Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for December 2019, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. I track these rates because I keep a full 12 months of expenses as a cash cushion and also invest in longer-term CDs (often at lesser-known credit unions) when they yield more than bonds. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to see how much extra interest you’d earn by moving money between accounts. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 12/9/19.
High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks like to get away with 0.01% APY, it’s easy to open a new “piggy-back” savings account and simply move some funds over from your existing checking account. The interest rates on savings accounts can drop at any time, so I list the top rates as well as competitive rates from banks with a history of competitive rates. Some banks will bait you with a temporary top rate and then lower the rates in the hopes that you are too lazy to leave.
- Customers Bank is at 2.25% APY ($25,000 minimum) guaranteed until 6/30/20. Brio Direct is at 2.20% APY ($25 minimum to open). Redneck Bank is at 2.00% APY on up to $50,000 (0.50% APY above that). There are several other established high-yield savings accounts at around 2% APY.
- When rates are this low, picking up bank bonuses can boost your effective APY significantly. I moved my funds into the CIT Bank Savings Builder $300 Deposit Bonus that stacks on top of the 1.85% APY, netting a total 4.25% APY for the next 90 days. Open to both new and existing customers.
Short-term guaranteed rates (1 year and under)
A common question is what to do with a big pile of cash that you’re waiting to deploy shortly (just sold your house, just sold your business, legal settlement, inheritance). My usual advice is to keep things simple and take your time. If not a savings account, then put it in a flexible short-term CD under the FDIC limits until you have a plan.
- No Penalty CDs offer a fixed interest rate that can never go down, but you can still take out your money (once) without any fees if you want to use it elsewhere. My eBanc has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 2.00% APY with a $100,000 minimum deposit. Marcus Bank has a 7-month No Penalty CD at 1.90% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. Ally Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 1.90% APY with a $25,000 minimum deposit. CIT Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 1.85% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
- Quontic Bank has a 12-month CD at 2.25% APY ($1,000 minimum).
Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
If you like to keep cash in a brokerage account, beware that many brokers pay out very little interest on their default cash sweep funds (and keep the difference for themselves). The following money market and ultra-short bond funds are not FDIC-insured, but may be a good option if you have idle cash and cheap/free commissions.
- Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund currently pays an 1.72% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 1.60%. You can manually move the money over to Prime if you meet the $3,000 minimum investment.
- Vanguard Ultra-Short-Term Bond Fund currently pays 2.06% SEC yield ($3,000 min) and 2.16% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is ~1 year, so there is more interest rate risk.
- The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 2.05% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 2.15% SEC yield while holding a portfolio of investment-grade bonds with an average duration of ~6 months.
Treasury Bills and Ultra-short Treasury ETFs
Another option is to buy individual Treasury bills which come in a variety of maturities from 4-weeks to 52-weeks. You can also invest in ETFs that hold a rotating basket of short-term Treasury Bills for you, while charging a small management fee for doing so. T-bill interest is exempt from state and local income taxes.
- You can build your own T-Bill ladder at TreasuryDirect.gov or via a brokerage account with a bond desk like Vanguard and Fidelity. Here are the current Treasury Bill rates. As of 12/6/19, a 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 1.52% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 1.57% annualized interest.
- The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 1.83% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 1.44% SEC yield. GBIL appears to have a slightly longer average maturity than BIL.
US Savings Bonds
Series I Savings Bonds offer rates that are linked to inflation and backed by the US government. You must hold them for at least a year. There are annual purchase limits. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest.
- “I Bonds” bought between November 2019 and April 2020 will earn a 2.22% rate for the first six months. The rate of the subsequent 6-month period will be based on inflation again. More info here.
- In mid-April 2020, the CPI will be announced and you will have a short period where you will have a very close estimate of the rate for the next 12 months. I will have another post up at that time.
Prepaid Cards with Attached Savings Accounts
A small subset of prepaid debit cards have an “attached” FDIC-insured savings account with exceptionally high interest rates. The negatives are that balances are capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. There is a long list of previous offers that have already disappeared with little notice. I don’t personally recommend nor use any of these anymore.
- The only notable card left in this category is Mango Money at 6% APY on up to $2,500, but there are many hoops to jump through. Requirements include $1,500+ in “signature” purchases and a minimum balance of $25.00 at the end of the month.
Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops, and if you make a mistake you won’t earn any interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. Rates can also drop to near-zero quickly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling. I don’t use any of these anymore, but the Orion offer is worth consideration.
- Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards Checking (my review) has up to 5.09% APY on balances up to $10,000 if you meet make $500+ in ACH deposits, 12 debit card “signature” purchases, and spend $1,000 on their credit card each month. Orion FCU Premium Checking (my review) has 3.00% APY on balances up to $15,000 if you meet make $500+ in direct deposits and 8 debit card “signature” purchases each month. Find a locally-restricted rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.
- If you’re looking for a high-interest checking account without debit card transaction requirements, the rate won’t be nearly as high, but take a look at MemoryBank at 0.90% APY.
Certificates of deposit (greater than 1 year)
CDs offer higher rates, but come with an early withdrawal penalty. By finding a bank CD with a reasonable early withdrawal penalty, you can enjoy higher rates but maintain access in a true emergency. Alternatively, consider building a CD ladder of different maturity lengths (ex. 1/2/3/4/5-years) such that you have access to part of the ladder each year, but your blended interest rate is higher than a savings account. When one CD matures, use that money to buy another 5-year CD to keep the ladder going. Some CDs also offer “add-ons” where you can deposit more funds if rates drop.
- You could build a CD ladder at Lafayette Federal Credit Union (LFCU) at 3.03% APY for 5-years, 2.78% APY for 4-year, 2.52% APY for 3-year, 2.27% APY for 2-year, and 2.02% APY for 1-year. As with many credit union deals, this likely won’t last long. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization ($10 one-time fee).
- Andrews FCU still had their special 7-year certificate at 3.05% APY. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization.
- You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. You may need an account to see the rates. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. The rates are not competitive right now. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs listed by Fidelity.
I’d use these with caution due to increased interest rate risk, but I still track them to see the rest of the current yield curve.
- Willing to lock up your money for 10+ years? You can buy long-term certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. I don’t see anything noteworthy. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs from Fidelity.
- How about two decades? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a unique guarantee that the value will double in value in 20 years, which equals a guaranteed return of 3.5% a year. However, if you don’t hold for that long, you’ll be stuck with the normal rate which is quite low (currently a sad 0.10% rate). I view this as a huge early withdrawal penalty. You could also view it as a hedge against prolonged deflation, but only if you can hold on for 20 years. As of 12/9/19, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 2.13%.
All rates were checked as of 12/9/19.
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How to Be More Creative
Those of us who weren’t fortunate enough to be born the next Picasso may think there’s no way we can learn to be more creative. But is that really true? According to some of the most creative people in the business, it’s not.
I recently interviewed Brian Koppelman, a renowned filmmaker, producer, and writer. He has worked on some of my favorite movies, like Rounders, Ocean’s Thirteen, and The Illusionist. He also created the popular T.V. show Billions, which has won many prestigious awards. Brian’s creativity has resulted in massive career success, and he’s spent years perfecting his creative process. We sat down together and he gave me his best advice on how anyone can be more creative.
Quick Tips on How to Be More Creative:
- Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to fail
- Tip #2: Don’t try to get it right on the first try
- Tip #3: Accept that creating can be uncomfortable
- Tip #4: Limit your time
- Tip #5: Reduce your anxiety
- Tip #6: Use rejection as a tool
You can watch my full interview with Brian below.
Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to fail
Brian says, “Whatever your favorite movie is, at some point during the writing of it the screenwriter felt completely lost”. When you’re working on a big creative project, you run the risk that it will be a complete failure. People often forget this, because they only see the finished successful product. But we know that for every movie that gets made, there are thousands of movies that don’t. If you’re afraid to fail, you’ll never be able to get to that amazing finished product. Even if it takes a few tries to get it right, it’s worth it to create something brilliant in the end.
Tip #2: Don’t try to get it right on the first try
There are two steps to creating something new: the first step is making the first draft, or coming up with something from scratch. The second step is editing that draft into a beautiful finished product. If you want to be more creative, you need to be careful not to combine these two steps (most people do). When you’re creating something from scratch, you need to silence your inner critic and just create with as much freedom and passion as possible. THEN once you have a first draft, you can go back over it with a critical eye and make it better.
If you try to edit it while you create, you’re limiting your creativity in a big way. You have to be able to try something new, and edit it out later if it doesn’t work. If you edit it out before you try it, you’ll never know if that would have ended up being the perfect addition.
Tip #3: Accept that the process of creating can be uncomfortable
We all have times where we’re working on something and we think it’s terrible. Brian explains that when he was working on his ESPN documentary on Jimmy Conners, he would come home feeling like he made it worse rather than better. But you have to get up the next day and attack it again. Once you realize that this discomfort is part of the process of making something great, you can learn to work through this tough part of the process and become even more creative.
