’m trying to figure out… Kristen, you wanted my Mercury? For those who are curious as to what I am, I’m a Cancer sun, Leo moon, Gemini rising, and a lot of people who don’t know me are shocked to discover that I am a Cancer, but if you have two conversations with me, you will figure that out very quickly because I’m a little bean who just wants to love you and be loved.
Oh, my Mercury is in Gemini, Kristen. They just dragged me. “Your moon is in Leo, meaning your emotional self is dramatic.” Me, never. “Proud, expressive, idealistic, and somewhat self-centered.” I hate being the center of attention. What are you fucking talking about, Co-Star? “You need a lot of love, care, and validation from other people.” Lord, don’t I? It’s literally just like, “I will just rip you, rip into you.”
“It’s in your third house, meaning you find security and safety through the things you know and are familiar with.” It’s like it knows that I listen to the same, and I say listen, not watch, to the same three seasons of The Office. Fun fact that you didn’t know, and then we will dive into the episode, I promise. I listen to The Office while I shower, especially if I’m traveling, and I do this a lot. I started this in COVID, because I’ve seen the episodes so many times that I don’t even need to watch them anymore. I just want the comfort of hearing the same things that I’ve heard for like 10 years.
Well, today, apparently I’m resisting closeness and I’m feeling antsy. “Instead of being a romantic party favor, try taking it deeper.” A romantic party favor, I’m not sure what that means. The do, I should be flying solo, I should be jump roping, and I should be using sticky lip gloss. I should not. I don’t know what this means, “Don’t locked doors, trash fire or nostalgia.” Why do I feel like this is just titles of albums? This could be a Taylor Swift album. This could literally… Flying solo, jump rope, lip gloss, locked doors, trash fire, nostalgia. That’s literally Taylor Swift’s track list for her next album.
Please keep that, because I thought that was witty and clever and my Gemini would like it.
Okay. Hi, everybody. If you’re an oldie but a goodie, welcome back. If you are new, hi, I’m Tori, clearly astrology master, financial feminist, New York Times bestselling author. I fight the patriarchy by making you rich. We do this show to educate you about money and to also talk about the ways that money affects women differently. And so, I’m just excited to have you here.
Today is more of a financial deep dive that was actually inspired by a recent TikTok that did well on our account. I think it’s a common question we get, which is just like, “What does all this shit mean?” But more specifically, what are all the accounts that are available to me? What accounts should I have? What financial accounts make sense depending on my goals and depending on the amount of money I have? And where should my money go? So if you want the ultimate guide to financial accounts, you’re in the right place.
Now, I will preface this episode off the top by saying all of our recommendations for all of these accounts, we have recommendations for literally every single one of these accounts are linked on our website. And the second thing is that we dive deeper into what some of these accounts are on either different episodes or in our book, because we’ve already done it. I’m not going to give you the full-blown what a Roth IRA is and how to open one. We will link in the show notes what episodes to listen to if you do want that much detail. So we’re kind of doing a high level overview of a bunch of different accounts.
I will say too, for my final thing, is not everybody needs all of these accounts and not all of these accounts are accessible to everybody. We’ll talk about who they’re for as I go through each one or what kind of goals they’re for, but don’t feel like… If you’re listening to this episode and you’re like, “Oh my God, I don’t check every single account box that she mentioned,” that is probably not a bad thing. There’s some accounts even on this list that I don’t have. Personal finance is personal. You’re going to have different accounts for your different life situation. So just take that into account when you’re listening to this episode.
All right, housekeeping, quickly. You know the drill, subscribe. It truly, really makes our job and our life easier. It allows you to never miss an episode and it allows us to make sure you never miss an episode. You can hit the plus or the subscribe button wherever you’re listening right now. And leaving us a five star review helps other people find the show, support it. Thank you so much. We appreciate you being here.
Okay, let’s go ahead and dive in. First, checking accounts. We’re going to explain what checking accounts are. Simply put, this is essential for your day-to-day financial transactions. This is the account that’s going to see the most activity because it’s where the majority of your money is going in and going out. Your checking account is where you should be paying your bills. Your checking account is also where the majority of your paycheck is going to be deposited.
