How to Fly Safely for Less This Fall

Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, joins the Your Money's Worth podcast to discuss strategies for snagging discounted airfare in the coming months. Also, our hosts David Muhlbaum and Sandy Block break down the new steps families must take to get financial aid for college next year.

person on airplane
(Image credit: Getty Images)

David Muhlbaum: This is around the time people firm up their travel plans for the holidays or perhaps start putting together a dream spring break. Well, it would be if not for the COVID-19 pandemic. But while Americans are flying less, for sure they're still flying. And because we know you want to save on airfare, we went straight to the source -- Scott Keyes, founder of the popular e-mail newsletter Scott's Cheap Flights, joins us to talk about how to fly nowadays.

David Muhlbaum: If you're a regular listener of Your Money's Worth, you might be wondering just who's talking here. Well, I'm clearly not Ryan Ermey who, sadly, has left the podcast and Kiplinger. My name is David Muhlbaum and if you're really a regular, you might recognize me as I've helped co-host a few times in the past and been a guest, as well. I'm looking forward to connecting with you and bring you insights from Kiplinger experts and guests that will help keep your financial house in order.

David Muhlbaum: On today's show, Sandy and I check in about lining up financial aid for the next academic year. No, it's not too early to start fretting about that. We also talk about how much Americans are saving and how the pandemic sent the usually snoozey economic indicator that tracks that off the charts. Stick around.

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

David Muhlbaum: Welcome to Your Money's Worth. I'm David Muhlbaum, online editor for and your columnist for the Kiplinger Personal Finance magazine's Drive Time feature. And I'm joined by our veteran senior editor Sandy Block. Sandy, how are you doing?

Sandy Block: I'm doing good, David. Welcome to Your Money's Worth.

David Muhlbaum: Thanks. Yeah, it's not totally the first time, but it's in some ways the first time. I hope to keep it together. Thanks again in advance for your help in guiding us through another episode. What we wanted to talk about today, in addition to our main guest Scott Keyes, who we'll have on in a bit, is, well, this really crazy academic year that we're looking at here. It's in large part underway. It's a weird one with a good chunk of instruction happening virtually and a measurable chunk of students having decided to take the proverbial gap year. I'm talking here about higher education -- college. I just dropped my elder daughter off for her first year of college last week. That was a long summer.

Sandy Block: Well, congratulations to your daughter -- but no sooner do parents and students get to breathe a little sigh of relief that they've launched this year. Then, it's time to start thinking about paying for the next one or the first one in 2021 if you have a senior in high school planning on going to college. That is going to be more complicated, as well. This is the week that the new FAFSA form comes out. That stands for the Free Application for Student Financial Aid and it's the first step for lining up any kind of aid, whether it comes from college scholarships or even federally backed student loans. Everyone should file a FAFSA because you're not going to get anything without it.

David Muhlbaum: Right, and of course our blessed year 2020 has complicated the FAFSA process. The question of "how much aid you get versus how much you pay out of pocket?" depends on the financial information you put in from the previous tax year. In this case 2019, remember 2019?

Sandy Block: It was a good year.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah, it was a good year. It's all relative. But yeah. And so there are a lot of people whose financial situation in 2020 is significantly different. Well, probably worse than it was in 2019. Someone lost a job. Someone lost a lot of money. Someone might have lost their life. Families in these situations are not going to be able to come up with what the process calls the expected family contribution. It's bureaucratese for what you still have to pay after aid. That is, they're not going to be able to come up with it if it's all calculated on how they were doing in 2019, which is not 2020.

Sandy Block: Right. And unfortunately there is the process isn't deaf to this problem. But while applying for financial aid is relatively straightforward -- thanks to the FAFSA -- the appeals process, which is what you're going to want to pursue if your financial situation became a lot worse than 2020, is going to be a lot more complicated. There's a term of art for this and it's called professional judgment. In this case, the professional is a person at each college or university that you apply for and the judgment, that's their ruling that, yeah, that you should get more aid.

