Syed Lateef ventured into real estate as a side venture in 2017 while working full-time in corporate finance.
Today, the Chicago-based entrepreneur is a self-made millionaire who manages nearly 300 units through his short-term rental and hotel services business. His revenue increased from $10.7 million to over $11 million in the last quarter of 2023, and he estimates his business has earned more than $30 million in total since its launch seven years ago.
With his substantial earnings, Lateef prioritizes allocating his money towards his passions. He dedicates both his money and time to assist struggling communities in India and Pakistan by providing them with clean water wells through partnerships with organizations like the Thaakat Foundation and Human Concern International.
Lateef’s ability to earn and donate money relies on his skill in managing and saving it. He pays close attention to where and how he saves his funds.
“When I was just starting out my journey to becoming a millionaire, I had specific features and factors that I always considered when choosing a savings account,” said Lateef.
Here are the key qualities Lateef looks for in a savings account when deciding where to invest his hard-earned money.
Millionaires, much like average wage earners, prefer higher Annual Percentage Yields (APYs) on their savings deposits to accelerate compounding.
“Of course, I prioritize finding the highest interest rates,” said Lateef. “Part of ensuring greater returns was always seeking the highest rates when choosing a savings account.”
However, millionaires, along with anyone who is deliberate and methodical about managing money, avoid solely pursuing high yields.
Firstly, interest rates are subject to change, and when attractive rates decline, individuals may find themselves stuck with a bank that they do not prefer for the wrong reasons.
Furthermore, some banks may offer appealing APYs by compromising on services and features, such as physical locations that Lateef enjoys visiting.
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Banks like Ally, SoFi, and Varo provide useful features, user-friendly interfaces, instant access, low or no fees, full transparency, and attractive yields that surpass those offered by major banks.
However, at the end of the day, these banks solely exist on a phone or computer screen, and millionaires like Lateef prefer face-to-face interactions, especially when it involves their money.
“I always made sure there was a local brick-and-mortar presence,” he said. “Having an account at a physical bank near where I lived was essential.
“Even now, and especially now that I’m a millionaire, there are certain transactions like withdrawing large sums of cash, depositing high-value checks, or drafting significant checks that are better done in a face-to-face interaction with a bank teller.”
During the Great Depression, the federal government imposed restrictions on withdrawals in order to enhance bank stability in the 1930s.
Until April 2020, Regulation D limited most transactions for savings and money market accounts to only six per month. However, in response to COVID-19, the restrictions were lifted, allowing every savings account in America to reach its full potential.
The removal of Regulation D enabled savvy savers to transfer idle funds from checking accounts to high-yield savings accounts, which they could now use for unlimited transfers and payments.
“I believe this is helpful in terms of wealth management,” said Lateef.
Despite this change, many banks continue to impose fees, restrict withdrawals, or even convert accounts to checking accounts if customers exceed the monthly transaction limit, as they did when Regulation D was in effect.
If a bank limits his flexibility through internal policies, Lateef does not expect to deposit his money with them.
In the past, transactional speed bumps such as clearing holds, partial clears, pending delays, and more were frustrating, even when savings accounts were mostly stagnant. However, in the post-Regulation D era, Lateef places an even higher importance on speedy transfers.
“In terms of easy transfers, I used both Marcus and AmEx high-yield savings accounts (HYSAs) and found AmEx to be faster,” he said.
Individuals should insist on the same level of precision when money moves in the opposite direction, as banks have no trouble instantly clearing transactions when the money is coming to them.
In the past, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, money market accounts, credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, and even insurance products were scattered among various banks and financial institutions.
Today, individuals can consolidate these services under one umbrella at the same bank where they make their savings deposits, and this is exactly what Lateef prefers.
“It’s a bonus if the high-yield savings account (HYSA) is with a bank where I already use other services like checking accounts or credit cards,” he said.
In the past, saving for different goals required opening separate accounts. However, Lateef now demands the ability to separate objectives, such as vacation savings, emergency funds, and investment money, under the same routing number.
“One of the earlier HYSA banks I used had a feature I particularly liked: buckets,” he said. “It was with Ally. It helped me easily track how much money I had allocated for each of my financial goals on my journey to becoming a millionaire. I made regular contributions to these buckets each month so I didn’t always have to remember the exact amount in each one off the top of my head.”
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