Naysayers call it the “boob tube,” but that small box of entertainment known as the television has surprised us over and over again.
Throughout the years, small screen programming has continued to improve at the exponential rate, getting to a point where we can barely tell the difference between TV and movies. Some of the best storytelling, acting, and production values are to be found on the boob tube.
As such, Your Money Geek presents some of the 20 Best TV Shows of All Time.
Not only that, but we also have the 4-1-1 on where you can watch them all.
20 – Billions (2016 – )
IMDb 8.4 – 4 Seasons, 48 episodes (with more on the way)
Billions is a drama that explores the world of high finance in New York City. Having premiered on Showtime in 2016, the show’s fifth season debuts this May. Giamatti plays Chuck Rhoades, a U.S. attorney going after big-time hedge fund manager, Bobby Axelrod (Lewis). Billions is worth watching for the plethora of twists and turns you won’t see coming.
The first four seasons can be streamed with Showtime’s Hulu add-on.
19 – Halt and Catch Fire (2014-2017)
IMDb 8.4 – 4 Seasons, 40 episodes
This series follows a group of techies from the personal computer boom of the 1980s, up until the growth of the worldwide web in the early ’90s. Created by Christopher C. Rogers and Christopher Cantwell, this period drama aired on the AMC Network for 40 episodes across four seasons.
Throughout its original run, viewership numbers were always low despite receiving high scores from both critics and viewers. A good amount of credit goes to AMC for sticking with the show and giving it a proper two-hour series finale.
All four seasons are currently streaming on Netflix.
18 – Friends (1994-2004)
IMDb 8.9 – 10 Seasons, 236 episodes
A sitcom based in New York City, Friends, revolves around six friends in their 20’s and 30’s. It aired for a whopping ten seasons on NBC, having first premiered in 1994. The series finale aired in 2004. Relative unknowns before their starring roles in the show, Friends featured an excellent ensemble cast, including Courtney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer.
The show was recently taken off Netflix but will be exclusively available on Peacock, NBC’s upcoming streaming service, which launches this summer.
17 – Dexter (2006-2013)
IMDb 8.6 – 8 Seasons, 96 Episodes
Crime, Drama, Mystery
Dexter aired on Showtime for eight seasons between 2006 and 2013. The series stars Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan, a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami police also living a double life as a vigilante serial killer who targets other murderers that have escaped justice.
Throughout its four seasons, Dexter was indeed one of the best shows on TV, although many agree that the series finale left something to be desired.
All seasons are currently streaming on Netflix.
16 – Sherlock (2010 – )
IMDb 9.1 – 4 Seasons, 15 Episodes (with more hopefully on the way)
Crime, Drama, Mystery
Sherlock is a BBC crime drama with a modern-day twist on the famous Sherlock Holmes novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This brilliant update follows Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as his partner Dr. Watson as the duo solves crimes in 21st century London. With sharp dialogue, the series is well-acted.
Four seasons (or “series” as they’re known in the U.K.) of Sherlock have already aired along with a one-off Christmas special in 2015. Fans are currently holding out hope for more episodes from creators Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat.
All episodes are currently on Netflix
15 – The Office (2005-2013)
IMDb 8.8 – 9 Seasons, 188 Episodes
Cast: Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute), John Krasinski (Jim Halpert),
Jenna Fischer (Pam Beesly), Leslie David Baker (Stanley Hudson), Brian Baumgartner (Kevin Malone), Angela Kinsey (Angela Martin), Phyllis Smith (Phyllis Vance)
Based on the U.K. show created by Ricky Gervais, this American mockumentary sitcom aired on NBC for nine seasons between 2005 and 2013. It follows a group of employees of the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Some of the notable stars of its main cast include Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and Rainn Wilson.
The Office is currently on Netflix, but will eventually leave the streaming service for Peacock.
14 – Lost (2004-2010)
IMDb 8.3 – 6 Seasons, 118 Episodes
Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Cast: Jorge Garcia (Hugo ‘Herley’ Reyes), Josh Holloway (James ‘Sawyer’ Ford), Yunjin Kim (Sun-Hwa Kwon), Evangeline Lilly (Kate Austen),
Terry O’Quinn (John Locke), Naveen Andrews (Sayid Jarrah),
Matthew Fox (Dr. Jack Shephard), Daniel Dae Kim (Jin-Soo Kwon)
From the minds of J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, Lost is a drama that follows 48 survivors of the jet airliner Oceanic Flight 815, which ends up crashing on a mysterious island. It was broadcast on the ABC Network from September 2004 – 2010. Over the last few years, the series producers have hinted at a possible reboot.
