Money is Symbolic

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So you’re ready to start budgeting. Congratulations! It’s a big step towards building wealth.

If you’re not sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place! Keep reading to discover all the steps you need to build a budget.

Know Your Balance Sheet. Companies maintain and review their “balance sheets” regularly. Balance sheets show assets, liabilities, and equity. Business owners probably wouldn’t be able run their companies successfully for very long without knowing this information and tracking it over time.

You also have a balance sheet, whether you realize it or not. Assets are the things you have, like a car, house, or cash. Liabilities are your debts, like auto loans or outstanding bills you need to pay. Equity is how much of your assets are technically really yours. For example, if you live in a $100,000 house but carry $35,000 on the mortgage, your equity is 65% of the house, or $65,000. 65% of the house is yours and 35% is still owned by the bank.

Pro tip: Why is this important to know? If you’re making a decision to move to a new house, you need to know how much money will be left over from the sale for the new place. Make sure to speak with a representative of your mortgage company and your realtor to get an idea of how much you might have to put towards the new house from the sale of the old one.

Break Everything Down To become efficient at managing your cash flow, start by breaking your spending down into categories. The level of granularity and detail you want to track is up to you. (Note: If you’re just starting out budgeting, don’t get too caught up in the details. For example, for the “Food” category of your budget, you might want to only concern yourself with your total expense for food, not how much you’re spending on macaroni and cheese vs. spaghetti.)

If you typically spend $400 a month on food, that’s important to know. As you get more comfortable with budgeting and watching your dollars, it’s even better to know that half of that $400 is being spent at coffee shops and restaurants. This information may help you eliminate unnecessary expenditures in the next step.

What you spend your money on is ultimately your decision, but lacking knowledge about where it’s spent may lead to murky expectations. Sure, it’s just $10 at the sandwich shop today, but if you spend that 5 days a week on the regular, that expenditure may fade into background noise. You might not realize all those hoagies are the equivalent of your health insurance premium. Try this: Instead of spending $10 on your regular meal, ask yourself if you can find an acceptable alternative for less by switching restaurants.

Once you have a good idea of what you’re spending each month, you’ll need to know exactly how much you make (after taxes) to set realistic goals. This would be your net income, not gross income, since you will pay taxes.

Set Realistic Goals and Readjust. Now that you know what your balance sheet looks like and what your cash flow situation is, you can set realistic goals with your budget. Rank your expenses in order of necessity. At the top of the list would be essential expenses – like rent, utilities, food, and transit. You might not have much control over the rent or your car payment right now, but consider preparing food at home to help save money.

Look for ways you can cut back on utilities, like turning the temperature down a few degrees in the winter or up a few degrees in the summer.

After the essentials would come items like clothes, office supplies, gifts, entertainment, vacation, etc. Rank these in order of importance to you. Consider shopping for clothes at a consignment shop, or checking out a dollar store for bargains on school or office supplies.

Ideally, at the end of the month you should be coming out with money leftover that can be put into an emergency fund. Keep filling your emergency fund until it can cover 3 to 6 months of income.

If you find your budget is too restrictive in one area, you can allocate more to it. (But you’ll need to reduce the money flowing into other areas in the process to keep your bottom line the same.) Ranking expenses will help you determine where you can siphon off money.

Commit To It. Now that you have a realistic budget that contains your essentials, your non-essentials, and your savings goals, stick to it! Building a budget is a process. It may take some time to get the hang of it, but you’ll thank yourself in the long run.

Building Your Budget

Numbers never lie, and when it comes to statistics on financial literacy, the results are staggering.

In 2020, financial illiteracy cost Americans $415 billion.¹ That’s $1,634 per adult. What difference would $1,600 make for your financial situation?