David Muhlbaum: You said each college?

Sandy Block: Right. And this is a problem, because some people . . . I know some families, I don't know how many you all applied for David . . . but I know some families send out just a flurry of applications. You're going to have to make your case wherever you hope your kid can go to school. They're going to want to see the paperwork that explains what happened to your situation. And that would be unemployment benefits, cut in hours. That's going to take time and be a hassle. It's a good reason to get on this process right away.

David Muhlbaum: But on the other hand, when you're looking for aid you want to check with each -- the FAFSA's only part of it. You want to check with each institution, because sometimes they have programs that might be unique to the school.

Sandy Block: Right. And even though the FAFSA is a federal form, a lot of the schools use the FAFSA as a basis for their own aid. For scholarships, for all kinds of things. It's not just going to determine whether you get a Pell Grant, whether you get a Stafford Loan, it's used for so many different things. And that's why, again, you need to make sure that the FAFSA is reflecting what your situation is now.

David Muhlbaum: Right. Okay. Beyond the money, next year is going to be an odd one for admissions, as well. In part, because of the gap year situation that we were considering, it could be a little bit more competitive depending on how many people are coming back and looking for a slot.

Sandy Block: That's right. If you had students who dropped out and they're all coming back, that could make getting into school a little more competitive. And the other thing that people really have to be aware of -- and this, again, argues for getting on the FAFSA now -- is that a lot of colleges and universities are really hurting financially. That means there's less money they have to give out scholarships and financial aid. And that money tends to be awarded on a first come, first serve basis. Get your FAFSA in early.

David Muhlbaum: We are back with Scott Keyes, who is the founder of the newsletter and service Scott's Cheap Flights. I love that title, because there's no doubt what they're about. Scott, thanks for joining us. You are a repeat offender on Your Money's Worth. We had you on about a year ago and Ryan has profiled you in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, as well. And while I'm sure we would have had travel questions for you without a pandemic, we now have more.

Scott Keyes: Well, thank you so much for having me back. Always a pleasure to get to come on and talk cheap flights even in a year as strange and surreal as 2020.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah. Our questions. Well, we have not only more, but well, certainly have different questions. Commercial flying is one of the most disrupted industries by COVID-19 right now. I think we're seeing domestic air trips roughly a third of what they were last year and international flights lower than that. My first question is, how's it going for you? What is Scott's Cheap Flights doing when travel is a shadow of its former self, particularly given your focus on international flights?

Scott Keyes: It's been a mixed bag. I'm not going to pretend as though it hasn't been a difficult year for the travel industry in general, just obviously given everything that's happening, travel's not on the forefront of most people's mind. And so that has a lot of knock on effects. As a company, we've been able to weather the storm much, much better than I would have expected if you had told me what was going to happen over these preceding six months. We haven't had to lay anybody off and we haven't had to make any significant cuts or pullbacks in a way that again, might have expected considering the state of travel in 2020. And I credit that to a couple things. One is just the fact that our members -- God bless them -- are incredibly loyal and savvy and know that even if they're not traveling today, there's hope to be able to travel next year, 6 months from now, 9 months from now, 12 months from now.

Scott Keyes: Times when even if they know that they can't take that trip to Paris over Thanksgiving, they're hoping "yeah, maybe I'll be able to do it for Bastille Day next year," and so making those plans in advance and hoping to. The other thing I think that has been helping keep Scott's Cheap Flights afloat is the fact that it's a subscription business. We're not dependent on day in, day out revenue the way airlines are, the way cruises are, and hotels. When you have that recurring subscription revenue, it gives you much more predictability and much more just able to sustain yourself over these kind of tougher periods like we've had in 2020.

David Muhlbaum: Yes. We know a bit about subscription revenue questions this year.

Sandy Block: Yes we do.

David Muhlbaum: What about domestic? You're increasing your domestic offerings, too?

