Back when I was knee-deep in credit card debt, saving for retirement was about the last thing on my list of priorities. It simply made no sense to me to put away money for the future when my debt was costing me so much in interest.
However, once I fully reviewed my situation, I understood that there may be room for both. It ultimately depends upon your situation, and in order to make the right decision, you’ll have to take a good hard look at both your retirement plans and your current credit card debt.
- Have You Started Saving? If you currently have nothing put aside for your golden years, then I would suggest starting a modest retirement portfolio, regardless of your level of credit card debt. Because of compound interest, the earlier you start, the more your dollars will earn over time.
- Does Your Employer Match? It is important to review your employer’s 401k plan. If they offer any sort of match, consider investing in this option up to the maximum. This is free money provided to you by your employer, and it just makes good sense to take advantage of it, regardless of the amount of your credit card balances.
Credit Card Debt
- How Bad Is It? If your current situation is dire, and interest fees are eating away at your checking account, you may want to scale back or temporarily suspend retirement savings. If your situation isn’t quite this bad, continue to pay down your balances while still contributing what you can to retirement.
- Can It Be Restructured? If your credit card debt is significant, you may want to consider restructuring it. There are numerous balance transfer options where you can reduce your interest rate to 0% for a short period of time. Do your research to see if you can save, and if so, you’ll have to decide where to apply the money you’ve saved: to your credit card balances, or to your retirement portfolio.
- Do You Have a Plan? If you currently have no plan to pay down and eventually eliminate credit card debt, it’s time you put one into place. Keep your monthly spending beneath what you earn, and figure out other ways to save in your everyday life. Commit these savings to your credit card debts until they’re under control.
You should continue to both pay down your credit card debt and also save for retirement. Where you focus the bulk of your efforts will depend upon your situation. However, you won’t be able to make an intelligent decision unless you truly understand the state of each in your life. Ask yourself the three pertinent questions regarding both credit card debt and retirement, and you’ll gain a clearer understanding of each and be able to decide where you should be applying more money.
What do you think? Should you prioritize getting out of credit card debt or saving for retirement?