Q&A: Should extra cash go to retirement or emergency savings?

Dear Liz: I have an excessive amount of money in my bank checking and savings account (about $20,000 in each) and need to know where to invest it. My financial planner advised putting it in my 401(k), but I can’t transfer a chunk of money, I can only increase the percentage I contribute (which is currently at 10% of my salary). I have IRAs, but I can only deposit a certain amount there as well. Where would be the best place for this extra money to go that will pay interest?

Answer: You may not be able to put the money directly into your 401(k), but you could boost your contribution rate at work and tap the “excess” money in your accounts to make up the difference in your paychecks.

First, though, make sure you have an adequate emergency fund. Most financial planners recommend keeping a reserve equal to three to six months’ worth of expenses. This money should be kept in a safe, liquid account, such as an FDIC-insured bank account. You don’t need to settle for the tiny amount of interest many banks pay, however. Some online high-yield savings accounts are now paying over 4%.

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