Scott Keyes: That's right. That's actually been one of the big changes that we have had in 2020. Before 2020, the only deals that we sent were long haul flights. That focused primarily on international flights, but then also deals to Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico -- places like that. We did not send deals to lower 48 states and the reason why was that those flights tend to be cheaper to begin with and so there's less potential for big savings when the price does drop. What our thinking was is if you have these expensive flights, like international ones that normally might cost $800, $900 or a $1,000 to fly over to Europe . . . we wanted to make sure that you are not spending that and that you were getting it when it was $400, $350. Those big, big savings that were just not possible on a flight to Chicago, to Houston, to Dallas.

Scott Keyes: What changed, though, is two things. One, obviously the pandemic has forced a lot of folks to be able to put at least on pause, those hopes and dreams of traveling internationally for at least the foreseeable future. A lot of that travel interest has shifted domestically, but two is also me sort of personally coming to the realization that even if you're not saving the $550 that our members save on average on international flights, that doesn't mean that people don't enjoy saving the $200 that we typically are saving on domestic flights. That even on a flight to Chicago or a flight to Denver, you still want to make sure you're not overpaying for that flight. And, so, helping our members to make sure they're getting the best deal they can is something that it seems like they value. It's been a service that I'm really, really glad we've been able to launch during the pandemic -- looking for those cheap domestic flights.

Sandy Block: Scott, I assume the question you get most often is, is it safe to fly? And what do you say to people who ask that question?

Scott Keyes: It's a great question. And it's one that's on the forefront of most people's mind, because we're living in an airborne pandemic and there's been long a sense among the traveling public that -- how many times have you heard this? -- "Oh, I always get sick when I fly."

Sandy Block: Oh yeah.

Scott Keyes: Oh, it's just recycled air in a cabin. And so, of course, I'm going to catch something. And those were just sort of harmless notions that people had for a long time. It didn't really matter or stop people from traveling. But obviously when we're in pandemic living with a virus that spreads through the air, it's really important for people to know what are the facts about how likely it is to catch something like this when you're traveling on an airplane. And so it turns out if you study the air quality on airplanes, it's as good, if not better than most indoor settings on the ground. Think restaurants, schools, places like that. And in some cases actually, these studies have shown that it matches essentially the air quality that they'll have in hospitals and elsewhere.

Scott Keyes: And the reason why is that they have these really kind of hospital grade air filters on board of every big jet and all that called HEPA filters. These are these filters that are going through and cleaning out the air constantly throughout the flight. I think the numbers say that it filters out 99.97% of particles onboard. Layer on top of that the fact that we have this notion, "oh, it's a hermetically sealed environment when you're on a plane, that the air is the exact same when you take off as when you land." But it turns out that's not actually true. During the entire flight, fresh oxygen, fresh air is being sucked in through the engines and that is helping, obviously not only people breathe, but also helping ventilate the plane itself.

Scott Keyes: And then the third thing that I think has really kind of helped prevent any major spread of disease on airplanes is the fact that masks are now required to fly with no medical exceptions on most major airlines. And so because of these three things, look, if airplanes were as dangerous as most people might've thought they were coming into a pandemic, we would see tons, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people's illnesses trace back to flights. Because the fact is that even during a pandemic, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of people have flown over the past six months. And so the fact that there are only a handful, two or three different flights where they've shown that multiple people have gotten sick on a plane out of the hundreds of millions of people have flown, really underscores that it's not the kind of germ trap that a lot of people might think it is.

Scott Keyes: And so that I know gave me a lot of comfort about the safety of traveling, but for a lot of people, look, they'll say, "It just feels risky. It feels scary. I'm going to wait." And to those people I say, "That's wonderful. I think you should only travel when you feel comfortable, because travel is something that should be fun. It should be joyous and you shouldn't feel pressure to do it before you're ready and comfortable."

