You’ve got the motivation. You’ve figured out that you want to save your money. But now what? I was in that position the moment I took my savings out of it’s low-interest CD and dumped it into my checking account. For years I’d tried having a joint savings and checking account, but that was ridiculous! I could switch the money back into checking any time I wanted and well, I did that each year—and ended up saving nothing.
But this year was different. This year I’ve been more successful but it required three things: persistence, patience, and perseveration.
In the beginning, I did quite a bit of research as I looked for the highest interest savings account that I could find. At the time, Synchrony had a pretty good rate, hovering around 2.25%. I did have an existing account with Synchrony that I had opened a number of years ago and so, after looking around, I decided the best bet for me was to use this account rather than get too crazy with multiple accounts from the start. Besides, I was such a techno-phobe that I was almost afraid to do anything else.
At the time, I did not have a link to my bank account so that I could transfer funds. In fact, though it’s laughable now, I had only sent them one check years ago. That amount was still there gaining interest, but I had a huge mental roadblock because I had once tried to link my accounts and I’d gotten so thoroughly confused I gave up.
Imagine if I’d been more patient.
This time I sat down and took my time. I read the instructions thoroughly on Synchrony’s website and followed them. Basically, if you’ve never set up a transfer you first have to link your banks. You will need to provide your bank account number and your routing number. The bank account number is your own account, while the routing number is the number that designates your bank. You can find these on your checks.
Each bank is a bit different, but once you fill in your account information, the initiating bank, Synchrony in my case, creates two very small deposits or withdrawals to or from the account you link up (your existing checking account). This process takes a couple of days—so again, you need to sit down, get it all organized, and be patient. A couple of days later, you will get an email that gives you further instructions. At this point you will have to check your bank account for those deposits or withdrawals, which are usually less than a dollar each, and confirm those amounts with the other bank. This is a good time to figure out how to open up your checking account online and get pretty quick using your username, password, and keeping both tabs open on the computer for cross referencing.
Most banks that offer higher interest rates are online, so most of the work you do establishing your account is done by you. It can seem overwhelming and you may have doubts about your ability to even save money, so you may have moments of frustration and wonder why you are even bothering. Be forewarned: this is not the time to give up!
I can say from personal experience that my ability and motivation to save money was grown exponentially because I have one lone account to transfer my savings to. The fact that it is separate from my checking account is crucial. But getting going, figuring out how to navigate the account, and how to transfer money took time and effort. Plus, it was a bit scary. The whole time I felt suspicious, like the whole account would turn out to be a scam. I approached each step with fear and trepidation, but again, persistence won out.
Okay, if you know what the word perseveration means, it’s meant to be kind of a joke—but not totally. Perseveration is often used in psychology and is defined as repetition of thoughts or actions. In order to get savvy about saving, you need to be prepared for a lot of repetition. Once I set up my account so that I could transfer money from my checking account to my now-functioning savings account, I had to get in and out of the account. A lot. Like, Every Day.
I know, it sounds ridiculous, but when I first tried to access my Synchrony account, it had been years since I’d checked it. I couldn’t remember anything. To top it off, when you use the account so irregularly, it seems like there is a default in the system so that it starts asking you all kinds of random questions that you did answer at some point, figured you’d remember so you didn’t write them down, and of course, forgot completely!
So, that was more hassle than I wanted on a regular basis. Now, I sort-of obsessively get into my accounts and check them, usually a couple of days each week, just to prevent rust and cobwebs from taking over. I also started religiously checking my credit cards and it keeps me more in the loop as far as spending.
Once you are set up with a decent savings account that provides you with interest and the ability to transfer funds from your checking account, you can make deposits. Start small first, transfers do usually take a couple of days to process. Remember, if you need the money in an emergency it is there—but keeping it in a separate account means that you cannot touch it immediately. Always keep some money in your checking account to cover bills and small emergencies. It is up to you to decide how much should be left in your checking account. But, there is no harm in transferring small amounts—even little bits add up and the habit of saving is worth its weight in gold.