So with your checking account, this allows you to deposit money, it allows you to withdraw money, it allows you to write checks, hence checking account, and also use a debit card for purchases. What is a debit card? Your debit card is linked to your checking account. It allows you to make purchases using your own money without incurring debt. So if you have $1,000 in your checking account, you can make up to $1,000 worth of purchases.
And you may recall from my previous episodes that I am not a debit card
user. You can opt out of using a debit card if you can manage a credit card responsibly. I do this, again, as a reminder, to get the free points, the cash back, the benefits of using a credit card. So I would just use my credit card like a debit card. But if you have a not so great relationship with credit cards, might not be the best option for you.
Please note as well that debit cards are not as secure as credit cards, because if somebody gets access to your account, if somebody knows your pin, if somebody can get access through your debit card, through your ATM, or through your bank, well suddenly they can potentially drain your account, because they have direct access to it. This is one of the reasons that I don’t use debit cards, is they’re not as secure. So set up fraud alerts. And if you can do so, use credit cards specifically for online purchases, because online, it’s harder to trace fraudulent activity.
Checking accounts are where the majority of your paycheck is being put in and where you’re paying your expenses, you’re paying your bills. And typically, your checking account will come with a debit card.
Now, how much money should be in a checking account? I want to shout this from the rooftops. If you are half paying attention to me, please come back. Checking accounts should only have the amount of money needed to cover your expenses plus a little bit extra. I mention this in my book. It should be the amount to cover your expenses. So if your expenses are $4,000 a month, your checking account should have $4,000 plus a buffer of around $1,000. That is it.
Look at me, the amount of people I see put so much extra money in their checking account when it could be earning so much more interest elsewhere. This is so common with women, because we have been told checking accounts are safe, checking accounts are fine, “So I’m just going to keep my money in here.” If you have tens of thousands of dollars in a checking account, or if you have more than tens of thousands of dollars in a checking account, and you’re not assuming spending like Kim Kardashian and spending all of that money, that should not be in there.
Again, checking accounts are just for your expenses, how much you need to live on a monthly basis, plus a little bit extra so you don’t overdraft. If you have more than that, you need to transfer it somewhere else, and we’ll talk about where you should be transferring that in a second.
Let’s talk about general savings accounts. These are savings accounts through your local bank, through a credit union, through one of these big national banks, like maybe a Wells Fargo or Bank of America. The reason I raspberry at Wells Fargo, maybe we’ll do an episode, do some Googling. If you have your money at Wells Fargo…
Quick tangent. This is chaotic energy, by the way, today, Kristen. If you have money at Wells Fargo, get it the fuck out of there. Wells Fargo is the worst. They’re the worst. They’ve had so many controversies and so much fraudulent activity and they’ve had lawsuit after lawsuit. So if you have your money in Wells Fargo, please get it out of there. Get it out of there.
Okay. Savings accounts though. Savings account savings accounts are exactly what they sound like. They’re accounts for saving money. Now, these are for your short-term goals. These are for your short-term goals that are like seven years or less out. So getting married next year, buying a house in a few years.
Now, the thing about savings accounts though, and the reason why you actually really shouldn’t have more than one is that everything about a savings account… A high-yield savings account does better. Everything about a regular savings account, you can get way more in interest and typically way less restrictions if you use a high-yield savings account instead. high-yield savings accounts are going to earn you way more money in interest than a normal everyday savings account, but it works the same. You can take the money out at any time. You can put money in at any time. So all of those goals I just mentioned, getting married, buying a house, your emergency fund, that should actually go in a high-yield savings account.
The only time you really need a savings account, like a normal general savings account, that isn’t a high-yield account, for me, I like having a normal savings account, with just $1,000, at my local bank that I can go to. Why do I do that? Well, because I don’t have a debit card. I’m not using a debit card. So when I need cash, the one time a year I do, I still need to go into the bank to get it. I like knowing that I have a little bit of money. If I’m going on a trip, I just got back from Europe, and I needed to take some money and use it in cash and then convert it to Euros, that helps me just with the logistics of that.
