For Mark Roberts’ Use: Now that the new year has begun, you might be informed that you have earned a raise. Perhaps you’re even still holding onto that year-end bonus you received last month. Or, with the economy continuing to improve, maybe you just expect to earn higher commissions this year. Whatever the reason for extra money in your budget, you might be wondering how to use it to your best advantage.

Pay down your debt load. The average American consumer owes $9,600 to credit cards, and shells out over $1,200 dollars per year in interest when making only the minimum monthly payments. With interest rates set to rise yet again this year, getting out of debt is more important than ever. Remember, simply forking over your bonus check or your raise might not make much of a dent. Consider options such as debt consolidation, transferring balances to a zero-interest card, and slashing your budget so that you can get out of debt more quickly.

Max out your retirement savings. The IRS increased maximum contribution limits for 2018, meaning you can save a bit more in your retirement fund. You can now stash $18,500 for the future, or $24,500 if you’re over age 50 and making catch-up contributions. Keep in mind that by maxing out your contributions, you might also claim more matching funds from your employer (if they offer this provision). You will also reap the full deduction on your taxes (if you’re eligible for it).

Open and fund an IRA. If you’re already set to max out your 401(k) contributions this year, you can save even more for retirement by opening an Individual Retirement Account. The contribution limit for 2018 will be $5,500, with an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution for those over age 50.

Yes, we realize these ideas don’t sound as exciting as a new 3D TV, or a cruise through the Bahamas. But you’ll enjoy your eventual retirement much more without large debts, or with a more secure income. Give us a call to learn more, and we can help you decide how to put extra funds to good use this year.