But what is financial literacy? How do you know if you’re financially literate? It’s much more than simply knowing the contents of your bank account, setting a budget, and checking in a couple times a month. Here’s a simple definition: “Financial literacy is the ability to understand and effectively use various financial skills, including personal financial management, budgeting, and investing.”²

Making responsible financial decisions based on knowledge and research are the foundation of understanding your finances and how to manage them. When it comes to financial literacy, you can’t afford not to be knowledgeable.

So whether you’re a master of your money or your money masters you, anyone can benefit from becoming more financially literate. Here are a few ways you can do just that.

Consider How You Think About Money. Everyone has ideas about financial management. Though we may not realize it, we often learn and absorb financial habits and mentalities about money before we’re even aware of what money is. Our ideas about money are shaped by how we grow up, where we grow up, and how our parents or guardians manage their finances. Regardless of whether you grew up rich, poor, or somewhere in between, checking in with yourself about how you think about money is the first step to becoming financially literate.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I saving anything for the future?
  • Is all debt bad?
  • Do I use credit cards to pay for most, if not all, of my purchases?

Monitor Your Spending Habits. This part of the process can be painful if you’re not used to tracking where your money goes. There can be a certain level of shame associated with spending habits, especially if you’ve collected some debt. But it’s important to understand that money is an intensely personal subject, and that if you’re working to improve your financial literacy, there is no reason to feel ashamed!

Taking a long, hard look at your spending habits is a vital step toward controlling your finances. Becoming aware of how you spend, how much you spend, and what you spend your money on will help you understand your weaknesses, your strengths, and what you need to change. Categorizing your budget into things you need, things you want, and things you have to save up for is a great place to start.

Commit to a Lifestyle of Learning. Becoming financially literate doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t feel overwhelmed if you’re just starting to make some changes. There isn’t one book, one website, or one seminar you can attend that will give you all the keys to financial literacy. Instead, think of it as a lifestyle change. Similar to transforming unhealthy eating habits into healthy ones, becoming financially literate happens over time. As you learn more, tweak parts of your financial routine that aren’t working for you, and gain more experience managing your money, you’ll improve your financial literacy. Commit to learning how to handle your finances, and continuously look for ways you can educate yourself and grow. It’s a lifelong process!

¹ “Survey Results: Deficits in Financial Literacy Cost Americans $415 Billion in 2020,” PR Newswire, Jan 7, 2021, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/survey-results-deficits-in-financial-literacy-cost-americans-415-billion-in-2020-301201971.html

² “Financial Literacy,” Jason Fernando, Investopedia, Sep 10, 2021, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/financial-literacy.asp

3 Tips To Become Financially Literate

Debt is an unfortunate reality for most people in America.

The average household owes $6,006 in credit card debt alone and the total amount of outstanding consumer debt in the US totals over $15.24 trillion.¹ It’s linked to fatigue, anxiety, and depression.² It’s a burden, both emotionally and financially.

So it’s completely understandable that people want to get rid of their debt, no matter the cost.

But the story doesn’t end when you pay off your last credit card. In fact, it’s only the beginning.

Sure, it feels great to be debt-free. You no longer have to worry about making minimum payments or being late on a payment. You can finally start saving for your future and taking care of yourself. But being debt-free doesn’t mean you’re “free.” It means you’re ready to start building wealth, and chasing true financial independence.

When you’re debt-free, it feels like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. You can finally breathe easy and start planning for your future. But what people don’t realize is that being debt-free is only the beginning.

For example, when you first beat debt, are you instantly prepared to cover emergencies? Most likely not. The bulk of your financial power has most likely gone towards eliminating debt, not creating an emergency fund. And that means you’re still vulnerable to more debt in the future—without cash to cover expenses, you’ll need credit.

The same is likely true for retirement. Simply eliminating debt doesn’t mean you’ll retire wealthy. It certainly positions you to retire wealthy. But you must start saving, leveraging the power of compound interest, and more to make your dreams a reality.

But now that you’ve conquered debt, that’s exactly what you can do! You now have the cash flow needed to start saving for your future. You can finally take control of your money and make it work for you, instead of the other way around.

