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How Important Is It to Have a Rainy Day Fund?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

rainy day fund
Be prepared for the unexpected with a rainy day fund.

Life is unpredictable, which is why a rainy day fund is one of the most important components of a sound financial foundation. Even the most prepared, organized people can be caught off guard and put into a difficult financial situation when the unexpected arises. Because of this, it’s essential to have money tucked away in an emergency fund and a rainy day fund. While most people would agree that having easy-to-access cash is important, 29% of households have less than $1,000 in savings, according to a recent MagnifyMoney study.

In this post, we’ll explain exactly what a rainy day fund is, how much you should save and how to start one today.

What is a rainy day fund?

Rainy day fundEmergency fund
Money set aside for predictable expenses, like a roof repair or trip to the mechanic. Money set aside for unpredictable, and unplanned for expenses such as job loss, divorce or a sudden change in income.

Often, the terms rainy day fund and emergency fund are used interchangeably. While they are both savings accounts that can be used to pay for the unexpected, they differ in a few key areas. It’s important to learn the difference between the two types of savings accounts and contribute to both.

A rainy day fund is a designated amount of money that has been set aside for one-off expenses that you can typically predict the need to pay for at some point. Rainy day funds should be easily accessible and used to cover expenses that fall outside of your normal budget. This fund can be used to pay for things like car or house repairs, broken appliances, additional taxes, children’s field-trip fees, or last-minute travel expenses. While these expenses are usually not part of your monthly budget, you could likely anticipate the need to pay for them once or twice a year. So, a rainy day fund comes in handy.

“The number one reason to have a rainy day fund is peace of mind,” said Corbin T. Green a financial advisor in Salt Lake City. “People are able to go to bed knowing that if something were to happen, there are funds available to take care of that.”

This fund allows you to pay for smaller, one-off expenses without going into debt or pulling from your checking account and throwing off your well-planned budget that is used to pay for predictable monthly bills and expenses.

An emergency fund is exactly what it sounds like—a reserve of money or savings account that you can quickly access in case of an unexpected and unplanned life emergency. Typically, emergency funds are used to pay for unexpected, longer-term events such as medical bills, job loss or divorce.

“If something were to happen where you got laid off, left a job or got injured, having an emergency fund protects you and buys some time,” Green said.

Experts suggest having three to six months’ worth of money in this account that you could easily access and use to run your household and pay your monthly bills in the case of an emergency.

How to save for your rainy day fund

rainy day fund side gig
Consider taking on a side gig to bring in extra cash for your rainy day fund.

It can seem daunting to put extra money away each month, but saving money is a key part of smart financial planning. We know it’s important to save for your rainy day fund, but how do you get started? Here are some easy ways to save more money each month:

  • Create multiple savings accounts: Instead of lumping all your money into one savings account, create multiple savings accounts to help you distinguish between the emergency fund and the rainy day fund. If you ever need to access either of these accounts, you’ll know which one to pull from.
  • Automate your savings: It’s easy to say you’ll put extra money into your savings account at the end of each month once bills are paid. But, if you don’t pay yourself first, at the end of the month, you likely won’t have saved what you originally intended. By automating your savings, you’ll automatically have money set aside each month and won’t have to worry about it. Treat your savings as a bill and pay it automatically, on time, each month.
  • Reduce your spending: Money saved is money earned. If you’re looking to save for a rainy day fund, try trimming your spending and adding a little more each week or month to your fund. Cut back on eating out or your daily coffee run and put that money towards your fund.
  • Take on a side hustle: Many millennials are taking on additional work or side hustles as a way to earn more money. If your full-time salary isn’t cutting it, consider taking on a side hustle as a way to quickly boost up your rainy day fund.

Where to keep your rainy day fund

rainy day fund
The best place to stash your rainy day fund is in a savings account, where you can easily access the money in a time of need.

Now that you’ve built up some money for your rainy day fund, where should you keep that money? You want to find a safe place to store your money that gives you easy access to the funds in a pinch but can also allow you to earn interest on your funds.

The best options

Saving accounts: A savings account is a no-brainer when you’re looking for a place to stash your rainy day fund. Savings accounts are FDIC insured and offer better interest rates than checking accounts. Check out the best savings accounts here.

Money markets:Money markets are a type of account that usually offer higher interest rates than checking or savings accounts. You can access more money relatively easy, but money market accounts may limit the number of withdrawals each month. Also, most money market accounts require a minimum balance to be met.

Avoid these options

Checking accounts. Checking accounts probably aren’t the best option for your rainy day fund. They give you quick, easy access to your money, but often offer low, if any, interest. You may also be more tempted to spend the cash if it’s readily accessible in your checking account and you’ve got a linked debit card you can use.

CDs.CDs often charge early withdrawal penalties when you try to cash them out before your term is up. Since emergencies are unpredictable, avoid locking your rainy day fund up in a CD. Stick to accounts that offer easy access like a savings account.

What to spend your rainy day fund on

rainy day fund
A home repair or unexpected medical bill are two examples of a good time to dip into your rainy day fund.

