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There are worse problems than having to figure out what to do with $30,000.
You might think: I have a lot of money to play with! But be careful, because it’s also a lot of money to potentially squander. A large windfall provides an opportunity to get your finances in order and set yourself up for the future.
These are some of the best financial decisions you can make with that kind of cash.
1. Pay down debt
One of the best decisions you can make with your money is to pay down high interest debt, such as credit card debt. Credit cards can come with interest rates of 20 percent or more, so paying off that debt is one of the best investments you can make. Average credit card balances increased 13.2 percent in 2022 to $5,910, according to Experian.
A cash windfall from an inheritance or performance bonus can be a great time to pay off a large chunk or the entirety of your high interest debt. You’ll need to pay off the balance aggressively to avoid paying interest for many years.
2. Build up your savings
Only 43 percent of Americans have enough savings to cover an unexpected $1,000 expense, according to a recent Bankrate survey. One out of four Americans would finance the expense using a credit card, the survey found.
Financial planners recommend you carry three to six months’ worth of expenses in a high-yield savings account as an emergency fund, to give yourself a little bit of a cushion in case you suddenly lose your job or encounter a significant unexpected expense.
3. Put it toward your retirement
More than half of Americans say they’re behind on saving for retirement, according to a recent Bankrate survey. While many factors contribute to the shortfall, inflation was the top reason Americans cited for not contributing more towards retirement.
Life is expensive, incomes have been growing slowly, and many struggle to get by. But your $30,000 should give you the cover to contribute more to your employer-sponsored 401(k) plan, if you have one. The goal is to put away 10 to 15 percent of your earnings, including any match from your employer. You could also contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA, which come with more investment choices and similar tax benefits.
4. Save for college
Americans also find it challenging to save for college. Rising tuitions and financial pressures on families have helped push student loan debt to near record levels.
If you have children, invest in their future by opening a 529 college savings plan or even a Roth IRA.
There are pluses and minuses to any approach. The key is to start putting money away early.
5. Open a no-fuss investment account
Thinking of your $30,000 as a ticket to earning even bigger money?
Rather than looking for the next Apple or Amazon, concentrate on building a diversified investment portfolio comprised of low-cost mutual funds and exchange-traded funds that will deliver a solid return over time.
Or, you could go with a target-date fund, which aligns your portfolio’s asset allocation with a date in the future when you’ll need the money. That is, you own more stocks when you’re far from the end goal, and more bonds as you get closer to the target date. For even more safety, find the best CD rates and add some certificates of deposit to the mix.
6. Let a robo-advisor do it for you
If you aren’t interested in managing a portfolio yourself, you might consider opening an account with a robo-advisor. Robo-advisors use algorithms to build portfolios for clients based on their financial goals and risk tolerance. You answer a few basic questions to get started and then the robo-advisor takes care of the rest.
You won’t get the same hands-on attention that you might get from a traditional financial advisor, but robo-advisor fees are significantly less than those of a human advisor.
Need expert guidance when it comes to managing your investments or planning for retirement?
Bankrate’s AdvisorMatch can connect you to a CFP® professional to help you achieve your financial goals.
— Taylor Tepper wrote a previous version of this story.
Editorial Disclaimer: All investors are advised to conduct their own independent research into investment strategies before making an investment decision. In addition, investors are advised that past investment product performance is no guarantee of future price appreciation.