So don’t think of being debt-free as the finish line. It’s not. It’s simply the starting point on your journey to financial independence. From here, the sky’s the limit.


¹ “2021 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa, Nerdwallet, Jan 11, 2022, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/ ² “​​Data Shows Strong Link Between Financial Wellness and Mental Health,” Enrich, Mar 24, 2021, https://www.enrich.org/blog/data-shows-strong-link-between-financial-wellness-and-mental-health

Getting Out Of Debt Doesn't Make You "Free"

The most dangerous money mistakes are the ones you don’t notice.

Are buying cars you can’t afford and living paycheck-to-paycheck dangerous? Of course! But they’re obvious. Hard to miss. They’re like a voice yelling into a megaphone “Hey! Something’s not right.”

But what about money mistakes that aren’t so obvious? Or even worse, money mistakes disguised as money wisdom?

Those may not devastate your bank account in one swoop. But they often go unaddressed. And overtime, they add up.

So here are money mistakes you might not have noticed.

Penny pinching. Sure, it sounds like a great idea in theory. But when you’re constantly scrimping and saving, it’s tough to enjoy life. What’s the point of working so hard if you can’t even enjoy your money?

Plus, penny pinching can stop you from taking calculated risks that could save your money from stagnation.

So instead of penny pinching, try moderation instead. You may find yourself far more inspired to budget and save then if you commit to complete frugality.

Under and over filling your emergency fund. A lot of people make the mistake of not having an emergency fund at all. It leaves them vulnerable to unexpected expenses and financial emergencies.

When you have too much money in your emergency fund, it’s tough to make any real progress on your long-term financial goals. A good chunk of your net worth gets sunk into money that’s not growing.

The solution? Save up 3 to 6 months of income in an easily accessible account, no more. Use that money to cover emergencies. If it runs low, refill it.

Once your emergency fund is full stocked, devote your income to building wealth.

Leaving goals undefined. It’s tough to achieve a goal you don’t have. And it’s even tougher to achieve a goal that’s fuzzy and undefined.

That uncertainty makes it easy to fudge good financial habits. You don’t see how lapses impact your big picture because you don’t have a big picture,

So when it comes to your money, be specific. Write out your goals and make sure they’re measurable. That way, you can track your progress and ensure you’re on the right track.

Be on the lookout for these dangerous money mistakes. They may seem innocuous, but they can add up over time and stop you from reaching your financial goals. Stay vigilant and steer clear of these traps!

Don’t Become a Victim of These Secret Money Mistakes

Are you one of those people who always seem to be putting off tasks?

It makes sense. Life is hectic. Schedules are full. Sometimes, it seems like you hardly have a second to brush your teeth or have a real conversation. And so important decisions get pushed further and further into the future.

That’s fine in some cases. Do you need to decide how to organize your garage right now, at this very moment? No.

But with your finances, procrastination can cause disaster. Why? Because time is the secret ingredient for building wealth. The sooner you start saving, the greater your money’s growth potential. Likewise, the sooner you get your debt under control, the more manageable it becomes.

And with your money, the stakes couldn’t be higher. After all, it’s your future prosperity and well-being that’s at stake. Procrastination is downright dangerous.

That urgency, however, doesn’t make it easier to start saving. In fact, you may have noticed that finances suffer more from procrastination than anything else.

There’s a very good reason for that. Procrastination is driven, above all else, by perfectionism. Failing feels awful, especially when you know the stakes are high. Your brain sees the discomfort of trying to master your finances and failing, and decides that it would feel safer to not try at all.

It’s a critical miscalculation. Attempting to master your finances at least moves you closer to your goals. Procrastinating doesn’t.

Think of it like this—50% success is infinitely better than 0% success.

