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Money is still a bit of a taboo topic among families and friends, which is why many of us don’t know what a normal amount is to have (or aim for).
But thankfully, there’s an easy calculation to know the exact dollar amount you need to have on-hand in your checking account:
It’s one or two months of your living expenses. That’s it! So if between rent, utilities, groceries, budgeted fun stuff for your kids and debt payments, you spend $5,000 each month, then you should have $5,000 to $10,000 in your checking account.
Here’s some advice: It might not be smart to keep more than two months’ worth of expenses in your checking account. If you can keep it closer to one month, that’s even better. Why? Because it’s likely earning you next to zero in interest, when you could be making way more with your money elsewhere.
Here are the first things you should do with your money once you have one to two months’ worth of expenses saved to cover your bills:
1. Build An Emergency Fund And Keep It In A Safe Place
If you don’t currently have an emergency fund, start one now. Having this safely stored — but readily available — can keep you out of trouble
You should look for a place to safely stash it away — but still earn money. Under your mattress or in a safe will get you nothing. And a typical savings account won’t do you much better. (Ahem, 0.05% is nothing these days.)
But a debit card called Aspiration lets you earn up to 20 times the average interest on the money in your account (plus up to 5% cash back).
Not too shabby!
Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash. Your money is FDIC insured and they use a military-grade encryption which is nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”
2. Max Out Your Retirement Savings Account (And Get Extra From Your Boss)
Setting aside money from your paycheck to put into your 401(k) is literally one of the smartest things you can do for your future. And if your employer matches each contribution, that could mean hundreds of thousands of extra dollars in your account when you retire. It’s free money!
But if you can’t take advantage of this employer benefit because you need all of your paycheck every month, a company called Lendtable will give you the cash.
We know it sounds too good to be true. But if your employer has a 401(k) match program, this is money they already have earmarked for you. By using Lendtable, you’ll be able to unlock that free cash.
Let’s say you make $50k a year and your employer matches your 401(k) contribution up to 4%. If you put $0 in your retirement account this year, you get $0 from your boss. If Lendtable lends you the 4% of your salary your employer is willing to match, you get $2,000 from your boss, minus Lendtable’s fee. (This comes from the extra money you’ve earned, so there’s no sacrifice on your part.)
It takes three minutes to answer a few questions about your eligibility and sign up for an account.
Once you’ve gotten your full match amount from your employer, LendTable will take the money they lent you back, plus a small share of your profit. If there’s a penalty from your retirement account provider for taking money out, Lendtable will cover that, too.
The risk for you is basically nonexistent, so not taking advantage of your employer match with Lendtable’s offer would make Future Millionaire You bow your head in shame. Get started here.
3. Invest It. This App Gives You Up to $200 in Free Stock to Start
If you feel like you don’t have enough money to start investing after you’ve put money in your emergency fund, you’re not alone. But guess what? You really don’t need that much — and you can even get free stocks (worth up to $200!) if you know where to look.
Whether you’ve got $5, $100 or $800 to spare, you can start investing with Robinhood.
Yeah, you’ve probably heard of Robinhood. Both investing beginners and pros love it because it doesn’t charge commission fees, and you can buy and sell stocks for free — no limits. Plus, it’s super easy to use.
What’s best? When you download the app and fund your account (it takes no more than a few minutes), Robinhood drops a share of free stock into your account. It’s random, though, so that stock could be worth anywhere from $2.50 to $200 — a nice boost to help you build your investments.
4. Secure Up to $1 Million in Life Insurance; Rates Start at Just $16/Month
Sometimes you need to spend some money to make some money. Getting life insurance in case something happens to you is one of those cases. It’s a good place to invest a few bucks every month, once your checking account and emergency funds are in a good spot.
Like, have you thought about how your family would manage without your income after you’re gone? How they’ll pay the bills? Send the kids through school? Now’s a good time to start planning for the future by looking into a term life insurance policy.
You’re probably thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But your application can take minutes — and you could leave your family up to $1 million with a company called Bestow.
Rates start at just $16 a month. The peace of mind knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.
If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam or even getting up from the couch, get a free quote from Bestow.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.