What to do with extra cash when an auto loan is paid off

Dear Liz: I’ll be done paying off my car in a couple of months. What’s a good strategy for redirecting that money once it’s paid off? Should I use the whole amount each month to start saving for my next car, or would I be better off splitting it up and putting it into several savings “buckets” such as retirement, emergency and my next car? I’m 35, have an emergency fund equal to four months’ living expenses and only one other debt, a very low-interest student loan.

Answer: If you aren’t already contributing to a retirement plan, you should be. If you aren’t contributing enough, that should be your priority even before you pay off your debt.

Market researcher and Yale University professor Roger Ibbotson has found that people who start saving for retirement after age 35 have an extremely difficult time “catching up.” They’ve lost a crucial decade or more, and often can’t set aside enough to offset their late start.

If you are on track for retirement and are comfortable with your emergency fund, saving to pay cash for your next car is a reasonable course.


  1. When I paid off my car payment 3 years ago I diverted the funds into a savings account. Now that I can see a need for a different car I have 10K towards my “new to me” car and it takes off a large stress off of me to know I can afford a pretty decent car without going into debt…I would definettly recommend saving for the next car if you can.