The key to beating procrastinating, then, is to conquer the perfectionist mindset and fear of failure. It’s no small feat. Those habits of mind are often deeply ingrained. They won’t vanish overnight. But there are some simple steps you can take, like…

Break big goals down into tiny steps. This relieves the overwhelm that many feel when facing important tasks. As you knock out those small steps, you’ll feel empowered to keep moving forward.

Don’t go it alone. Procrastination thrives in isolation. Seek out a friend, loved one, or co-worker to hold you accountable and share the load—even if it’s just a weekly check-in to see how each other are doing.

Work in short, uninterrupted bursts. Set a timer. Put down the phone. Work. After about 15 minutes, you’ll notice something strange happening. Time starts to either speed up or slow down. Distracting thoughts vanish. The lines between you, your focus, and the task at hand start to evaporate. You feel awesome. This is called a flow state, and it’s the key to productivity. Make it your friend, and you’ll notice that procrastination becomes rarer and rarer.

Now that you know the cause of procrastination, try these tips for yourself. Set a 30 minute timer. Then, break your finances into tiny action steps like checking your bank account, automating saving, and budgeting. Work on each item in a quick burst until you’ve made some progress. Then, talk to a friend about your results!

Just like that, you’ve made serious headway towards beating procrastination and building wealth. Look at you go!

How to Stop Procrastinating

Are you one of those people who assumes that you’ll never be wealthy?

It’s a common mindset, and it keeps many from reaching their financial goals. But the truth is, anyone can create wealth. You don’t have to be born into money or have some special talent. It all comes down to making a commitment to start building your fortune today.

So why do so many people put off creating wealth until later in life? There are many reasons, but chief among them is fear.

What if, instead of building wealth, you save your money in the wrong place and lose everything?

What if you can’t access money when you need it?

What if I confirm this deep seated suspicion that I don’t know what I’m doing?

But here’s the truth— you’re better positioned to start building wealth today than you ever will again. That’s because your money has more time to grow and compound today than it will in the future.

That’s especially true in your 20s and 30s. But it’s also true if you’re 45 or 55. The best time to build wealth is right now, this very moment.

So what can you do? How can you leverage this moment to start building wealth? Here are a few simple financial concepts you can use right away.

Create an emergency fund. I know it seems counterintuitive, especially if your credit is in shambles or you have many other debts to pay off. But the truth is, building an emergency fund is one of the best ways to begin building wealth, because it gives you a margin of safety. If you have money saved for a rainy day, you won’t have to turn to expensive credit cards or high interest loans when life throws you a curveball. Instead, you can take care of things with your own savings and move on.

Automate saving right now. The best way to start building wealth is to put something away every month. Forget about how much you’re putting away or your interest rate. For now, just put something away, even if it’s just $5. You can work with a financial professional to boost those numbers later on. The important thing is to start now.

If you want to learn more about how to start building wealth today, let’s chat. I’d love to help you set some goals and create a plan for getting there. We all deserve financial security, regardless of our age or income level. So let’s find out how we can get started today.

Why It's Time To Create Wealth

You walk out of the office like a brand new person.

That’s because you’ve done it—you’re going to be earning a lot more money with that raise. The first thing that pops in your head? All the fancy new things you can afford.

Dates. Your apartment. Vacation. They’re all going to be better now that you’ve got that extra money coming in.

And to be fair, all of those things CAN get substantially fancier after your income increases.

But one thing may not change—you still might end up living paycheck to paycheck.

Why? Because your lifestyle became more extravagant as your income increased. Instead of using the boost in cash flow to build wealth, it all went to new toys.

This phenomenon is called “lifestyle inflation”. It’s why you might know people who earn plenty of money and have nice houses, but still seem to struggle with their finances. The greater the income, the higher the stress. As Biggie put it, “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.”

The takeaway? The next time you get a raise, do nothing. Act like nothing has changed. Go celebrate at your favorite restaurant. Keep saving for your new treat. But you’ll thank yourself if you devote the lion’s share of your new income to either reducing debt or building wealth.

