I had a very nice response from my ABC NEWS NOW show last week and wanted to share my favorite questions from viewers, along with some answers you might find helpful!
Q. Should I buy gold? If so, how do I buy it?
Thomas, Sante Fe, NM
Submitted via Facebook
Ellie: Today’s discussion has been about investments that double your returns, and we’re talking about small returns to begin with. Consequently, gold doesn’t qualify as a risk free way to double your returns. But you could keep gold in your portfolio for safety and protection as a hedge against inflation. As always, keep your portfolio diversified and don’t overstock on gold. If the dollar stays weak, as it is suppose to do until interest rates are rising again, then the price of gold is expected to rise in the second half of the year. You can buy gold in one of two ways: you can buy a gold based ETF (exchange traded fund), which is traded like stock. Or, you can buy gold coins such as the American Eagles. Go to money.org, to find a gold coin dealer. Store these coins in a safety deposit box at a bank.
Q. If a high interest bearing checking account has so many hoops that I have to jump through, then is it worth the effort it to park my extra $20,000 in that account?
Rosha, New York
Submitted via blog
Ellie: Yes, high interest bearing checking accounts can earn as much as 4.3% and they are complicated and require a certain number of debit transactions because they make their money from merchant fees from those transactions. They also can require direct deposits or automatic payments. But if you took your $20,000 and parked it there, instead of making nothing (which is what you would do in an average checking account, when adjusted for inflation), you could, instead, make $860 in interest.
Q. Do high interest checking accounts have the same protections that regular checking accounts have? I’m concerned because most of these are found in small banks and we all know how many banks have failed in the last couple of years—plus, they aren’t local to me and I’m a bit squeamish about banking long distance.
Victoria, Spokane, WA
Submitted via email
Ellie: Yes, most of the high interest checking accounts you’ll find at www.checkingfinder.com are held with small to medium sized banks because it’s a new stream of revenue that is working for these smaller financial institutions. Not all of these accounts are created equal, so you need to do your research before you sign up. Some of these have an automatic reimbursement of up to $25 monthly for ATM fees, because they understand there will be a charge for their customers who don’t bank with a mainstream banker. In terms of your money being secure, have no fear! They have the same FDIC protection offered by any local or big named bank, which among other benefits is up to $250,000 per person per bank.
Q. I’m interested in investing for double my return at less risk and was thinking about investing in bonds because some of my more savvy investing friends have found success with their bond investments. What, would you say, are the least risky bond mutual funds?
Jill from Chicago, IL
Submitted via online contact form
Ellie: Even though bond mutual funds are less risky than stock mutual funds there is still some risk involved, unlike non traditional CDs and high interest bearing checking accounts. Short term bonds tend to be less risky than intermediate and long-term bond funds. But understand that you can lose money as the bond market goes up and down. Do your homework by going to Morningstar.com to research how the bond mutual fund performs. Granted, it’s rare that you would lose money over the course of a year. In fact, the greatest kind of disappointment you might have, if anything, is that they just don’t make as much money as you hoped they would make. But that is a price worth paying for a 4% to 5% return on this kind of short term investment.
Q. If I want to concentrate on de-leveraging, should I pay off consumer debt before I build up an emergency fund? If the most I can get on a high interest checking account is a 4% then wouldn’t paying off a credit card that is at 16% make better financial sense?
Lee Green from Colorado Springs, CO
Submitted via Facebook
Ellie: On paper, it makes more sense to use that saved money to pay down a 16% rate than it would be to get a 4% (max) rate on the high interest checking account. However, there’s a hidden factor here and that is the uncertainty of what your economic future holds. With unemployment in double digits in many parts of the country and employers offering paycuts to keep employees gainfully employed, there are no guarantees. That’s why you need an ample emergency fund—around 9 months of living expenses if you are a dual income family and 12 months if you are a single paycheck income. I’d recommend you put a portion of your savings toward consumer debt and a portion toward building your emergency fund in order to build one up while you’re paying the other down.
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)