David Muhlbaum: Right. Yeah. Another one of our COVID compensations that we talk about all the time is, of course, social distancing and that's a peculiar thing to bring to an airplane where it's pretty hard to. The one thing that airlines seem to be offering, although on a mixed basis, to allow for social distancing is this question of maintaining an open middle seat. It looks like we got some airlines. I believe United, American and Spirit are not playing that game. If they could sell a seat, they will. And Southwest and Delta, I believe pledged to keep the middle seat open. But one of my questions is what kind of pledge is that? How ironclad is that? If I essentially pay more money, I presume for this more spaced out flight, am I certain they're not going to plop someone next to me?

Scott Keyes: It depends a little bit when the flight is. Most of them have said, the date through which their pledge is good for, most of them, I believe it's kind of through the end of 2020. And so if your flight is, you've got a Valentine's Day flight or something, it might not necessarily apply. That's something certainly to be aware of, but there are two other things to keep in mind here. One is that on any airline, you always, if you've got the money and inclination, you've always got the option to be able to buy the seat next to you and keep it open. Obviously, I'm not a fan of paying extra than I need to for flights, but for folks, if that feels like the difference between being comfortable taking a flight or not.

David Muhlbaum: You could fly somebody's cello that way.

Scott Keyes: Exactly. You could even try to get frequent flier miles for it. I know the Supreme Court has had a thing or two to say about that. But the second thing to be aware of is that even on the airlines, you mentioned United, American that have pledged to, that there are no limits, they'll sell as many seats as they can. Most of their flights are still not very full. You mentioned at the top that that airline travel is still down 65, 70% year over year based on last year. And even though the airlines are flying less planes than they were last year, it's still only about 50% of seats that get filled on average.

David Muhlbaum: It's good to hear those numbers, because I think what happens is good old social media -- you get a few people posting a full flight and everyone freaks out that that's what the reality is like.

Scott Keyes: If there is a full flight, it's certainly more likely to be on American or United than on a Delta or Southwest, but the likelihood of your American flight or your United flight being filled to the gills like you see sometimes on social media is quite low. Most flights are still very under under-packed. A lot of friends who have flown over the past few weeks and every time they're like, "I couldn't believe how empty it was. It felt like having a 737 all to myself."

David Muhlbaum: But that's got to be weird and eerie, too -- because especially since you're inside the industry you know what that means to the industry as a whole. And, so, speaking of dates upcoming, we have a big one upcoming when the CARES Act subsidies, I'm probably not shorthanding that quite right, but essentially the federal government has put a lot of money behind the airlines and that money is up at the end of September. There's some talk that Congress will pull something up and come up with another bailout to keep the industry alive, but with kind of bad news on the horizon, how does that factor into an individual's decision to book a flight? If your flight gets cancelled, normally you get your money back. Now, what if the carrier goes out of business?

Scott Keyes: I think the likelihood that certainly if you're traveling domestically, that any major U.S. airline is going to go out of business anytime soon is extraordinarily low. Also quite low is the likelihood, but higher than they'll go to business is the likelihood that any one of them might go bankrupt.

David Muhlbaum: That's what I meant. Sorry.

Scott Keyes: But I'm glad you actually mentioned that, because it often gets sort of conflated -- the two -- in people's minds. They'll think bankruptcy and going out of business sounds like the same thing, but it's really important to distinguish between the two. Going bankrupt is something that every major U.S. airline has already done multiple times.

Sandy Block: Several times.

Scott Keyes: Several times with a couple of them.

David Muhlbaum: Not Southwest. Not Southwest.

Scott Keyes: Yeah, that's exactly right. Southwest and also never had to involuntarily lay anybody off remarkably . . . something I learned during this pandemic. But all the major airlines besides Southwest have gone through bankruptcy before. And so we have experience on what happens to travelers when an airline declares bankruptcy and what happens is basically nothing. Their flights still go out as scheduled. Their tickets aren't impacted. It's not like they get cancelled or anything. It's basically businesses as usual for most travelers. And even though it sounds scary, oh American Airlines might be bankrupt or United might be bankrupt. What that actually means in practice is they're going through bankruptcy court proceedings. They're working with their creditors. Their stockholders might take a haircut. They're going to lose some money, but the airline still operates. It's still flying its planes.