Rest assured, there will be plenty of time to enjoy the fruits of your labor in the future. But for now, keep your eyes on the most important prize—building wealth for you and your family’s future.

How NOT To Spend Your Next Raise

Without careful planning, your money will never go the distance for your retirement.

Well, unless you win the powerball or stumble upon buried treasure.

The simple fact is that retirement can last a long, long time and often be expensive. According to the Federal Reserve, the average American can expect a retirement of almost 20 years, requiring $1.2 million.¹

How long would it take you to save $1.2 million? Even if you could stash away your entire paycheck, it would likely take over a decade. Factor in the daily costs of living, and decades may become centuries.

Unless, of course, you leverage two simple strategies…

Strategy One: Maximize the power of compound interest.

Strategy Two: Start saving today.

These are time-proven strategies that anyone can leverage. And they can mean the difference between your savings running out of steam or lasting as long as you do.

Let’s start with strategy one: Maximize the power of compound interest…

Compound interest can supercharge your savings. Instead of taking centuries, you have the potential to reach your retirement goals just in time!

That’s because compounding unleashes a virtuous cycle. The money you save grows on its own over time.

But here’s where the magic happens—the more money you have compounding, the greater its growth potential becomes. Even a fraction of your paycheck can eventually compound into the wealth you may need for retirement.

Think of it like changing gears on a bike. Savings alone is first gear—good enough for going down hills or casual jaunts through the neighborhood.

But for reaching greater goals, you need more power. Compound interest is those extra gears—it’s an advantage that can radically improve your performance.

That leads straight into the next strategy: Start saving today.

The longer your money compounds, the greater potential it has for growth. To prove this, let’s crunch the numbers…

Let’s say you can save $500 per month. You find an account that compounds 10% annually.

After 20 years, you’ll have saved $120,000 and grown an additional $223,650 for a grand total of $343,650. Not bad!

But what if you wait another 11 years? Your money will more than triple—you’ll have $1,091,660!

The takeaway? A few years could be the difference between reaching your retirement goals and coming up short. The sooner you start, the greater potential you have to get where you want to go.

No more sporadic saving when you feel the panic. No more burying your head in the sand because you don’t know what the future holds. No more fear that your finances won’t cross the finish line.

These simple strategies can help you go the distance and retire with confidence. Contact me if you want to learn more about building wealth!


¹ “Retirement costs: Estimating what it costs to retire comfortably in every state,” Samuel Stebbins, USA Today, Feb 11, 2021, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2021/02/11/retirement-costs-comfortable-in-every-state-life-expectancy/115432956/

Going the Distance

Automating your finances can take the pain out of wealth-building behavior.

You know how it goes. The thought flashes through your mind—”I need to start saving money!”

And then… well, that’s it. You read a few articles on saving and try to spend less, but after a week or two your mind has moved on.

Why? Because all forms of positive change are energy intensive, at least at first. And your brain, smart as it is, likes conserving energy.

So to jump-start saving, you need to take several one time actions that are borderline thoughtless.

Enter automation. It’s a small step with massive return potential.

It’s simple… • Log in to your online banking account • Set up a deposit • Choose to make the deposit recurring instead of one time

Like that, you’ve set the stage for dozens of wealth-building actions well into the future.

And what did it take? A few taps over a few minutes.

So what are you waiting for? Automate your savings right now. I’ll wait! Even if it’s $5 per month, it’s a step in the right direction—to build wealth for your future!

The Laid-Back Way to Build Wealth

Diversification is a key strategy for anyone who’s serious about building wealth.

That’s because no single source of income or wealth is perfect. They’re all subject to ups and downs, highs and lows.

Think of it like going to the golf range and handing the caddie an armful of drivers. You’ll make powerful drives every time, but what happens when it’s time to putt? Even worse, how will you escape bunkers?

It’s a classic case of too much of a good thing. If you’re a serious player and plan to play for the long run, your golf bag needs a variety of clubs—a few different irons, wedges, and putters—to handle whatever challenges you’ll face during the game.

