Tips on Basic Financial Management

Continuing from my previous post on credit cards, I’ll detail some of my money management habits that might be helpful for others.

Here, I’ll talk about opening bank accounts, maximizing rewards, and some basic investment tips.

Bank Accounts

Open a savings account like GS Bank and earn 1.2% interest every year.

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If you do not have a bank account, I would definitely recommend getting one. It’s nice to have money stored in a bank rather than having to carry cash around, make purchases on the internet, and certain banks also offer nice interest rates so your money will grow by just sitting there.

There are two main types of bank accounts.

The first, a checkings account is essentially a digital wallet. Your checkings account will usually come with a debit card that you can use to spend from your checkings account. Usually checkings accounts do not offer interests, since there are no restrictions to how many withdrawals you can make.

The second kind is a Savings Account. With this account type, you might only be able to withdraw 6 times a month, with an upper bound of how much money you can take out. However, as the bank gains some amount of long-term consistency on your money, they will also give you higher interest rates. At a 1% interest rate, leaving $10,000 in your savings account will earn you $100 a year.

Basically, only money that you need to spend in the short term should be in your checkings account. All of your other financial worth can be in your savings account, or in investments (mentioned below).

Nerdwallet has a nice page on the best savings accounts. I recently opened a GS Bank Online Savings account, which offers a 1.2% annual interest.

Bank of America is good for checkings accounts since they have a lot of ATMs across the country for cash withdrawal, and there is also a BoA office at MIT.

Maximizing Reward Programs / Discounts

open all the loyalty programs, and receive extra points in addition to your normal spending habits

Nerdwallet has a nice summary of beginner tips for maximizing points and miles here. I’ll give a quick summary of that page below:

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  • Sign up for airline loyalty programs. If you’re going to fly Delta anyway, might as well get miles for it (which will eventially translate into free flights)
  • Sign up for airline dining programs. You can “double dip” when dining out by earning airline miles in addition to credit card rewards. For example, dosa factory in Boston offers 3 miles/$ in addition to your 3% cash back credit card for dining (so that’s 6% off).
  • Use OpenTable to make dining reservations (you get a $20 gift card after making ~20 reservations) and Restaurant.com for discounts at restaurants you want to go to (for example, you can buy a $10 Beantown Taquiera credit for only $4).
  • Make purchases through online shopping portals. Click through one of the online mileage malls and you’ll automatically get points or miles for every dollar you spend. If you buy an iPhone, use the United shopping portal to go to Apple’s website, and also earn extra 700 miles.

Blogs to follow

Here are some blogs that I recommend following for maximizing rewards:

  • Thepointsguy is a very useful blog that provides useful information on travel perks and maximizing rewards. I essentially followed this beginner’s guide to create this blog post.
  • Nerdwallet offers good advice on credit cards, bank accounts, and investing brokers.
  • Travel Pirates is a nice blog that has links to cheap travel deals.

Investing

Note: Please keep in mind that my observations are from an amateur perspective; investing carries its risks and make sure you have done your research before making purchases!

The idea is that, if you have extra money lying around, if you leave it in cash, after a year it will have the same face value. Leaving it in a bank can have it grow by 1% a year. Investing [in stocks] might yield more growth, but also risk losing money.

I won’t detail investment strategy in this blog post, but I’ll mention some companies through which you can invest your money.

To buy stocks, you usually need to go through Brokers. I recommend Robinhood since it has no commission on trades.

You may also want to make investments through an IRA (individual retirement account). With tax deductions, you can earn more on your investments. The two main types of IRAs are the Roth and Traditional, as compared below:

Roth Traditional
Maximum Annual Salary $118k none
Maximum Annual Contribution $5,500 $5,500
Tax taxed before contribution
investment earnings aren’t taxed
deductible before contribution
investment earnings are taxed

A safe investment option for IRAs is to buy S&P 500 ETFs (for example through Vanguard, which is essentially taking a neutral stance on the market.

Basically, get a ROTH IRA account while you are still a poor student.

Recently, Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have been hot investment topics, with Bitcoin fourfolding this calendar year and Ethereum tenfolding. You can use Coinmarketcap to follow the cryptocurrencies, and invest through 3rd parties like Coinbase or LibertyX.

Conclusion

These are some tips that I’ve spent time researching, hopefully they are helpful for you too.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and I love talking about these things!