David Muhlbaum: As a passenger in some way you kind of are a creditor. Well, you're owed a flight.

Scott Keyes: That's right. And one of the reasons, the airlines continue to fly their schedule as they plan to not out of the goodness of their heart, they do it because any path to recovery is going to be completely dependent on people continuing to buy tickets on that airplane. Airplanes are in the business of flying customers. And so if they cancel the customers' flights and stop flying them, it's going to be a pretty short lived airline. They need to continue to kind of give that sense of confidence, of normalcy for people to continue to book their flights and so canceling flights is basically the last thing that they want to do. I wouldn't be terribly worried about it from a consumer perspective. If you're a major airline stockholder, I might be a little more worried.

David Muhlbaum: Right. Yes. And I think, in part, the noises that they're making, which they may be laying a lot of people off. They may have to stop flying to many of these airports, but on the other hand you could say, "Well, they're making those noises, because they want more money. It's a public relations game as well."

Scott Keyes: Yes, and the airlines are exceptionally good at playing the sort of D.C., lobbying game, as well. And so I'm really glad you brought that up, because, look, it is absolutely the case. And it's going to be very sad for all the folks who do lose their jobs in the industry. Many already have. But I think there is also reason to be skeptical maybe of some of the claims of doom and gloom future if there's not a massive bailout of the industry.

David Muhlbaum: Yes. They've gotten a little practice of "woe is me" with the labor negotiations over the year. Sorry, go ahead, Sandy.

Sandy Block: No, I just, one thing that we haven't talked about, Scott, is cheap flights, but once you get over your fears of flying and you think the airline isn't going to go bankrupt, you still don't want to overpay for your flight. In this environment, how are you finding deals?

Scott Keyes: That's right. It's been a really interesting thing watching airfare during the pandemic. Scott's Cheap Flights has been around for over five years and so we have a lot of experience with monitoring cheap flights. And there are a lot of folks who might sort of assume or claim that, "oh, flights are only cheap because of the pandemic." And that misses the fact that frankly, since 2015, we've been living in what I call the golden age of cheap flights. It has never been cheaper to travel internationally as it has been over the past five years. And that was true before the pandemic and that's going to be true again after the pandemic. And so the types of deals though that have been cheap, have shifted a little bit during the pandemic. I'll give you the good news first. Typically, one of the most expensive times of year to fly . . . there are two most expensive times of year to fly -- around the winter holidays, Christmas, New Year's and in the middle of summer.

Scott Keyes: And the reason why is that's when not only people want to go visit family or go visit the beach or whatever, but that's also when students, teachers, families with kids in school, that's maybe the only time of year that they have off to be able to travel and so when you funnel, you have a surge of people traveling and it's expected that the fares are going to go up. What has changed during the pandemic though is because so many fewer people are traveling and the airlines can't expect that there are going to be a surge around the winter holidays like there would be in a normal year, you've seen more cheap flights available over Christmas and New Year's in 2020 than I've seen in the past five years combined. And we're seeing a similar trend as well for summer 2021. And so those types of deals are I think really kind of uniquely attributable to the sort of a pandemic in the modern reality that we live in.

David Muhlbaum: On that modern reality, I assume that one thing that people really have to take into consideration is if they want to travel internationally, where can they go? And how is that a factor in terms of finding those cheap flights?

Scott Keyes: Yes. That's the bad news is that there are far fewer cheap international flights available as there were this time last year. And the reason why is there's just far fewer flights flying to Europe, to South America, to Africa and to Asia. And so what the main driver of cheap -- I could spend 10 hours talking about the intricacies of cheap flights -- but to boil it down to just the simple idea, the biggest driver of cheap flights is how much competition there is on a route between airlines. And with far less competition this year, because most Americans can't fly right now to France or to Italy or wherever, you just don't have as much competition and so fares tend to be higher.