The same is true of building wealth.

You need…

-Different accounts that each leverage the power of compound interest.

-Income streams besides your main job.

-Savings that feature at least some protection against loss.

It’s not a silver bullet. But diversification can offer a layer of protection against the ups and downs of the economy. It can also provide you with supplemental income during lean times.

So how can you start diversifying today? Here are a few ideas…

Start a side hustle.

This simple strategy can diversify your income sources. Regardless of what’s happening at your 9-to-5 job, you can count on your side hustle to help generate cash flow.

Meet with a financial professional.

A licensed and qualified financial professional can help you implement diversification in your savings. This could make a huge difference in protecting your wealth from the ups and downs of a changing economy.

Contact me if you want to discover what this strategy would look like for you. We can review what you’ve saved thus far and check your opportunities for diversification.

Too Much of a Good Thing

“I want passive income!”, said the community of struggling entrepreneurs (and retirees).

“But what exactly is passive income?” they asked. A simple Google search revealed thousands of articles with a common theme—passive income is money you make while you sleep!

But is passive income really possible, or does it just live in the dreams of people looking for a way to make money without working?

To answer that question, let’s look at what passive income is (and isn’t). Then you can see if it will work for you!

Passive income, generally speaking, is a product or service that requires an upfront investment of time, effort, or wealth to create.

Examples include…

Rental properties that require wealth to purchase, and are cared for by a property manager while creating rental income

Books, music, and courses that required time and creativity to create and now generate income without regular upkeep

Investing wealth in a business as a silent partner and taking a slice of their revenue

Can those income sources generate cash flow while you sleep? Of course! But notice that all of those opportunities require either work or resources that can only be acquired by work.

Does that mean you shouldn’t prioritize passive income sources? No! They can sometimes provide the financial stability you need.

Just don’t expect a passive income stream to effortlessly appear in your lap.

Remember, there is no such thing as free money. All wealth building opportunities require time, effort, and energy to reach their full potential.

If you want to learn more about creating passive income sources, contact me. We can review your talents, your situation, and your dreams to determine smart strategies for developing passive income.

Passive Income Requires Work

Debt is expensive.

Americans spend about 34% of their income on servicing their mortgages, car loans, and, of course, credit cards.¹

Assuming a household income of $68,703, that translates to roughly $23,359 going down the drain each and every year.²

Obviously, converting that money from debt maintenance to wealth building would be a dream come true for most Americans. But there’s more at stake here than retirement strategies.

The true cost of debt is your peace of mind.

Take the example from above. A third of your income is going towards debt and the rest is split up between everyday living and transportation expenses. You feel you can make ends meet as long as the money keeps coming in.

But what happens if a recession causes massive layoffs? Or if a pandemic shuts down the economy for months?

The sad fact is that the hamster wheel of debt prevents a huge chunk of Americans from saving enough to cover even a brief window of unemployment, let alone a shutdown!

That lack of financial security can have serious repercussions, including bankruptcy. And feeling like you’re always one unexpected emergency away from a financial crisis can result in a myriad of mental health issues. Numerous studies have shown that high levels of debt increase anxiety, depression, anger, and even divorce.³

Conquering debt isn’t about changing numbers on a page. It’s about reclaiming your peace. It’s about securing financial stability for you and your family. Your income is a powerful tool if you can protect it from lenders.

If you’re stressed about debt and seeking some relief, let me know. We can review your situation together and come up with a game plan that will recover the financial security that’s rightfully yours.