But again, I want to highlight, one, if you have more than your monthly expenses plus a buffer in your checking account, that money needs to be transferred to a high-yield savings account. And two, if you’re either keeping your money in a general savings account for things like your emergency fund, for your short-term goals, or you don’t have a savings account at all, a high-yield savings account is actually the thing that is going to be beneficial and that you need to open. We have our link down below in the show notes. You can also go to herfirst100k.com/tools for the high-yield savings account we recommend. So things that are goals, great for a high-yield savings account.
Again, an emergency fund. Everybody listening needs an emergency fund. Right off the top I said that there’s some accounts you might not need. Every single one of you listening needs an emergency fund, regardless of how much money you do or don’t have, regardless of how much money you do or don’t make. You need an emergency fund and that needs to go in a high-yield savings account.
Other great goals for high-yield savings account purposes, vacation savings, pet emergency funds, down payment or saving for a car, holiday savings, other emergency funds, like a house emergency fund. Again, if you’re maybe getting married in a couple of years, that’s a great place to put that money. These are four short-term goals.
So we’ve covered checking accounts, we’ve covered savings accounts, we’ve covered the much sexier, better cousin, which is the high-yield savings account. Let’s talk about a CD. I’m thinking of the Barbie movie now, where they explain what a CD is in a very mansplain-y voice. The first time I went with Christine to Barbie and the second time I went with my partner, and both times when the money thing came up, they were slapping me. They’re like, “It’s you. It’s you.” It was very cute.
As explained in the summer, blockbuster and cultural phenomenon, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, the certificate of deposit, a certificate of deposit is a type of souped-up savings account. It is one of the things that can be really great if you’re trying to see for almost like a medium-term goal, “I don’t need this money tomorrow.” Emergency funds should not go in CDs, but maybe in that trying to buy a house in a couple years, you want to look into something like a CD.
Okay, so CDs are basically a deal you’re making with a bank or credit union. And the deal is, “Hey, I will give you this amount of money and I won’t need that money for a period of time. And in exchange for having my money locked away, you’re going to typically give me a higher interest rate.” So
something like a 24-month CD means, “Okay, if I give you $5,000, for 24 months, that money is locked up, but I am hopefully going to get a higher interest rate for doing that.” The catch is, of course, if you need that money and you have to withdraw it before the two years are up, you’re going to have to pay some sort of penalty.
Now, typically the penalty is you just don’t get the interest you earned, so you’re not actually losing money, you’re just not getting the interest you would’ve gotten. But this is why things like emergency funds should not go into CDs. But they might be good options if you’ve got a year, two year, three year.
Now, there are various time allotments for CDs. There’s six-month CDs, there’s year CDs, there’s 2, 3, 5. There’s some 10 or 20 year CDs. But when we’re thinking about CDs, it’s a great potential idea for a two or three year goal, up to a seven-year goal. Lately, in the past couple of years, CDs have not actually given you all of that great of an interest rate, passed a high-yield savings count.
So if you want to take the more flexible route, you might just want to put your money in a high-yield savings account, because we’re not seeing a huge amount of interest difference between something like a CD and a high-yield savings account.
So when you’re thinking about CDs, again, you just kind of have to do your research. You have to figure out, “Okay, yep, I’m not going to need this money. I have two years to spare. I have this amount of money,” and then figure out what’s the best option for you. If you are valuing flexibility though, of being able to take the money out, of being able to have that flexible option, again, a high-yield savings account’s going to be the best choice for you.
Okay, money market accounts. We’re going to make this really quick. Money market accounts, they’re a type of savings account. The only difference really between a money market account and a high-yield savings account is that they sometimes provide check writing or debit card capabilities. So it’s like a souped-up checking account, I guess. Again, we recommend high-yield savings accounts over money market accounts. I don’t have a money market account. It’s not something that I really look into. I like the high-yield savings account because the interest rate’s going up all the time. I use my checking account for the purpose of a actual checking account, money going in, money going out. Money market accounts are there, they’re available, they’re not my super jam.