Scott Keyes: The good news is that airfare is something that you can book up to 12 months in advance. And so even though you can't travel today, you shouldn't necessarily base tomorrow's plans on today's circumstances. To give you an example, I just booked my first international flight since the pandemic began to go to Spain in spring of 2021. And I'm not a 100% sure that that trip is going to happen. It's very possible that the travel ban will be extended and that won't be possible, but A, I've given myself something to look forward to, to be excited about today, to really anticipate -- and B, if it does happen then great. I've locked in a cheap price. I've gotten this great deal and I'm able to take that trip in 2021. And if it doesn't happen, if the flight gets cancelled or something . . . I'm no worse for the wear. I get my full refund and I'm onto the next one -- hoping for the next cheap flight to be able to travel again sometime soon.

Scott Keyes: That's the way I've been approaching it. And that's the way I think a lot of Scott's Cheap Flights members have been thinking about it. Giving yourself a treat to look forward to next year when hopefully things will be at least closer to what we would consider normal.

David Muhlbaum: Well, it's interesting that because essentially, you and your clients are people excited about it. And it sounds like to me, that there are people who sort of can't wait, which brings me to the thing I wanted to ask you about are these flights to nowhere. Is this a publicity stunt or a real thing? And maybe you can tell people what these even are.

Scott Keyes: Yeah. There are a couple places around the world that have been operating what are called quote-unquote flights to nowhere. And so think of it as a flight that takes off from JFK Airport, goes and flies around somewhere for a couple hours and then lands again at JFK Airport and if that sounds bizarre.

David Muhlbaum: Fishing trawlers of the Northeast.

Scott Keyes: Exactly. If that sounds bizarre, or why would anybody want to do that? You're not alone. Most people that is, this is not a mass market appeal. This is, 99 point some odd percent of people would have no interest in this, but there are a small, but not zero, number of folks who really love flying and haven't been able to fly for the past six months who really enjoy the romance of being able to look down on this beautiful Earth from 30,000 feet. And are eager to be able to do that. And look, airlines they've got a lot of planes sitting around. I know they ran one of in Australia and they said that it sold out within 10 minutes of going on sale.

Sandy Block: Those Aussies are restless.

Scott Keyes: I would not have expected that amount of demand, but clearly it's there. Clearly it's there.

David Muhlbaum: 2019, we have flight shaming, 2020 we have flights to nowhere.

Scott Keyes: Exactly.

David Muhlbaum: Well, all right. I hope you get to Spain, Scott. I hope that works out.

Sandy Block: Yeah, me too.

David Muhlbaum: And I hope anyone who wants to go somewhere interesting can make it work for them too. For me, it might just be Chicago at Thanksgiving.

Scott Keyes: Well, I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Thank you so much for having me. Hopefully, next time we chat it's under much brighter circumstances for travel.

Sandy Block: Flights to somewhere next time.

Scott Keyes: Exactly. Flights to somewhere. I love it.

David Muhlbaum: Scott Keyes from Scott's Cheap Flights, thank you.

David Muhlbaum: We're back and Sandy has an interesting Fact-or-Fiction challenge. Sandy, what is it?

Sandy Block: Okay. Here it is. Fact or fiction, at a time of record unemployment, Americans are saving more money than ever. Fact or fiction?

David Muhlbaum: Fact?

Sandy Block: It is a fact and I've kind of been geeking out on this, David. One of the weird things about the recession is that despite record unemployment, Americans are saving more money than ever. The personal savings rate, which measures the amount of money people have left each month after they've spent and paid taxes was 17.8% in July. Hasn't been that high since the mid seventies. Now we haven't gotten the numbers for August out yet, but I very much doubt that they're going to change a lot.

David Muhlbaum: Really? It's not just a one time Zingo spike?

Sandy Block: No. It's been up now. It spiked to -- in April -- it's spiked a record 33%, which kind of makes sense because when you think about April, most of the country was in lockdown and nobody could go anywhere.