¹ “Study: Americans Spend One-Third of Their Income on Debt,” Maurie Backman, The Ascent, Mar 6, 2020, https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/credit-cards/articles/study-americans-spend-one-third-of-their-income-on-debt/#:~:text=And%20recent%20data%20from%20Northwestern,feel%20guilty%20about%20their%20predicament

² “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2019,” Jessica Semega, Melissa Kollar, Emily A. Shrider, and John Creamer, United States Census Bureau, Sept 15, 2020, https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2020/demo/p60-270.html#:~:text=Median%20household%20income%20was%20%2468%2C703,and%20Table%20A%2D1)

³ “The Emotional Effects of Debt,” Kristen Kuchar, The Simple Dollar, Oct 28, 2019, https://www.thesimpledollar.com/credit/manage-debt/the-emotional-effects-of-debt/?/186

The True Cost of Debt

We’ve all probably heard someone talk on social media about their “hustle” or “side gig.”

It’s in style; and it makes sense—and cents? Gigs are now just a click or tap away on most of our devices, and a little extra money never hurts! Here are a few things to consider when starting up a side hustle.

What are your side hustle goals? We typically think of a side hustle as being an easy way to score a little extra cash. But they can sometimes be gateways into bigger things. Do you have skills that you’d like to develop into a full time career? A passion that you can turn into a business? Or do you just need some serious additional income to pay down debt? These considerations can help you determine how much time and money you invest into your gig and what gigs to pursue.

What are your marketable skills? Some gigs don’t require many skills beyond a serviceable car and a driver’s license. But others can be great outlets for your hobbies and skills. Love writing? Start freelancing on your weekends. Got massive gains from hours at the gym and love the outdoors? Start doing moving jobs in your spare time. You might be surprised by the demand for your passions!

Keep it reasonable. Burnout is no joke. Some people thrive on 80 hour work weeks between jobs and side hustles, but don’t feel pressured to bite off more than you can chew. Consider how much you’re willing to commit to your gigs and don’t exceed that limit.

One great thing about side hustles is their flexibility. You choose your level of commitment, you find the work, and your success can depend on how much you put in. Consider your goals and inventory your skills to get there—and start hustling!

Pro-Tips for Side Gig Beginners

If you come into some extra money – a year-end bonus at work, an inheritance from your aunt, or you finally sold your rare coin collection for a tidy sum – you might not be quite sure what to do with the extra cash.

On one hand you may have some debt you’d like to knock out, or you might feel like you should divert the money into your emergency savings or retirement fund.

They’re both solid choices, but which is better? That depends largely on your interest rates.

High Interest Rate. Take a look at your debt and see what your highest interest rate(s) are. If you’re leaning towards saving the bonus you’ve received, keep in mind that high borrowing costs may rapidly erode any savings benefits, and it might even negate those benefits entirely if you’re forced to dip into your savings in the future to pay off high interest. The higher the interest rate, the more important it is to pay off that debt earlier – otherwise you’re simply throwing money at the creditor.

Low Interest Rate. On the other hand, sometimes interest rates are low enough to warrant building up an emergency savings fund instead of paying down existing debt. An example is if you have a long-term, fixed-rate loan, such as a mortgage. The idea is that money borrowed for emergencies, rather than non-emergencies, will be expensive, because emergency borrowing may have no collateral and probably very high interest rates (like payday loans or credit cards). So it might be better to divert your new-found funds to a savings account, even if you aren’t reducing your interest burden, because the alternative during an emergency might mean paying 20%+ rather than 0% on your own money (or 3-5% if you consider the interest you pay on the current loan).

Raw Dollar Amounts. Relatively large loans might have low interest rates, but the actual total interest amount you’ll pay over time might be quite a sum. In that case, it might be better to gradually divert some of your bonus money to an emergency account while simultaneously starting to pay down debt to reduce your interest. A good rule of thumb is that if debt repayments comprise a big percentage of your income, pay down the debt, even if the interest rate is low.

The Best for You. While it’s always important to reduce debt as fast as possible to help achieve financial independence, it’s also important to have some money set aside for use in emergencies.

If you do receive an unexpected windfall, it will be worth it to take a little time to think about a strategy for how it can best be used for the maximum long term benefit for you and your family.

Save The Money Or Pay Off The Debt?