Rainy day funds are usually not used to cover ongoing, long-term, emergency events. “If it’s a true emergency, it’s usually not a materialistic expense,” said Green.

Rainy day funds can be spent on things like car repairs, new tires, and emissions and inspections. Or perhaps you need a new washing machine, fridge, roof or floor? Rainy day funds are meant for such expenses. Most people wouldn’t budget for a new roof because it’s a one-off expense. However, it’s somewhat predictable that you’ll have to repair your car or home at some point, so this type of fund is the perfect financial resource for occasions like this.

However, if you lose your job, become sick or are unable to work for a sustained period of time, you would not use your rainy day fund, but instead, pull from your emergency fund.

“Use your emergency fund when something impacts your ability to earn a paycheck or you lose your income and need to use it [emergency fund] to pay your bills and live off of it,” Green said.

Why a rainy day fund is important

rainy day fund

Change is the only predictable thing in life. It’s almost inevitable that something unplanned will occur requiring additional money to pay for it. Knowing this, it’s smart to plan ahead and prepare for the unexpected. Having a rainy day fund is important because it gives you peace of mind and financial protection in case something happens. This type of fund is extra padding in your budget that can keep you out of debt and on track financially, no matter what unexpected life event unfolds.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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How Much Will My Stimulus Check Be? Calculate Your Payment

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to batter the economy — prompting the stock market to plummet and unemployment claims to spike — the U.S. federal government is throwing taxpayers a life raft, in the form of stimulus checks.

Congress has passed a $2 trillion relief bill that aims to provide emergency assistance to individuals, families and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, including one-time payments made to individuals. The amount of money you can expect to see from Uncle Sam, though, is based on a number of factors, ranging from how much money you make to how many children you have.

Who qualifies for a stimulus check?

Under the relief bill — dubbed the CARES Act — most adults who have a valid Social Security number will be able to qualify for a stimulus check, with the size of that check based on your 2019 or 2018 tax return.

You must file a simple tax return if you don’t usually file a return: You also qualify for a stimulus check if you receive Social Security benefits for disability, retirement or Supplemental Security Income, according to the AARP. If you typically do not file a tax return because you receive Social Security benefits or have a low income, however, you will need to file a simple tax return to receive your cash payment.

You must fall below income thresholds: The bulk of those who do not qualify for a stimulus check will likely be high-earners: Under the CARES Act, if you’re an individual with no children who earns over $99,000 or are a married couple that filed jointly and are making more than $198,000, you are not eligible to receive a stimulus check.

You cannot be claimed as a dependent of someone else: Additionally, in order to receive a stimulus check, you cannot be claimed as a dependent of someone else. That’s noteworthy, and may mean that millions of dependents who are not children under the age of 17 could end up missing out on relief checks. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, filers only receive an additional $500 for each child under 17, which could be problematic for people who support dependents like the elderly, adults with disabilities and college students.

You must have a valid Social Security number: To receive a rebate check, each member of the household (including children) is also required to have a valid Social Security number. Per the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, this may mean that households of certain immigrant families with children who are U.S. citizens could still be denied a stimulus check.

How much are the stimulus checks?

The amount of your stimulus check is based off of your adjusted gross income, as well as how many children under the age of 17 you have. Here’s how the one-time, non-taxable payments break down:

  • Up to $1,200 per adult
  • Up to $2,400 for couples filing joint returns
  • $500 per child under the age of 17

However, the checks start to decrease by $5 for every additional $100 of income beyond the following income thresholds:

  • $75,000 for individuals
  • $112,500 for head of households (typically single parents)
  • $150,000 for couples who filed a joint return

Certain individuals with higher adjustable gross incomes aren’t eligible to receive a stimulus check at all. The checks completely phase out at the following income thresholds:

  • $99,000 for individuals with no children
  • $198,000 for married couples with no children

How does the government determine how much I get?

The government will determine the size of your cash payment based on the adjusted gross income (or your total gross income minus certain deductions, such as 401(k) contributions) and information reported on your 2019 tax return. For those who have not filed a 2019 tax return, tax returns from 2018 may be used instead to determine your check amount.

If you don’t typically file taxes and have no income – and instead rely on Social Security benefits – you are still eligible to receive a stimulus check. However, in an update on March 30, the IRS stated that those who “typically do not file a tax return will need to file a simple tax return to receive an economic impact payment.” This includes low-income taxpayers, senior citizens, Social Security recipients, some veterans and individuals with disabilities who are otherwise not required to file a tax return. They will not owe tax.

When will I get my stimulus check?

According to the CARES Act, the cash payments should be made as “rapidly as possible.” On March 30, the IRS announced that the distribution of the payments will begin within the next three weeks.

It’s also worth noting that if you have signed up for direct deposit with the IRS and have chosen to have your tax refunds deposited electronically — as opposed to receiving your tax refunds by mail as a paper check — you will likely receive your stimulus check faster, too.

Still, experts have been critical of that timeline, and have instead said the payment process could take months, not weeks. In 2009, for example, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) took three months to send out checks to households as a cushion during the Great Recession.

How will I receive my stimulus check?

