The original constitution had a provision that stated, "the legistature of the United States shall have the power to borrow money and emit bills of credit." Alexander Hamilton, who became the first Treasury Secretary of the United States, told a majority of the delegates "to emit an unfunded paper as the sign of value ought not to continue a formal part of the constitution, nor ever hereafter to be employed; being in its nature, repugnant with abuses and liable to be made the engine of imposition and fraud." Hamilton won the removal of that term from the constitution. Then later as Treasury secretary, he set up the first US Mint and backed the new currency with gold and silver. This set off the greatest economic boom in world history and soon became the most valued currency worldwide.
In 1972, Nixon took the US currency off the gold standard. As a result, the currency declined in value rapidly, and the economy suffered job losses, slow growth and depressed financial markets. In 1981 Reagan got interest rates up to over 14% in order to stop the printing presses. But from October 2008 to October 2011, the Federal Reserve printed 2 trillion dollars. The Federal reserve's printed money increased by over 300% from 800 Billion to now almost 3 trillion. Bernanke, US central bank chairman says the bank will continue to print more money. (Fed printing stats from: Wall Street Journal)
The average life expectancy for a fiat currency is 27 years, with the shortest life span being one month. Founded in 1694, the British pound Sterling is the oldest fiat currency in existence. At a ripe old age of 317 years it must be considered a highly successful fiat currency. However, success is relative. The British pound was defined as 12 ounces of silver, so it's worth less than 1/200 or 0.5% of its original value. In other words, the most successful long standing currency in existence has lost 99.5% of its value. (Quote from: Washington's Blog) From 1972 to 2011 the dollar has lost 72% of its value. (dollar value calculator)
Gold has been a world wide currency for over 2000 years. Washington politicians will tell you that gold is a risky investment while the US currency and US Government debt are "riskless". Meanwhile the US dollar continues its decline while gold has increased over 800% since 2001. This beats the government backed bank's savings rate of less than 1%. Gold can be volatile, but if you buy on dips and sell on up trends, you can use that volatility to your advantage.
My suggestion is to open up an account at Etrade and keep your "savings" account in an ETF called GLD. And keep your checking account as a "Cash credit" that is not put in money markets. You can use the Etrade account without ATM or checking fees or monthly fees. The only cost is the buying and selling of gold at about $8 a trade.