What to Do With Your New Raise

Did you get a raise in 2015? According to PayScale’s annual Compensation Best Practices survey, more than 85% of large and medium-size companies gave raises that year. In 2010, only 30% of companies gave their employees a pay boost, the lowest percentage since PayScale began its survey. So raises are on the rise.

If you got one or are expecting to get one this year, what will you do with it? Here are five smart moves for that additional money.

Pay off debts
Eliminating debt and reducing the money you pay in interest should be the first step. Say your raise was $5,000 and you’re paid twice a month. You’ll be earning an additional $200 before taxes each pay period. If you earmark $300 for your credit card debt each month, you’ll pay it off faster, save on interest, improve your debt-to-credit ratio and raise your credit score.

Build your emergency fund
Now that your credit card debt is paid off, it’s time to build up your emergency fund so that when stuff happens, such as major medical expenses or unexpected job loss, you don’t have to run up your credit card bill. Financial experts say a good emergency fund should cover between three and six months of living expenses. If you normally spend $2,500 a month, you would want build up about $15,000 for a six-month emergency fund.

Because an emergency can strike at any time, having quick access to your cash is crucial. Savings accounts are a good choice because they’re low-risk investments that allow you to withdraw your money without hassle. This emergency stash should be a separate account from one you use daily so that you’re not tempted to dip into your reserves.

Community banks, such as VCNB, offer several types of savings accounts that can suit consumers’ specific financial needs.

Invest for your retirement
Concern about having enough money for retirement is the No. 1 personal finance worry for Americans, according to Gallup’s annual Economy and Personal Finance survey. Don’t be part of that crowd. If the company you work for offers a 401(k) with an employer match, be sure that you’re contributing enough to get the maximum match that’s offered. The money you contribute will reduce your current tax burden, and the match that your employer provides is essentially free additional retirement income for you. Then, consider using the remainder of your salary increase to open an Individual Retirement Account for your future. Along with assuring you a more comfortable retirement, IRAs can also offer you tax benefits.

Give to charity
If you’ve ever thought, “I’d give more to charity if I had more money,” well, now you do. You could make a donation to a charity, your alma mater or a good cause. You’ll feel good about helping others and, as long as it’s a qualified charity, you’ll be able to deduct your donation from that year’s income tax.

Live a little
Treat yourself to something fun to celebrate your raise. After all, you earned it. Dinner at a special restaurant or a relaxing day at a spa won’t eat up all your new income. Just remember that your raise isn’t a lump-sum bonus: It’s coming paycheck by paycheck, and you should invest or spend it that way.

Ellen Cannon, NerdWallet

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved




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