A quick thing to highlight, especially with some craziness in banks recently, most of these accounts are FDIC insured, meaning that the government is protecting your money up to $250,000. High-yield savings accounts are FDIC insured. Checking accounts are FDIC insured. Money market accounts, FDIC insured. CDs, FDIC insured.
Now, if it’s not FDIC insured, that should not be a bank you go with. Any standard bank that you’ve heard of, or that we recommend, or another reputable finance creator, educator, expert recommends will be FDIC insured. It’s important that you check.
It’s also important that if you are balling out and you somehow have, maybe it is that down payment, over $250,000 in one of these accounts, it is not protected. So if you have $300,000 in an account, it is only protected up to $250,000. So if hypothetically a bank were to fail, you might not get back that $50,000 extra. So when you’re planning, take this into account. It might be worth opening up a high-yield savings account at one institution, opening up a checking account somewhere else, opening up another high-yield savings account somewhere else if you are flush with cash. So it’s really important to make sure that your FDIC insurance is actually going to insure the money that you have in there.
I know that I had to do some finagling for HFK when all of these banks started getting squirrelly to make sure that the money that we have in reserves for the business is protected and safe.
Okay, let’s talk about investing accounts. Again, we have an entire episode on retirement accounts and investing accounts. Kristen will link it down below. So we’re not going to deep dive into these. We’ve talked about them deep dive in other episodes, as well as in my book.
So a couple retirement account options. All of these accounts I’m about to talk about, when we’re talking about retirement investing accounts, are specifically for retirement. That sounds like a, “No, duh.” But I want to highlight, this is not money that you should be putting in for an emergency fund. We get these comments on TikTok, where people are like, “You talk about high-yield savings accounts, but that’s not as lucrative as a Roth IRA.” And I’m like, “You’re right. It’s not, because they’re for different goals and different purposes.”
So your money that you’re trying to save for a Croatian vacation next year should not be going in a Roth IRA. But this also shouldn’t scare you. This shouldn’t scare you from investing for retirement. Just, you’ll have to pay some penalties, most likely, if you do have to withdraw this money early. So don’t put money you need next year in one of these accounts.
With retirement accounts specifically, these are investing accounts for retirement, meaning that if you open up something like a 401(k) or a Roth IRA, and we’ll talk about those in a second, you are really opening an investing account for a particular goal. But the 401(k), the Roth IRA is not the investment. If you have been a frequent listener to the show, if you’ve read the book, if you’re an HFK super fan, you have heard me say this so many times. But in case I’m catching you for the first time, I need you to know that just because you put money into one of these accounts does not mean you’re actually invested. It’s not like a bank account. It’s not like a high-yield savings account, where you put money into a bank account and you’re done.
You need to do step two. You need to put money into something like a Roth IRA or a 401(k) and then go purchase your investments, or else you’re not actually invested. The Roth IRA, the 401(k) is not the investment. It is the account that holds the investments.
Final thing I’ll say about retirement accounts that are really special is that the government is incentivizing you to save for retirement by offering you tax breaks. This is one of the only places, other than if you’re Jeff Bezos, that the government is giving you tax breaks out the wazoo, so please take advantage of them. The government is incentivizing you to save for your own retirement to protect you as you age by giving you tax breaks. This is why for me, I max out my retirement accounts first.
So I’ll give you a quick TLDR of what some of these accounts might be. A 401(k) is an account sponsored by your employer. Meaning that your employer has a 401(k) option for you. It is tied to your employer. If you would like to open a 401(k) outside of your employment, if you’re a nine-to-fiver, you cannot do that. But if you’re self-employed, you can open up a 401(k). That’s called a solo 401(k), that’s tied to you.
An IRA is an individual retirement account. That means that you can open up one yourself. IRAs are not tied to your employer. Again, like the name suggests, they are individual for you. Now, both of these accounts come in two flavors, Roth and traditional. Traditional means that you pay the tax when yo
u retire on the money you put in the account, Roth means you pay the tax now. Again, more information about Roth IRAs, traditional IRAs, 401(k)s, self-employed options in the episode about retirement accounts.
