Updated July 31, 2019
Investing is a key money move that helps ensure you’re able to achieve all your financial goals. So you should invest as much as possible, but keep in mind that investing comes with risks.
To figure out that maximum amount for your unique financial situation, you need to make a plan. Most of your budget is likely dedicated to covering basic expenses, like housing, transportation and food—your needs. Another portion goes toward your wants, like hobbies, dining out, going to the movies—the fun stuff. But some of your budget should be allocated toward future goals, like building up an emergency fund, going on a big vacation, buying a home and retiring one day—and that’s where investing comes in.
So how much is that?
Only you can determine your actual hard numbers. One budgeting model many experts recommend is the 50-30-20 rule—putting 50 percent of your budget toward needs, 30 percent toward wants and 20 percent toward saving and investing for future needs and goals. Of that last 20 percent, you should invest whatever you don’t expect to need for at least a few years. That time-frame allows you to take on the risk of short-term losses and ride it out to capture potential long-term gains.
So, if your monthly budget starts with $10,000, that means you should work to set aside $2,000—and depending on your goals, that’s the maximum you’d want to invest.
But one formula doesn’t work for everyone. Especially when you’re just starting out, your entry-level salary may feel like just barely enough to cover the necessities. Don’t sweat it. Just do the best you can, and save whatever amount makes sense for you to start.
How do you figure out how much is right for you? First, you have to get your priorities in order. Beyond covering your needs, identify your goals and decide for yourself what is important to you.
Maybe paying off debts is a top priority. In that case, you want to make a debt-repayment plan, first tackling high-interest-rate debts, like credit-card balances. But then maybe you can prioritize investing for the future ahead of paying off low-interest loans on the books, like student-loan debt or a mortgage, faster. You’d continue to pay down that debt, but invest some of your money at the same time.
Or if establishing an emergency fund is a big goal, you can first shoot to set aside at least $1,000 to start—that’s likely enough to cover a common unexpected expense like a car repair or a minor medical expense. But once you’ve done that, maybe slow down your efforts to fully fund your emergency account (which ideally would hold enough to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses). Then you can redirect some small portion of that savings to investing for the future, even if it’s just $50 or $100 a month.
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