Whether to save or invest your money can be a confusing question. Both options have their merits, and the right choice usually depends on your individual financial goals, risk tolerance, and current financial situation. Here are 5 key things to consider when you’re deciding whether to save or invest your money.

1. Financial goals

Before deciding between saving and investing, it’s crucial to define your financial goals. Are you saving for a short-term goal like a vacation or an emergency fund, or a long-term goal like retirement or buying a house?

Short-term goals:

– Saving: If your goal is less than three years away, saving might be the better option. Savings accounts, money market accounts, or certificates of deposit (CDs) provide safety and liquidity. While the returns are lower, the primary benefit is that your money will be readily available when you need it.

Long-term goals:

– Investing: For goals that are more than 5 years away, investing could offer higher returns. Stocks, bonds, and mutual funds are options that typically yield more than savings accounts over the long term. Investing can help your money grow, but it comes with increased risk.

2. Risk tolerance

Understanding your risk tolerance is vital when deciding whether to save or invest. Risk tolerance is your ability and willingness to endure market fluctuations and potential losses in your investment portfolio.

Low risk tolerance:

– Saving: If you are risk-averse and prefer to avoid potential losses, saving is the safe way to go. Savings accounts and CDs are insured by the FDIC up to $250,000, offering a safe place for your money. The downside is lower returns compared to investments.

High risk tolerance:

– Investing: If you can handle market volatility and are comfortable with the possibility of losing some money in the short term for potential long-term gains, investing might suit you better. Diversifying your investments can help manage risk while aiming for higher returns.

3. Time horizon

Your investment time horizon is the length of time you plan to hold onto your investments before needing the money. The longer it is, the more you can benefit from the compounding effect of investments.

Short time horizon:

– Saving: If you need access to your money within the next few years, saving is safer. It ensures that your funds are available when you need them without the risk of market downturns affecting your principal.

Long time horizon:

– Investing: If you don’t need the money for several years or decades, investing can be advantageous. Historically, the stock market has provided higher returns over long periods, making it a good option for growing your wealth over time.

4. Emergency fund

Before diving into investments, ensure you have an adequate emergency fund. An emergency fund should cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses and be easily accessible in case of unexpected events like job loss or medical emergencies.

Building an emergency fund:

– Saving: Prioritize building an emergency fund in a high-yield savings account or money market account. These accounts offer liquidity and safety, allowing you to access your funds quickly without penalties.

5. Returns and inflation

Consider the impact of inflation on your savings and investments. Inflation erodes the purchasing power of your money over time, making it important to seek returns that outpace inflation.

Low returns:

– Saving: While savings accounts offer security, their returns often barely keep up with inflation. This means your money could lose purchasing power over time if the interest earned is less than the inflation rate.

Higher returns:

– Investing: Investments typically offer higher returns that can outpace inflation, helping you grow your wealth over the long term. However, this comes with higher risk, and there’s no guarantee of returns.