Regular listeners of the Motley Fool Answers podcast will know that Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp are full of excellent investing and personal finance advice. But for this episode -- which they are dedicating totally to listener questions -- they've called in reinforcements: Ross Anderson, a certified financial planner from Motley Fool Wealth Management, a sister company of The Motley Fool.
In this segment, they answer a 23-year-old listener who's married, working, and in school -- and still setting aside money every month. (Well done!) But he's not sure about the best ways to divvy up that savings or where he ought to be investing the retirement portion of it.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Feb. 27, 2018.
Alison Southwick: Our next question comes from Levi. "I'm 23 and recently married while attending school full-time and working full-time." Whoo!
Robert Brokamp: A lot going on.
Southwick: Wow! "My wife just graduated. We have a three-month emergency fund and are saving $400 a month. Should I invest now or wait until I have a six-month emergency fund? Also, the company I work for doesn't offer a 401(k), so I'm wondering where to invest my money."
Brokamp: Well, Levi, congratulations on being married and having the emergency fund!
Southwick: Oh, my gosh! Saving $400 a month, and you're 23? Wow!
Brokamp: First of all, you sort of adjust the size of the emergency fund for the number of your financial obligations. I think the advice to have a six-month emergency fund is really for someone who has kids, a mortgage, a car payment. I think for someone in your situation, a three-month emergency fund is actually pretty good, because if something happens to your income or times get tough, you and your wife probably can find a way to live pretty cheaply. You don't have to worry about making the mortgage payment.
Southwick: Child care.
Brokamp: The other thing about an emergency fund is it's not just to cover income, but some other big expense which is more likely to happen if you own a house. If something happens to your roof, or something like that. I think three months is fine with you.
As for where to put the money, I would say a Roth IRA is probably your best bet. I'm going to guess that you're not in a high tax bracket. With the Roth IRA you give up a tax deduction today, but since you're not in a high tax bracket, that's OK. In exchange you get tax-free withdrawals in retirement, but the other good thing about that, tying it to the emergency fund, is if you do need the money, you can get the contributions to a Roth IRA out tax and penalty-free if you need them. So, if you do have a big-ticket emergency you can get access to that money.
Ross Anderson: But try not to.
Brokamp: But try not to.
Anderson: Every time you tell people that, I don't want them to consider the Roth IRA to be emergency fund money. If you absolutely have to, you can get to it, but try not to think of it that way.
Brokamp: Right. Forget everything I just said.
Southwick: Next up on the The Two-Handed Financial Advisor, we're going to offer all this conflicting advice.