Extra money

Question: My wife and I have transitioned to using cash to pay for daily expenses versus a credit card. As a result of this transition, we have are able to save more money. Now the question for us is where to put the extra savings? We are both in our early thirties, own a home with a mortgage, and have a car loan, a student loan, and a home improvement loan. We have 401K investments, which I have been contributing to since I was 22, but we do not have 6 months of expenses in liquid funds. Should we using our increased savings to increase our 401K contributions, we are not at the contribution limit today, increase emergency savings, or pay down debt? I appreciate any suggestions you can provide. Regards, Tim, Victor, NY.

Answer: Congratulations on getting your finances under control. It's nice to take a question, too, where all three of the money alternatives are good. You can't go wrong if you decide to hike contributions to your retirement savings plan, add to emergency savings, or pay down debt.

Still, I would recommend dividing the extra money into two small streams, one channeled toward extra debt payments and one siphoned off into savings. I'd accelerate debt payments on the car loan and the home improvement loan. I'd put the remaining extra money into an FDIC insured savings account or FDIC insured short-term certificate of deposit (or comparable products at a federally insured credit union). You won't make much money on the savings (okay, that's an understatement these days) but the money will be there if you need it.

One other thought to raise, this one concerning retirement savings. Just make sure you're taking full advantage of the company match if there is one. That's too good to pass up.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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