Lost can be streamed via Hulu
13 – Luther (2010 -)
IMDb 8.5 – 5 Seasons, 20 episodes (with more hopefully on the way)
Crime, Drama, Mystery
Created by Neil Cross, this BBC-produced crime drama stars Idris Elba as DCI John Luther. He is both brilliant and self-destructive as he hunts down criminals. As with other shows on this list, fans are hoping for more Luther content in the future.
All five seasons of Luther are now streaming on Starz
12 – The Americans (2013-2018)
Crime, Drama, Mystery, History – 6 Seasons, 75 Episodes
A spy thriller set in the 1980s during the waning days of the Cold War, The Americans centers on Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, two Russian spies posing as an American couple in Washington, D.C. This is an insanely suspenseful show with solid performances from leads Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. The Americans lasted six seasons on the FX Network between 2013 and 2018.
The Americans will be available to stream in March when FX on Hulu goes live
11 – Justified (2010-2015)
Action, Crime, Drama – 6 Seasons, 78 Episodes
This crime drama ran for six seasons on the FX Network from 2010 – 2015. It stars Timothy Olyphant as U.S. Marshal, Raylan Givens, who enforces justice in his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky. Justified excelled with character development thanks to outstanding performances by its cast, which also featured Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder, Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett, and Damon Herriman as the unforgettable Dewey Crowe.
This show will be another FX on Hulu exclusive
10 – Hannibal (2013-2015)
Crime, Drama, Horror – 3 Seasons, 39 Episodes
A psychological-horror series based on the Thomas Harris novels Red Dragon and Hannibal. The show focuses on the relationship between FBI Investigator Will Gragam (played by Hugh Dancy) and Dr. Hannibal Lecter (played superbly by Mads Mikkelsen). Hannibal only lasted for three seasons on NBC from 2013 – 2015. Due to its subject matter, one may be surprised that it lasted as long as it did on an over-the-air network like NBC. Season 2 and 3 are absolute works of genius.
Hannibal can be streamed on the NBC website, although it’s sure to move over to Peacock once the summer arrives
9 – Seinfeld (1989-1998)
Comedy – 9 Seasons, 173 Episodes
Yadda, Yadda, Yadda…a sitcom created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, this iconic show aired for nine seasons from 1989 – 1998 on NBC.
It follows stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his neurotic group of friends living in New York City. For a “show about nothing,” Seinfeld managed to explore many things, from big salads to laundry cooked in pizza ovens to—ahem—shrinkage.
All of Seinfeld is currently streaming on Hulu
8 – Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy – 8 Seasons, 73 Episodes
Cast: Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister)
Perhaps the most popular recent show on this list, Game of Thrones is based on the sweeping Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R.R. Martin. Although the series evolved a lot across its eight seasons, the fantasy drama is really about powerful families vying for control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.
It features a great ensemble cast that includes: Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, and more. While Season 8 let a lot of fans down, no one can deny that GoT changed the way that television is made and consumed.
All eight seasons can be streamed via HBO’s various online platforms
7 – The Sopranos (1999-2007)
Crime, Drama – 6 Seasons, 86 Episodes
Cast: James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano), Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Jennifer Melfi), Edie Falco (Carmelo Soprano), Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti), Dominic Chianese (Junior Soprano),
Steven Van Zandt (Silvio Dante), Tony Sirico (Paulie ‘Walnuts’ Gualtieri), Robert Iler (A.J. Soprano), Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow Soprano)
The Sopranos aired on HBO from 1999 – 2007 for 86 episodes over six seasons. The story revolves around New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster, Tony Soprano. Played by the late great James Gandolfini, Tony deals with personal and professional issues that lead him to seek professional psychiatric counseling. The colorful characters and solid writing will keep pulling you back in for more.
All six seasons can be streamed via HBO’s various online platforms
6 – The Wire (2002-2008)
Crime, Drama, Thriller – 5 Seasons, 60 Episodes
Cast: Dominic West (Det. James ‘Jimmy’ McNulty), John Doman (Dep. Comm. for Operations William A. Rawls), Deirdre Lovejoy (Asst. State’s Atty. Rhonda Pearlman), Wendell Pierce (Det. William ‘Bunk’ Moreland), Lance Reddick (Lt. Cedric Daniels), Sonja Sohn (Det. Shakima ‘Kima’ Greggs), Seth Gilliam (Sgt. Ellis Carver), Domenick Lombardozzi (Det. Thomas ‘Herc’ Hauk)
Often considered to be the greatest TV show ever made, this HBO crime drama ran for five seasons on HBO from 2002 – 2008. Set in Baltimore, Maryland, it explores the city’s drug scene from the perspective of both the drug dealers and law enforcement.