Finally, one of the last investing accounts, this is not specifically for retirement, is what’s called a brokerage account. A brokerage account is just a general account for investing that can be used for any purpose. Now, the pro is that you can put as much money in, there’s no restrictions, and you can take as much money out as you would like. The con is that there’s no tax breaks or there’s less tax breaks. You’re not getting the same retirement account kind of tax breaks. So again, we’re looking at retirement accounts. If you want more information, we have an entire episode about them.
Two last investing accounts that we actually haven’t covered yet on this show, that we plan to cover. The first is a health savings account, an HSA. This is a tax advantage savings account designed to help people with high deductible insurance plans save for their medical expenses.
So literally, up until two days ago, I got new insurance, I was someone with an HSA because, frankly, my health insurance sucked. I had a super high deductible, and this is kind of the trade-off, is with health insurance companies, they’re wanting to make sure that you could afford a health emergency because your deductible is so high. So they’re saying like, “Here, here’s this extra benefit.”
Now, if you can get good insurance, and that means not getting an HSA, honestly, I would pick that. If your option is between, “I’m just going to get an HSA because they’re sexy and fun, or I can get better insurance for the same amount, if not less money,” take the better insurance.
However, HSAs are fucking dynamite. They’re great because they’re what’s called triple tax advantaged, meaning that the money you contribute is tax advantaged. It grows in a tax advantaged way. And then when you withdraw it, it’s tax advantaged. There’s no other account that is triple tax advantaged. People who are really into personal finances, like a hobby, they fucking love HSAs. And some people, to go super crazy, will actually save their medical receipts and then reimburse themselves later. But that’s a whole other episode.
So to be eligible for an HSA, you must be covered by a high deductible health insurance plan. High deductibles, for those of you who don’t know, mean that the amount of money you have to pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in. So I think my deductible was like $6,000, which is a lot. That means that if I got cancer, if I got hit by a car, if I chose to have a child, I would be paying $6,000 out of pocket before my health insurance fully kicked in. So something to think about.
The other thing with HSAs is that you can use HSA funds to pay for a whole bunch of medical expenses, including obvious things like doctor’s visits, prescriptions, the dentist, the optometrist, but also period underwear. Some period underwear is covered in your HSA. These are kinds of things that your HSA can actually cover, but keep in mind that it’s your money. I think it’s important, you put the money in, it isn’t like free money. It’s not coming from somewhere else. It is just money that you have put in and that you will get, again, the tax advantages on.
The thing that I like doing, however, with my HSA, is using it like another investing account,] where I don’t use the money. I just put it in the savings account and then actually invest it. An HSA is one of the accounts that you can either just keep as a savings account, meaning that you’re earning minimal, if not no interest.
I actually invest the money in my HSA, like I would through my Roth IRA or my 401(k), and I use it as another investing account, as an investment vehicle. So I don’t actually use any of my HSA money for medical expenses, at least not right now. I’ll use it later, when I’m old and when I need the money. But right now, I’m actually just accumulating the money I have in my HSA.
There is no use it or lose it policy with HSAs. That’s the nice thing, is that your HSA funds roll over from year to year. So this allows you to build up those savings for future medical expenses.
And then after age 65, you can use HSA funds for non-medical expenses. This is what I’m planning on doing, is I’m planning on putting as much money when I do have an HSA in it as possible, and then just waiting because I am lucky enough and privileged enough to be able to afford my medical expenses that might incur up till then. And then, I will take it out when I’m 65.
Now, you might have heard of an FSA, a flexible spending account. These are very similar. These are for healthcare related costs. These are for any out of pocket medical costs that you have. Cool thing, you don’t pay taxes on this money. You’ll save an amount equal to the taxes you would’ve paid on the money you set aside. They’re generally used it or lose it, meaning that you do have to use the money within a calendar year. You can’t roll it over.
Our next type of investing account, and our final type of investing account, is a 529. We will have an entire separate episode about 529, about setting your kids up for success. But a 529 plan is specifically designed for education expenses, including college tuition and related costs. These are great if you have children, or you have nieces and nephews, or you have a kid in your life that you would like to help make sure can afford the rapidly rising costs of college. A 529 plan allows individuals, which are usually parents, guardians, friends, family, to set aside money for qualified education expenses for their child, for their loved one in their life.