Tip #4: Limit the amount of time you have
You don’t need a lot of time to make something great. It’s actually a huge advantage If you only have an hour a day to work on your creativity, because it forces you to focus and work with intensity. If you give yourself too much time, it’s too tempting for your mind to wander. By limiting your time, you’ll produce more creative work at a faster pace. Brian also advises to “Leave yourself ‘a wet edge’, or a little roadmap for tomorrow, at the end of your creative practice”. This way your subconscious will keep working on it, and when you come back the next day, you’ll be able to hit the ground running.
Tip #5: Eliminate sources of anxiety
When Brian and his partner David Levien were writing their first screenplay, they were both working full time. Brian advises aspiring creators not to quit their jobs, because it creates too much pressure. If there is a lot of pressure on you to create something magnificent, it can actually thwart your creative abilities. Instead, focus on eliminating anxiety wherever you can so you can truly focus on your creativity.
Tip #6: Use rejection as a tool
A lot of times when we hear “No”, it’s crushing, and it feels like a huge judgement on our work and our character. But Brian points out that you never know what’s going on behind closed doors, “Maybe that morning the head of the agency said ‘hey guys, don’t tell anybody but we can’t afford to take on any new clients. So for the next month you need to pass on everything’”. Your work could get passed up because of something internal you don’t know about, but if you take it personally and give up, you might miss your chance.
Rejection can actually be a useful tool to help you look objectively at your work.
Take your Creativity to the next level
Overall, creativity is a skill that you can improve over time. If you follow the tips Brian laid out above, you’ll be well on your way to being more creative.
Once you’ve honed your creative process, you may want to take it to the next level. Many great creators have started businesses from their work, and you could too.
If you want even more inspiration on how improving your creativity could transform your life, take my earnings potential quiz below.
YOUR GUIDE FOR SAVING MONEY ON PET FOOD
If you are like most people, your dog is not simply a pet. He or she is a member of your family.
You want to provide them the best of everything. From toys to treats, you love to spoil them rotten
But the costs. Oh, how they can quickly get out of control!
WHY CHEAP IS NOT BETTER
Your first thought may be to buy the cheap dog food.
The problem is that the lower quality food can lead to health problems for your pet, which could end up costing you more. It is not the answer.
Instead, focus on ways you can save while still getting your favorite canine the food and treats that are best for them.
STOCK UP WHEN ON SALE
When you find a great deal on the dog food you need, buy extra! There is no reason to pick up one bag when you can get a couple and save.
BUY IN BULK
Oftentimes, the larger bags result in greater savings. Compare the price per ounce of the smaller items to the bigger bags to find the lowest cost.
TRY THE STORE BRAND
Just as with the store brands you buy, sometimes the store brand of pet foods is the same – simply in different packaging.
Carefully review the ingredients before making the switch. After all, if they are the same, why are you paying for the label?
SIGN UP FOR THE STORE REWARDS PROGRAM
Loyalty has its perks. Many stores offer loyalty programs to members. You can get exclusive offers, discounts and coupons that are only offered to those who have signed up.
Some programs also reward for your purchase in the form of points. Once you accumulate the points you can cash them in towards savings or freebies.
GET ON THE LIST
Even if you are a member of their program, make sure you are also on the list! You will get alerts for sales and may even find some awesome coupons to make their way into your inbox as well.
Tip: Make a secondary email address to use so your inbox is not cluttered with these types of emails.
USE ONLINE SERVICES
There are online pet product providers, such as Chewy, who sell pet food and other items, often at a discount. The added perk here is that they deliver it directly to you – so no lugging home huge bags of dog food from the store.
You can use apps such as Honey or Wikibuy to compare online prices to ensure you also find the lowest possible price for the items you need.
SET UP AUTOMATED DELIVERIES
Some sites, such as Amazon, offer discounts if you sign up for automated delivery of select products. Not only will it be delivered, but you also won’t have to worry about running out.
CHECK FOR REBATE OFFERS
Sometimes, manufacturers offer product rebates. If you can find these, you’ll get money back on your purchase.
PRAISE (OR COMPLAIN)
If you have a food your pet loves, send an email letting them know. They may send you coupons or vouchers for products as a thank you.
Alternatively, if you have a problem with a product, make sure to reach out. The company may offer a refund or alternative product for your trouble.
SHOP THE WAREHOUSE
Skip the big box stores and head to your local warehouse. You may find larger bags at a lower cost sold there – saving you time and money.
BECOME A TRACKER
All stores run sales in cycles. They do this on food, clothes, and more – including pet food! Keep track of the offers at your favorite stores.
You will start to learn their cycle and can then stock up when items are on sale.
SKIP THE STORE AND MAKE HOMEMADE DOG FOOD
You can even bypass the store and make your own dog food right at home. There are countless recipes on Pinterest that you can try.
