We've reached that point in the year when performance reviews are deep in full swing, and if yours was a positive one, it could spell more money in 2019. Getting a raise is certainly something to look forward to, but before you make plans to spend that cash, here are a few key things you can do with it instead.
1. Build an emergency fund
You never know when life might throw an unexpected, and expensive, surprise your way. And the best way to avoid debt when an unplanned bill lands in your lap is to have emergency savings. Ideally, your bank account should contain a minimum of three months' worth of living expenses, and if you're able to hit the six-month mark, even better. If your near-term savings could use a boost, banking that raise is a good way to get closer to your target. And to ensure that you don't get tempted to spend that extra money, set up an automatic transfer to your savings account so it disappears before you see it.
2. Boost your retirement plan
Your retirement isn't going to pay for itself, and while the income you get from Social Security will help, you still need savings of your own to ensure that you're prepared to cover the bills when you're older. Once you're secure in your emergency fund, a smart move is to send any extra cash you get from your employer directly into a retirement plan. And if you have access to a 401(k), the process will be as seamless as can be -- just tell your payroll department that you want your entire raise added to your retirement plan, and that money will hit your 401(k) before you have a chance to use or miss it.
3. Knock out some debt
Maybe you're sitting on a pile of student loans, or have a nagging credit card balance you've struggled to shake. Using the money from your raise to chip away at that debt is a good way to eliminate it sooner rather than later. You should always prioritize bad debt -- that of the credit card variety -- when aiming to dig out of a hole, but once that's taken care of, you can use your extra earnings to whittle down that student loan balance.
4. Increase your chances of another raise
The more value you add as an employee, the more likely you are to continue getting raises throughout your career. If you're looking at extra money in your paychecks for the coming year, consider using them to boost your skills or further your education. You might sign up for a series of online classes, attend a business conference or seminar on your own dime, invest in equipment that will make you better at what you do, or pay to get certified in something pertinent to your field. You really can't go wrong when you invest in yourself, no matter how you choose to do it.
5. Buy life insurance
To go without life insurance means to put your family at financial risk in the event something tragic happens to you. If you don't have a policy in place, the additional money you get in your paychecks next year can help cover your premium costs. Of course, the amount you'll pay for life insurance will depend on the type of policy you buy, the coverage you get under it, and your age and health at the time. But generally speaking, the younger you are when you apply, the more favorable a rate you'll snag -- which is why it pays to buy a policy next year if you're missing one at present.
Getting a raise is something to celebrate, but don't make the mistake of blowing that money when it could be put to better use. Right now, the economy is fairly strong, and employers might have a relatively easy time dishing out pay boosts, but there's no telling what the future will bring and whether you'll get a raise the following year, or the year after that. Your best bet, therefore, is to use that money wisely, even if it means erring on the side of responsibility rather than fun.