Qualified expenses include tuition, fees, books, supplies, and certain room and board costs at certain eligible educational institutions. It depends on your state, depends on the 529 plan that you’re contributing to, and depends on the university that the child chooses.
Contributions to a 529 plan grow tax-free, meaning that you won’t pay federal taxes on your investment earnings. This is one of the other investing accounts that has tax advantages. And there’s a flexibility, you’re not limited to only using the 529 plan offered by your state. You can choose any state’s plan.
And then the beneficiary, the child in question can attend eligible educational institutions anywhere in the United States and actually some abroad.
But every state has its own contribution limits, but the limits are typically high. So if you can contribute for your child, for another loved one in your life, this is a great option.
I actually talked about this today, I think with a friend or maybe… Oh, no, I was going live on Instagram and somebody asked me, again, coming from a place of privilege, but I know when I was growing up, I got so many toys and dolls at Christmas time, and I got all of these toys that were so lovely, but I did not need anymore, and the amount of kids I’ve seen open toys, and then they leave the toy behind, and then they crawl into the cardboard box, and yes, continue giving the things that are fun for kids. I will also say that, again, as non-sexy as it is, one of the truly best gifts you can give somebody is the ability to graduate with less debt or no debt from college, or the ability to even g
o to college at all. So if you are looking for a good gift for a child in your life, that might be a really good gift for them.
We’ll also do another episode about this, if you do have kids, this is a harsh reality to face, but I need you to prioritize yourself before prioritizing them. And I know that sounds awful, but here’s the thing. We practice oxygen mask finances here at HFK, meaning that you need to put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. Because if you don’t, both of you die. That sounds awful, but that’s true. If you don’t have your own oxygen mask flowing, you cannot help others.
And the amount of people I have seen sacrifice their own retirement in order to send their kids to college or in order to send their kids to college debt-free, it’s so hard. You can take out loans for college, you can take out student loans, you cannot take out a loan for your own retirement.
And ultimately, if you are trying to give your kids a better life, which is a 100% amazing and so good on you, they will be paying for you later when you can’t afford your own retirement, or you can’t afford your own medical expenses in retirement. So if the choice is between retire with more money and retire at all, period, or send my kids to college, or send my kids to college debt-free, they have options for taking out loans. Even though student loans suck, they have options to do that. You do not have options for your own retirement, to take out a loan.
Overall, after a quick pivot. 529 plans are a great way for families to save and invest for educational expenses for college, and to make these experiences and this education more affordable. That was the TLDR on any kind of financial account that you could encounter.
Now, there are some 201 or 301 accounts that we didn’t cover today. If you would like those covered and you’re on Spotify especially, comment down below. You can leave us a voicemail asking about another account. We hope this was helpful in determining what goes where, how much money should be in each account, what the goals of each account are, or where you should be saving for different kinds of goals. And again, we have recommendations for all of these, so you know where to turn so you’re not lost on our website.
We appreciate you being here. Thank you for supporting the show. If this episode was helpful, feel free to send it to a friend, feel free to tell us again more questions or feedback that you have. We appreciate you being here, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Thank you for listening to Financial Feminist a Her First $100K podcast. Financial Feminist is hosted by me, Tori Dunlap, produced by Kristen Fields, marketing and administration by Karina Patel, Sophia Cohen, Kahlil Dumas, Elizabeth McCumber, Beth Bowen, Amanda Leffew, Masha Bachmetyeva, Kailyn Sprinkle, Sumaya Mulla-Carillo, and Harvey Carlson. Research by Ariel Johnson, audio Engineering by Austin Fields, promotional graphics by Mary Stratton, photography by Sarah Wolfe, and theme music by Jonah Cohen Sound. A huge thanks to the entire Her First $100K team and community for supporting the show.
For more information about Financial Feminist, Her First $100K, our guests and episode show notes, visit financialfeministpodcast.com.