Pay off debt or save for the future? How to do both.

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View transcript for saving for the future video

Which is more important: paying off debt or saving for the future? When you’ve started earning a steady income but you’re still paying off hefty student loans, it can be hard to figure out which should come first.

Paying off your debt as fast as you can may seem like the responsible thing to do. But sacrificing saving for your future could leave your finances at a permanent disadvantage down the road.

The good news is you don’t have to choose one over the other – you can do both! It just takes some planning.

4 ways to make headway with your finances

  1. Contribute enough to your 401(k) or other retirement plan through work to earn any employer match. In this way, you won’t be leaving money on the table.
  2. Pay off any nondeductible debt (such as credit cards) as fast as you can.
  3. Pay your deductible debt (such as student loans or a mortgage) as scheduled, based on the length of the loan.
  4. Set some money aside ($500 to one month's worth of expenses to start) for emergencies.

Why not put all your “extra” money toward paying off your debt before you start investing?

Though it’s a personal decision, starting early with investing could benefit you in the long run. As this example shows, you could end up with nearly $200,000 more if you start investing the same amount each month at age 30 instead of 33.

Source: Edward Jones

This bar graph illustrates an investment of the same amount each month at different age levels. The example assumes investing $6,000 a year, plus an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution at age 50 and older, with a hypothetical 7% average annual return. Starting investing at age 30 vs. 33 gives you $193,000 more. Starting at age 35 vs. 38 gives you $137,000 more. Starting at age 40 vs. 43 gives you $98,000 more. By starting at age 30 instead of age 43, you would earn $613,000 more in this example.


Need help prioritizing? Your financial advisor can help you set up a strategy that fits your life today and works toward your goals for tomorrow.”