It takes a savvy researcher to discern the difference between a bank that's cash-starved and one that's an efficient operator. If a bank offers an unusually high return, ask questions, Rooney says.
"I wonder why it's above market - why do they need deposits so desperately?" she says.
Before choosing a bank, investigate its Bankrate Safe & Sound rating. And remember that not all savings vehicles are alike - some are federally insured while others aren't.
Protect against inflation
Like everyone else, the wealthy have to worry about rising prices eating into their savings. For now, inflation remains subdued; in fact, some experts are more worried about the prospect of falling prices, or "deflation."
Banks are paying out very low rates on savings instruments today. However, the return may be better than it appears, thanks to today's low inflation rate. For example, if you find a savings account with 1 percent interest in an environment where inflation runs minus 1 percent, you've netted a 2 percent rate of return.
Still, deflationary trends are historically unusual, and many forecasters expect inflation to come roaring back sometime soon. Inflation can be dangerous to anyone- rich or poor-who keeps too much money in safe, low-yielding savings vehicles.
"If you're set on cash, your No. 1 enemy is inflation," Rooney says.
When inflation inevitably starts to creep upward again, your savings buy less. For example, a car with a price tag of $10,000 in 2007 might cost $10,403 in 2009. But your savings account still only contains $10,000 unless you've found a bank averaging a 4 percent after-tax rate of return over the past two years.
"There are some serious consequences to saving cash for too long," Rooney says.
For that reason, Rooney urges the wealthy and other investors to invest some money in products likely to at least keep pace with inflation.
"Every time we build a portfolio, we build some kind of inflation protection into portfolios, such as investments in gold and commodities," she says.
Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, commonly known as TIPS, are another hedge against inflation, and an instrument the average person can easily purchase.
Turn to experts
Like the rest of us, the wealthy don't enjoy paying taxes. Many worry they'll have to fork over more money to the federal government under new proposals introduced by Congress and the Obama administration.
So, the wealthy are turning to trusted advisers for advice on tax-exempt investments, such as municipal bonds. Well-off individuals also choose highly-rated municipal bonds because they're considered more stable investments, due to the insurance that many of these bonds carry.
Los Angeles-based Certified Financial Planner Justin Krane, president of Krane Financial Solutions, works with Hollywood film and television professionals. He says his clients know they could be "hot" for several years, only to see their star power cool.
"They are scared and worried about their ability to consistently earn a large income," Krane says.
Once their star falls, celebrities might need to live off their investments, whether the economy is up or down.
"We usually keep a fair amount of cash on hand, and invest their personal or nonretirement accounts more conservatively, usually in municipal bonds," he says.
Kane also uses custodians like Charles Schwab and Fidelity to pool his clients' FDIC-insured CDs issued by different banks. Clustered into one account, the CDs are easier to purchase, manage and keep track of.
If you plan to follow in the investing steps of the rich and famous, be careful where you step. Investing in products such as municipal bonds requires a level of sophistication that may be beyond many casual investors, Geczy says.
For example, California and Michigan's state budgetary meltdowns could increase the risk of purchasing municipal bonds in those markets. And just because a bond is "municipal" does not guarantee that it is "tax-free."
Rooney agrees, adding that it is difficult to predict the projected success and underlying credit-worthiness of a specific municipal bond.
"It's an inefficient marketplace," Rooney says. Choosing municipal bonds isn't as easy as stock-picking, Rooney warns. It may be best to start off with a mutual fund or find a qualified adviser to help you select a bond.
Geczy adds that the right brokers and advisers can help investors craft a well-balanced savings and investment portfolio that works for their timeline-whether you want access to immediate savings or are thinking more long-term.
Ask for referrals and comparison shop like the wealthy do. Bankrate can help you find a financial adviser. In addition, research investment adviser firms at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Web site.
Proper research is crucial to choosing the right investor, Geczy says. "It's easier to do homework upfront than after."
But even after you've hired your star broker, "you still have to monitor trusted advisers," says Geczy.