The Wire is not one of those shows that should be judged based on one episode. Instead, It takes its time to fully explore each detail with captivating storytelling that will leave you satisfied at the end of each season.
All five seasons can be streamed via HBO’s various online platforms
5 – Fargo (2014 -)
IMDb 8.9 – 4 Seasons 40 Episodes
Crime, Drama, Comedy, Thriller
This dark comedy crime drama/anthology was inspired by the 1996 Coen Brothers film of the same name. Set in South Dakota and Minnesota, each season tells a different story with mostly new characters, all of whom are portrayed by an all-star cast.
If you enjoy bizarre characters with odd story twists, Fargo is the show for you. Three seasons have already been broadcast on the FX Network, since its premiere in 2014. A fourth season starring Chris Rock premieres this April.
The first three seasons can be streamed on Hulu
4 – Peaky Blinders (2013 -)
IMDb 8.8 – 5 Seasons 30 Episodes
Crime, Drama, History
This BBC-produced crime drama takes place in England after World War I. It stars Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby, an ambitious crime boss that leads the notorious Peaky Blinders Gang. It is a bloody, violent show with fantastic writing, acting, and outstanding cinematography.
All five seasons are streaming on Netflix
3 – Westworld (2016 -)
IMDb 8.7 – 2 Seasons, 20 Episodes
Drama, Mystery, Sci-fi, Thriller
Based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 movie of this same name, Westworld is a science fiction Western drama that has aired two seasons on HBO to date. It takes place in Wild West-themed amusement park populated with android hosts who begin to revolt against their human masters.
The series is known for having complex, multi-layered storylines, stunning visuals, top-notch performances from cast members like Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton. Aaron Paul joins Westworld for its third season, which premieres on March 15.
The first two seasons can be streamed via HBO’s various online platforms
2 – Deadwood (2004-2006)
IMDb 8.6 – 3 Seasons, 36 Episodes
Crime, Drama, History
This Western drama aired on HBO from 2004 – 2006 for 36 episodes across three seasons. It follows the inhabitants of a settlement in Deadwood, South Dakota during the late 1800s. The fantastic ensemble cast is led by Ian McShane, who plays saloon owner Al Swearengem. Co-starring is Timothy Olyphant, who plays a U.S. Marshall and shop owner by the name of Seth Bullock. Deadwood is a rough-and-tumble-type show with a good amount of vulgarity depicting the lawlessness of the era. The long-awaited Deadwood movie aired on HBO last spring.
All three seasons, plus the movie, can be streamed via HBO’s various online platforms
1 – Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
Crime, Drama, Thriller – 5 Seasons 62 Episodes
Cast: Bryan Cranston (Walter White), Anna Gunn (Skyler White),
Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman), Dean Norris (Hank Schrader), Betsy Brandt (Marie Schrader), RJ Mitte (Walter White Jr.) Bob Odenkirk (Saul Goodman)
This is our absolute favorite TV show of all time. This crime/drama/thriller was created by Vince Gilligan and aired on the AMC Network for five seasons Set in Albuquerque, New Mexico Breaking Bad stars Bryan Cranston as Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with lung cancer, who takes up a new career as a meth producer in the hopes of earning enough money to take care of his family after he dies.
The outstanding supporting cast includes Aaron Paul, Bob Odenkirk, Giancarlo Esposito, and many others. The acting, writing, cinematography, and overall production values are superb. If you want more from the Breaking Bad Universe, the spin-off prequel, Better Call Saul, has aired for four seasons on AMC with a fifth season next month. The sequel movie to the series finale, El Camino, was released on Netflix last fall.
All five seasons can be streamed on Netflix.
It’s a Wrap
And there you have it, folks. Your next binge awaits.
There are so many good shows out there and if we tried to rank them all, we’d probably be typing away until the next century. This list is by no means definitive, so if we missed your favorite show, let us know on social media!
The post The 20 Best TV Shows of All Time (and Where You Can Watch Them Online) appeared first on Your Money Geek.
A Day in My Quarantined Life
Just for fun, last , I took pictures and shared in real-time on Instagram a peek into a pretty normal day in our lives. I say “normal”, but nothing is really normal right now due to COVID-19, our city’s current Safer at Home order.