But, before you rush to start a cooking frenzy, make sure to carefully research each ingredient to make sure it is safe for your pet to consume.
PUT COUPONS TO WORK
Before you head to the store, head online, and search for coupons for your pet’s food. You may find them on the manufacturer’s website or on coupon printing sites.
Make sure to also check the product packaging as you may find them stuck to the front of that big bag of dog food.
GET FREE SAMPLES FROM YOUR VET
Vets get free samples of the products they sell – so ask for one! The freebies do not cost them anything, so they should be more than happy to give you one if you inquire.
A Peek Into the Last Few Weeks (and our family vacation!)
How to get a shower and get ready for the day when you’re taking care of two babies! 🙂
People ask me all the time how I’m doing with having two babies and I think this early morning picture says it all. Life is full, my hands are full, and my heart is so full! (By the way, I’m actually putting this post together while trying to bounce Kierstyn to sleep in the Baby K’tan… it’s rare that I don’t have at least one baby in my arms these days!)
How could my heart not be full when this is an almost daily site at our house!
Silas had another weekend baseball tournament at a town about an hour away (Murfreesboro). We had fans set up with a generator, tents, lots of cold drinks in coolers, and these cold wraps to keep everyone cooled down
Champ has been learning how to hold his head up and roll over!
The babies have started to love having books read to them. Goodnight Moon was Silas’ favorite book when he was little, so it’s been so fun to introduce the babies to this book!
We packed for our family trip in tubs — each person got a tub for the week. This saved so much space in our vehicle and made things much more organized!
Our one out of state trip this summer was to go meet up with my family at Bull Shoals Lake in Arkansas. We weren’t sure if the trip was going to happen due to COVID-19, but because of a number of safety measures we put into place, DCS gave us special permission to be able to go and take Champ with us.
Every afternoon during our annual extended family lake vacation, my mom has “Grandma Time” with her grandkids. She teaches them a Bible lesson, they do a craft, have a snack, and do a game together.
Over the past two years, the older grand kids have started helping out. This year, each of the older ones signed up to help out with a craft and/or a snack and then Kathrynne is in charge of games (complete with an elaborate ticketing system and prizes they can turn their tickets in for at the end of the week ala Chuckie Cheese style!)
As many of you know, my mom had some serious health issues last year, including multiple extensive surgeries and skin grafts for skin cancer. She also got really sick with pneumonia in the middle of all that.
She almost didn’t get to come on the annual lake vacation last year. She did come, but she was so weak and sickly that I wondered if she’d make it another year.
This year, at 66 years old, she’s stronger than ever — not only leading Grandma Time, but also skiing and helping with the babies and cooking and looking for ways to reach out and serve all day long.
I know many of you prayed for her last year and I just wanted to tell you thank you, again! I look at this photo I snapped earlier this week and it just reminds me to be grateful for the many gifts it represents.
Her first time in a pool!
They had this sign at the pool! 😉
For details on how we all pitch in on meals and clean up, check out this post.
One of my favorite parts of our extended family vacations: the daily salad bars we have.
On our way home, we stopped by Ozark, MO so the girls and I could go in to the discount store there. (More details on what we bought coming this weekend!)
Jesse’s parents and his sister, Lisa, drove from Kansas to meet up with us so they could meet the babies, too.
I’m so grateful we got to spend time with extended family. This year certainly has made us so much more grateful for this!
A year ago, we were in the middle of our foster care home study and praying for who God would bring into our home for us to love on.
We were at peace about pursuing this path, but we were still apprehensive and wondering what it might mean for our future. There were so many unknowns, so many what if’s, and so many things outside our control.
I look back on this last year and the 5 children we’ve had the privilege to have in our home — 4 for just a very short-term stint and sweet little Champ who has been with us for almost 4 months.
There are still just as many unknowns, what if’s, and things outside our comfort zone. My heart has been broken in a hundred little pieces over the things we’ve seen and witnessed firsthand and the many kids and their stories whom we weren’t able to say yes to. I’ve cried more tears in the last 10 months than I’ve cried in the last 10 years (okay, pregnancy and postpartum probably played a part in that!).
And yet, my heart is fuller and happier than I can ever remember. The opportunity to love, pour into, and nurture has filled me up in the deepest of places. Seeing my husband and kids sacrifice and serve and love so well has been one of the most amazing experiences.
I don’t know what the future holds. I can imagine it will be full of heartbreak and beauty, tears and love, a roller coaster of emotions, and many things I can’t even imagine.
There are many unknowns, but this one thing I know: I don’t regret for one second saying “yes” to foster care. I look at these pictures and think, “We could have missed this.”
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