David Muhlbaum: What can you buy?

Sandy Block: There's nothing to buy and that's still kind of the case now. People still aren't traveling. They're not eating out. People are home. And the other reason for the savings rate is that the economic stimulus package enacted earlier this year gave stimulus checks of $1,200 to millions of people. The idea behind the stimulus was that you would go out and spend it and help the economy. But what in fact happened is that many people worried that hard times are still to come, saved that money. And that was true, unemployment workers received a bump up of $600 a week on top of their regular benefits. They stashed that money too.

David Muhlbaum: Okay, things are hard so you have these macro questions where economists and the government essentially want to stimulate the economy. They want people to go spend, but people are resistant because they're worried of worse to come. It's a bit of a conundrum. And there's talk of doing more stimulus is there something policymakers could learn from this?

Sandy Block: Well, they could learn them maybe we need more stimulus for people to start spending.

David Muhlbaum: But wouldn't people just save more?

Sandy Block: Well they might. And granted, this isn't great for the economy, but a rise in the savings rate isn't a bad thing. Particularly if you're worried about losing your job or it seemed like last year there was a survey a week about how people didn't have enough money to pay for new brakes. The fact that people are putting money in their savings account, in the emergency savings account, is not a bad thing. What is it bad if you're stashing money in a bank right now? You're not earning much more than if you put it in a coffee can and buried it in your backyard, because of interest rates.

Sandy Block: Our advice . . . we have a slide show that we'll put in the show notes with some advice on what to do with your stimulus check. And I think this applies to the savings as well is if your emergency fund is well stocked, put some of that money in a retirement savings account, there's still time before the end of the year to pump up your 401(k) or other retirement savings plan. That will give you a much better return because it'll most likely be invested in the stock market. And, again, if you haven't spent your stimulus check, we have some good ideas on how to put that money to work too.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah. Also that reminds me of an episode of few back where we talked a lot about what to do with 401(k) money if you've lost your job. There's a converse to that, which is if you've lost your job and can't contribute to that 401(k) anymore, but you now have some money as a result of either the savings or a stimulus that you should be putting to retirement savings per your advice here, you can open an IRA.

Sandy Block: You could. And if you're out of work, there's a good chance that you'd be able to deduct that from your taxes. That's a good idea too. And again, we're getting close to the end of the year. We're actually working on our year end money moves right now. We'll be talking about things you should be doing between now and December 31st and taking advantage of the maximum thresholds on various retirement savings plans is certainly one of the things that people should be thinking about doing.

David Muhlbaum: And I also want to encourage people to have a look at -- and we'll put a link to this in the show notes -- the story that you wrote about the savings rate for November's Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. And that story, that's why I knew that the answer was fact, because in addition to your excellent writing, of course, there's a really startling graphic.

Sandy Block: It's an amazing graphic. I totally geeked out on it.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah, it shows basically the savings rate back to the last time it was high, which was in the 1970s and savings rate, among the economic indicators that we follow is generally kind of like . . .

Sandy Block: It doesn't change a lot.

David Muhlbaum: No. Doesn't change a lot.

Sandy Block: 7%, 6%, 8% -- it stayed in that view for a long time.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah. And then we get to our blessed year 2020 and kapow.

Sandy Block: Boom!

David Muhlbaum: Yep, and that will just about do it for this episode of Your Money's Worth. I hope you enjoyed it. For show notes and more great Kiplinger content on the topics we discussed on today's show, visit You can stay connected with us on Twitter, Facebook or by e-mailing us at And if you like the show, please remember to rate, review and most importantly subscribe to Your Money's Worth wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening.

Sandra Block
Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Block joined Kiplinger in June 2012 from USA Today, where she was a reporter and personal finance columnist for more than 15 years. Prior to that, she worked for the Akron Beacon-Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. In 1993, she was a Knight-Bagehot fellow in economics and business journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has a BA in communications from Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va.