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Majority of Americans Have More Credit Card Debt than Savings

Paul Hassebroek
Investment Advisor VW Advisors

Americans need to save for retirement and manage their debt. I recommend taking advantage of any employer retirement plan first to maximize the employer’s match to your contribution. After that, focus on paying off high interest, unsecured debt first. I also recommend reviewing your debt with your advisor to see if there are any ways that it can be refinanced to maximize your monthly payments. I wouldn’t worry with paying ahead on a car or mortgage at this point. After tackling the first two, I would then start building up your savings with the funds you were applying to your unsecured debt.

If you’re caught without a emergency savings account or cushion, a serious medical event or the loss of a job can quickly put you behind. As soon as possible, I recommend building up three to six months of monthly income in savings so that out of the ordinary things like a new furnace, a medical bill, or the loss of some income doesn’t cause more stress than necessary. Without a cushion, you may end up borrowing money to cover costs in the short term, which leads to higher interest expenses, and less money available for retirement investing.

Although a young person may not hire a financial planner in their 20’s, it definitely makes sense to begin planning as soon as possible. One possible source is a employer retirement plan like a 401k. Many times the plan provider has material and advice available for the company’s employees for free. I also recommend focusing on the long term when considering adding debt. In a situation like a car or that 0% interest TV or computer, it’s easy to get excited at the time of purchase, only to have regrets down the road when the payments are no longer convenient for you. Lastly, I advise investors to be conscious of any costs or lockup periods when choosing an investment vehicle. Focus on low cost, no load investments and if you want to hire a professional, look for a fee-only advisor or a CFP.

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