You can expect your stimulus check from the IRS to be either directly deposited into your bank account or mailed to you, based on the method in which you requested to receive your tax refund. However, the IRS also announced that in the coming weeks, the Treasury Department plans to open a web-based portal in which people can share their banking information with the IRS, enabling them to receive their payments via direct deposit as opposed to waiting for a check in the mail.

If you have filed your 2019 or 2018 taxes, there is no action needed from you, and the IRS will issue your payment automatically. In fact, the IRS is actually asking consumers not to contact them about the stimulus checks, stating it will make details available on its website.

Determine how much you will get from your stimulus check

To find out how much you can expect to receive from your stimulus check, reference the table below.

What you should do with your stimulus check

As many Americans face furlough or unemployment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a recent survey by MagnifyMoney found that most people intend to use their stimulus checks on necessities, like paying bills and buying groceries.

Many experts recommend keeping the money you receive from your rebate liquid, like in an emergency savings account, which should have enough funds to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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ACH Transfers: Explained

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

ACH transfers in action
iStock

You may have come across the term ACH when looking at different banking options or making certain banking transactions.

ACH stands for Automated Clearing House, which is a network and processing system that financial institutions use to transmit funds electronically between banks and credit unions. ACH transfers help to cut down on costs and processing times.

ACH transfers can include depositing funds directly to your account (transfers in, or credits to you), or transferring money out of your account to make payments (debits to you). For example, when your employer deposits your paycheck to your bank instead of handing you a paper check, that is an ACH transfer. Other direct deposits made by ACH transfer can include income tax refunds or other types of refunds. ACH direct payments (transfers out) often are used when you pay credit card or retailers’ bills (either one-off or recurring).

How long does it take for an ACH transfer to process?

ACH debit and credit transactions tend to process pretty fast. The National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA) has operating rules that specifically require ACH credits — when you receive money — to settle within one-to-two business days. ACH debits — when you pay money — will settle the next business day. In most cases, all ACH transfers are settled within the same business day. But that doesn’t mean that money will land in your bank account that quickly. It could take as long as a few days, depending on your bank or credit union’s rules and regulations.

ACH money transfers — rules and fine print

Most financial institutions don’t charge a fee for incoming or outgoing ACH transfers. However, you are limited to six withdrawals per month for a savings account based on the Regulation D rule. So, if you go over that limit, your bank or credit union may charge you what’s known as an excess transaction fee.

Another fee you may encounter is a non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee — when you don’t have enough funds to cover the amount you’re transferring. Whether this fee is charged at all, and its amount, depends on the financial institution, so it’s best to check with yours.

Also depending on the financial institution, the limits on transfer amounts will differ. NACHA imposes a $25,000 daily limit on individual transactions. In other words, if you make multiple transactions, each one is limited to $25,000 in a single day. If you go over that amount, then your transfer will be processed the next day.

Wire transfers vs. ACH transfers

Both wire and an ACH transfers involve one financial institution sending funds to another one. Although both are electronic transfers, wire transfers use a different network, called Fedwire, and can involve transfers within the U.S. or internationally. Wire transfers are sent directly from one physical place to another, whereas ACH transfers are sent through a network.

In addition to making a wire transfer at a bank, you may make it at a nonbank provider — companies specifically designed to help you send money domestically or abroad. These companies may not require you to give your bank information. Instead you’ll need the receiver’s name, your personal details and the cash upfront that you intend to send. With an ACH transfer, on the other hand, don’t have this option.

Free and fast ways to transfer money

ACH transfers aren’t the only way to send or receive money. There are many other options that allow you to get almost instant access to funds with no fees involved. Two of these are cited below.

Zelle

Zelle is a peer-to-peer payment service where users can receive, send or request money to and from other bank accounts by using either an email address or phone number. This works even if the sender and receiver use different banks. Zelle claims that it can send money within minutes for no fee.

Many banks already offer Zelle via their existing online platform or mobile banking app. So, you may access it that way. However, if your bank does not have Zelle embedded in its system, then you may download Zelle’s own mobile app, create an account and use it to send and receive money.

Popmoney

Similar to Zelle, Popmoney is is a payment service that may be available at your bank (via their mobile or online banking services) for free. All you need is the recipient’s email address or phone number and you can send money. If you decide to use the service via PopMoney’s website, you’ll be charged $0.95 per transaction. There is also a monthly limit of $5,000 if transfering from a bank account and $1,000 if doing so with a debit card. If you’re using PopMoney via your financial institution, you’ll need to check with them to see what their limits are.

Tips for sending money safely

When sending money online, you want to be sure that you’re sending the money to the right person and that your own personal details are protected. Sounds obvious, but for example, double check your Wi-Fi connection to make sure that it’s secured. Of course you don’t want hackers to steal your sensitive information.

You’ll also want to ensure that you are sending money to a reputable place. NACHA created a booklet to help consumers spot scams and fraudulent behavior, such as merchant impersonations — that is, when someone pretends to be a company and states that you owe money on a purchase or a bill.

If you find fraudulent activity in your account, notify your bank as soon as possible. Sometimes you can reverse your ACH transfer if you accidentally sent the wrong amount or you suspect that there’s been an error.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.