According to a recent report by CareerBuilder, 78% of Americans who work full-time live paycheck to paycheck.
That number is staggering.
I know it’s tempting to splurge a little and spend on things you’ve never had the opportunity to before whenever you have extra money to spare at the end of the month, but consider investing the sum instead before all of it is gone.
Thinking about the long term is hard, especially when it comes to finances, but life does get easier the earlier you start laying the foundation for good financial habits. Whether you have $100 or $1000 to spare every month, investing extra funds wisely can have a significant impact on your future. Let’s take a look at four things you do with extra money every month:
Pay Off Your Debt
First and foremost, consider putting part or all of your extra income every month towards paying off your debt. Being in any kind of debt can definitely loom heavily over your life and finances. Instead of spending the extra cash, it’s smart to chip away at that mountain to become debt-free so you can focus more heavily on investing your money. You should start with your highest interest debt first and work your way down, though some people find more motivation to tackle their debt by focusing on paying the smaller debts first.
Put It In Your Emergency Fund
Having an emergency fund is not just a smart idea, it’s a necessity. Life is unexpected and you never know what can happen. Having an emergency fund can help you in life’s hardest situations, such as a car accident or the loss of a job.
David’s Note: I know it’s hard to put money aside for a “what if”, but starting as soon as possible is really important if you’re not yet prepared for the unknown. You don’t want a little hiccup to turn into a life altering train wreak. Did you know that many of the homeless people you see on the streets use to have a decent lifestyle? A bad stroke of luck strung together without an emergency fund can quickly change your life. Don’t become another statistic.
Begin putting money toward an emergency fund, as any little bit helps. It’s ideal to have six months of expenses saved up just in case.
Max Out Your 401k
After you’ve paid off your debt and put money in your emergency fund, it’s now time to think about the future – which means retirement. While it’s still years or maybe decades away, saving for retirement as early as possible means you reap more rewards later. And that can start with a 401k. Surprisingly, many full-time workers are unaware that employers match up to a percentage of your contribution to the 401k. That is free money folks. If you haven’t already, maximum your 401k contribution to whatever your company is matching. If you have savings beyond that, you can maximum your contributions up to the yearly limit as set by the IRS.
Max Out a Roth IRA
A Roth IRA is a popular retirement savings account that allows your money to grow tax-free. You contribute to a Roth with after-tax funds for anyone making below the income limits ($119,500 for single filers and $186,000 for married couples currently). When you’re ready to withdraw at retirement, you do not pay taxes on these funds. Therefore, a Roth IRA makes the most sense for someone who expects their tax bracket to be higher in retirement. If you’re under the age of 50, the most you can contribute to a Roth IRA is $5,500 yearly for those who have earned income that equal or exceed that amount. This pretty much means that those who have earned income can put in just over $458 monthly to reap the most benefits.
If you have extra income at the end of every month, start with these four steps. It will set up a healthy financial foundation for you and your family. Then, going forward, you can start looking into investments and maybe even spending a bit on yourself.
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They developed this pretty nifty 401K Fee Analyzer that will show you whether you are paying too much in fees, as well as an Investment Checkup tool to help determine whether your asset allocation fits your risk profile. The platform literally takes a few minutes to sign up and it's free to use by following this link here. For those trying to build wealth, Personal Capital is worth a look.