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Saving vs. Investing

If you’re not sure whether it’s time for you to start investing, or if you should focus on saving, the answer depends on your goals, risk tolerance, and financial situation.

The difference between saving and investing

  • Saving — putting money aside gradually, typically into a bank account. People generally save for a particular goal, like paying for a car, a deposit on a house, or any emergencies that might come up up. Saving can also mean putting your money into products such as a bank time account (CD).
  • Investing — using some of your money with the aim of making it grow, by buying assets that might increase in value, such as stocks, property or shares in a mutual fund.

Should you invest now, or wait?

You may want to consider starting your investment strategy after you’ve:

  • Built your emergency savings. Savings should come first. Before investing, try to make sure you have a separate account you can use to cover expenses during an unforeseen event — typically at least 3 to 6 months’ worth of living expenses.
  • Paid off high-interest debt. By paying off high-interest debt in full, you’ll reduce the total amount you owe faster, and free up money to put toward savings or investing.
  • Maxed out your 401(k) and IRA. If your long-term goals include a comfortable retirement and you’re already contributing the maximum amount to your retirement accounts, it may be an appropriate time to explore additional investment types.

Compare saving vs. investing

Saving

  • For the short term. Typically for smaller, shorter-term goals in the near future, like saving for a large purchase or saving for an emergency.
  • Ready access to cash. A savings account gives you access to cash when you need it, but many savings accounts limit how often you can take money out.
  • Involves minimal risk. Your funds are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to at least $250,000.
  • Earn interest. You can earn interest by putting money in a savings account, but savings accounts generally earn a lower return than investments.
Compare savings accounts

Investing

  • Usually used for long-term goals. Investing can help you reach long-term goals, such as paying for a child’s education or planning for retirement.
  • Longer to access invested funds. When you invest your money, it can take a few more days to access your money compared to a savings account.
  • Always involves risk. Investing does not guarantee a return, and it is possible to lose some or all of the funds invested.
  • Earnings potential. Investments have the potential for higher return than a savings account.
Learn about investment types

Get prepared if you’re planning to invest

If it’s not time to invest yet, you may want to evaluate your financial priorities. One way is by using our My Money Map online tool — where you can track your spending, start a budget, and track savings in easy-to-understand charts.

Use My Money Map