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If I Had a Million Dollars

| Money Rates Columnist.
min read

Hey, guess what? You just won the lottery. You paid your taxes and paid off all your debt. You have a million dollars to invest. What would you do?

Same As It Ever Was

The stock market has recovered since the Dow Jones Industrial Average went below 7,000. In fact, the Dow is halfway back to 10,000 and the panic of last year is slowly fading. Brokerage firms continue to beat the drum about buying opportunities, dollar-cost-averaging, historical returns, or anything else that might capture your business and your money.

If you are young and do not want to manage your own money, you can probably find a broker that will diversify your funds and try to outperform broad market indexes. They may even accomplish the task.

Yet, there is a growing segment of the population who want to manage their own money and after recording 40% or 50% declines in their retirement savings, would also like o avoid the volatility that is inherent in owning stocks and mutual funds.

Today, it was pointed out that General Motors (GM) stock is now trading at the same price as it did in 1933. I take that to mean that if you bought $10,000 worth of GM stock, it would be worth the same $10,000 today. So after 75 years you have only earned whatever dividends the stock paid out.

Are we cherrypicking a bad stock to set the example? I don't think so. Many of the bluest of the blue chip stocks have had the same recent dismal performance. Some people can handle the ups-and-downs of the market. They cite the long-time historical performance numbers and they just ride out the bad years. 

But there are those of us who are emotionally-driven investors. We buy high and sell low because we are following the crowd. This is, of course, a sure-fire way to underfperform market indexes. If this describes you, then you should not be in the market with money that you are not emotionally prepared to lose.

So back to the question. If the you don't have the temperment to ride out market waves, what should you do with your million dollar windfall? The answer is a few online clicks away.

You Can Bank on Banks

Bank deposits are insured. So right away you know your worse-case scenario if you open a deposit account at a bank under the federal insurance limits. You can count on FDIC insurance protecting your principal. You can also count on banks to pay interest regularly and to honor their interest rate.

In the case of a certificate of deposit this means a fixed interest rate until the maturity date. This is important when you compare bank deposits to some other fixed-income securities like corporate bonds, municipal bonds, or annuities.

These investments can be called early or even default on principal or interest payments. Banks deposit are also easy-to-understand investments. In a day when the intricacies of investments like hedge funds, mortgages securities, and real estate investment trusts are hard to comprehend, simplicity can be important.

Online is Easy

If you do hit that multi-million dollar lottery jackpot and decide to keep the money safe in bank accounts you will need to find more than one bank. FDIC insurance applies only to deposits up to $250,000. So it is very important to use some online resources to find banks outside your local area.

Lucky for you, savers can find dozens of banks on MoneyRates.com offering the very highest rates on money market accounts, CDs, savings accounts, and checking accounts. You don't even have to leave your house to find the rate that works for you and open an account at a FDIC-insured bank.

Finding the Rates

If you took your fresh million dollars and spread it out among the banks with the best rates listed at MoneyRates.com on money market accounts, CDs, savings accounts, and checking accounts you could rest easy knowing that FDIC insurance will cover any banks that fail and your deposits are safe. This million-dollar portfolio should also have a higher yield than a million dollars in money funds, short-term bond funds, Treasury Bills, and most other fixed-income securities.

While the national average on bank rates may be lower, the highest rates on bank deposits (the banks you see on MoneyRates.com) consistently beat these other savings-oriented instruments. The reason is simple. The rates are not simply pegged to the interest rates set by the Federal Reserve or by the level of Treasury yields. 

Banks consider market conditions, but in the end they can do what they want. That's why we still see bank rates at 3% or 4%, when other savings products like savings bonds and money funds are earning well below 1%. If all banks reacted only to the Fed, we would not see any good bank deals. We might not even see any rates today over 2%. Lucky for us, many banks do their own thing.

So if you do get that million dollars, consider the simple solution, bank deposit accounts with the best rates you can find. If you only spend the interest you earn, you will always be a millionaire.  

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1 Comment
wes 22 August 2012 at 2:49 pm

Do you know a good bank that will give me 3 or 4 percent interest?? I ask people and they say it's under 1 percent now? I just got a million dollars and would love to live on interest of 3 or 4 percent, thanks for your help, I'm new to this