But I wanted to document what this period of our lives was like — when we were home 24/7 all day, every day, as a whole family. This was two days before we brought Champ home from the NICU and it was during the few-day period when I was unable to visit him there due to the lockdown on visitors as a result of COVID-19. (In case you were wondering why I didn’t go up to the NICU on this day.)
I’ll be sharing another Day in My Quarantined Life post next week with the added addition of a newborn. That will look very different! 🙂
So without further ado, enjoy a peek into a day during this period of history when we were all self-isolating…
A Peek Into My Quarantined Life
7:30 a.m. — I switch the laundry I had started the night before into the dryer and start another load in the washer.
7:45 a.m. — I fold a clean load of laundry while listening to an audiobook.
8:15 a.m. — I picked out my new books to read for the week and hopped on the treadmill for my morning reading/prayer time (yes, I walk while I read and pray!)
9:10 a.m. — I shower and get dressed for the day. I usually pick out my outfit for the day the night before to make getting dressed a snap in the mornings.
Kaitlynn usually makes some unique breakfast for herself every morning. Today’s breakfast was strawberry/peanut butter toast.
9:35 a.m. — I eat the same thing most every day for breakfast — a big bowl of Raisin Bran. Kaitlynn and I ate breakfast together this morning (breakfast is always on your own at our house right now, but sometimes I’ll sit down and eat with one child).
10 a.m. — I lie down to rest (since I’m near the end of my pregnancy, I usually have to lie down and rest once or twice a day). While resting, I watched the local news, talked to Jesse, and answered Instagram messages.
11 a.m. — Still resting. I go through my email inbox and answer all of the urgent messages.
11:45 a.m. — I took a break from business work to do my hair and makeup. (I usually have to lie down after my morning walk and shower because doing both of those things back to back wear me out for awhile!)
12:15 p.m. — Made Red Raspberry Leaf Tea, talked to Jesse, and checked my messages on Instagram.
12:45 p.m. — I sit with Silas while he works on his school for the day. I work on chapter 8 of my manuscript for my upcoming book. (I’m over 75% done with the rough draft!) (And yes, we allow PJ-wearing in our homeschool right now… provided you take a bath and put on clean PJs. :))
1:30 p.m. — I eat lunch and work on final edits to chapter 7 of my manuscript before I submit it to my editor who is working with me in the book-writing process.
The girls have been doing various creative projects since they are home 24/7. I love seeing the unique ideas they are coming up with. Kathrynne’s project for today was hand-drawing this coloring page to color in (the girls have also been super into making friendship bracelets right now — and you can see all their embroidery floss in the photo above).
Here’s a better photo of the coloring page she drew.
4 p.m. — Time to take my prenatal vitamins. (I spent the last two hours working on my book and working on foster care related phone calls + talking to Jesse about some decisions we needed to make there.)
5 p.m. — Snack time — dates with peanut butter (dates are for labor prep). I worked on getting my Hot Deals enewsletter ready to go + the blog post for the day and worked on some projects for my Mastermind group.
7 p.m. — Finished with my work projects for the day! And it’s onto making dinner. I used some bread crumbs, spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese, and chicken. I dipped the chicken in egg mixture and then in bread crumbs and browned the chicken on the stove top. Then I put it in a pan with sauce and cheese and baked it. It was a Chicken Parmesan dish of sorts — using what I had on hand.
7:20 p.m. — While the chicken was cooking, I unload and reload the dishwasher and listen to an audiobook.
8:15 p.m. — Dinner time! (I made mine chicken without sauce — since it gives me heartburn. We served the chicken over pasta with peas.)
After dinner: We did our before bed house cleaning (everyone cleans up their designated spaces) and everyone helped with some laundry while we finished watching a movie. I wrote out my time-blocked to do list and answered a few emails and then went to bed at 10:30 p.m.
When Will I Receive a Coronavirus Check? Here’s What IRS Says
There’s a good chance you’ll have your coronavirus stimulus check in your bank account by April 14, according to a report by The Washington Post.
The first direct deposits will be made April 9, according to an IRS draft plan obtained by The Post. Most payments would be available by April 14 at the latest, though the exact date will vary based on how quickly banks can process them.
Paper checks would be mailed beginning April 24, at a rate of 5 million per week, according to the plan. Those with the lowest adjusted gross incomes would receive the first payments.
Most single adults who aren’t claimed as dependents on someone else’s tax return will receive stimulus payments of $1,200, while married couples will get $2,400. Families with children 16 or younger will receive a $500 credit per child.
Benefits for single people with AGIs over $75,000 and married people with AGIs over $150,000 are reduced by 5 cents for every $1 they earn above these thresholds.
For more information about how the payments will work, check out our coronavirus stimulus checks FAQ.
When Will I Receive My Coronavirus Check?
OK, so the big question on your mind is probably: When will I receive my coronavirus check? Here’s the timeframe for payments, as reported by The Post:
April 9: The first direct deposit payments will be made. The majority of these deposits will be available by April 14 at the latest.
April 24: Paper checks will be mailed out to people with adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) of $10,000 or less who don’t have direct deposit information on file with the IRS.
May 1: Checks will be sent to people with AGIs of $20,000 or lower. Each week, another round of checks will go out to those whose incomes are within the next $10,000. So on May 8, checks will be mailed to those with AGIs of $30,000 or less. On May 15, they would go to those whose AGIs are $40,000 or less, etc.
Sept. 4: The final checks would be mailed to eligible taxpayers with the highest AGIs.
Sept. 11: Checks will be mailed to people who need to apply for payments because the IRS doesn’t have tax information available for them.
How Do I Sign Up for Direct Deposit?
If you haven’t signed up for direct deposit via the IRS or Social Security — or if the information they have on file is for a bank account you’ve closed — there’s no easy way to do so at the moment.
The IRS is building a web portal that would allow you to set up and update that information. The feature will probably be available by the end of April to early May, according to a memo from the House Ways and Means Committee.
If you haven’t filed your 2019 tax return yet, you could do so ASAP so the IRS has your updated bank account information.
If you’ve closed your bank account and the IRS tries to deposit your payment to that account, the funds will ultimately be sent back to the IRS. The IRS will eventually mail your check to your last known address if you don’t update your account information in the portal once it’s available.
Is There Anything I Can Do to Get My Check Faster?
There are really only two things you can do to speed up this process:
1. File a 2018 or 2019 tax return if you’re not receiving Social Security benefits.
2. Sign up for direct deposit or update your bank account information if you haven’t already once the IRS makes its portal available. Check https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus frequently, as that’s where the IRS is posting all key information related to coronavirus relief.
If you’ve done those two things, the only thing you can do is sit back and wait.
Robin Hartill is a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder and the voice behind the Dear Penny personal finance advice column.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
Best Interest Rates on Cash – April 2020
The Federal Reserve further cut their target Fed Funds Rate to zero in March, so we continue to see a steady stream of rate drops on cash savings. I hope that some of you got a nice rate locked-in if you tried to refinance your mortgage.
Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for April 2020, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. I track these rates because I keep 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 4/2/2020.
High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks make huge profits while paying you 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.
- Prime Alliance Bank is at 1.85% APY. CIT Bank Money Market is at 1.80% APY ($100 min to open). There are several other established high-yield savings accounts hovering slightly below these top rates.
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. Marcus has a 7-month No Penalty CD at 1.70% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. Ally Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 1.55% APY with a $25,000 minimum deposit. CIT Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 1.70% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
- CIT Bank has a few competitive term CDs at similar rates: 12-month CD at 1.86% APY ($1,000 min), 13-month at 1.82% APY, and 18-month at 1.85% APY.
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 1.07% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund which has an SEC yield of 0.68%. 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 2.08% SEC yield ($3,000 min) and 2.18% 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 2.57% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 3.16% SEC yield while holding a portfolio of investment-grade bonds with an average duration of ~6 months. Note that the higher yield came from a drop in net asset value during the recent market stress.
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. Right now, this section probably isn’t very interesting as T-Bills are yielding close to zero!
- 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 4/2/2020, a new 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.09% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.14% annualized interest.
- The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 1.42% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 0.88% SEC yield. GBIL appears to have a slightly longer average maturity than BIL. Expect these yields to drop significantly as they are updated.
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.
- Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards Checking (my review) still offers up to 5.09% APY on balances up to $10,000 if you make $500+ in ACH deposits, 12 debit card “signature” purchases, and spend $1,000 on their credit card each month. Elements Financial has dropped to 2% APY on balances up to $20,000 if you make 15 debit card “signature” purchases or other qualifying transactions per statement cycle. Find a locally-restricted rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.
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.
- Pen Air Federal Credit Union has a 5-year certificate at 2.20% APY ($500 minimum). Early withdrawal penalty is 180 days of interest. Their other terms are competitive as well, if you want build a CD ladder. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization ($3 one-time fee).
- 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. Vanguard and Fidelity both have a 5-year at 1.60% APY right now. Be wary of 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. Vanguard has a 10-year at 1.50% APY right now. 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 4/2/2020, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 1.04%.
All rates were checked as of 4/2/2020.
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