Money

Here's what the average American would do with a $10,000 windfall

If $10,000 fell into your lap, how would you invest it?

That's what personal finance site GOBankingRates asked more than 1,000 people in a recent survey.

Respondents could choose from the following six options:

  • Invest it in a certificate of deposit (CD)
  • Invest it in a savings account
  • Invest it in stocks or a mutual fund
  • Invest it in your current home or a new home
  • Invest it in a vacation
  • Invest it in a new wardrobe

Here's what the average American would do with the windfall:

Despite the less-than-stellar savings habits of most Americans, nearly 40 percent of respondents say they would direct the $10,000 to savings. The next most popular response was investing in a home, which many finance gurus, including Warren Buffett, consider a valuable asset.

What would experts recommend you do with $10,000?

Sophia Bera, certified financial planner and founder of Gen Y Planning, advises you to invest it in tax-advantaged savings vehicles. Specifically, "max out your health savings account (HSA) and Roth IRA," she tells CNBC, as those accounts will help provide for you both in the present and in the future.

With an HSA, you can put pre-tax money towards medical costs to be used whenever you want. There's no "use-it-or-lose-it" rule — any unused funds will roll over year to year.

An HSA can also be a powerful retirement-savings tool. Depending on your situation, some financial planners advise maximizing contributions to your HSA even before maxing out your 401(k) plan.

Another retirement account worth investing in is a Roth IRA. "With a Roth IRA, you pay the taxes up front, but the money grows tax free and you don't have to pay taxes on it when you withdraw it in retirement," Bera explains.

It's a particularly good option for millennials because younger workers will likely be earning less today than they will be in the future, meaning they'll be in a lower tax bracket and paying less in taxes now than they may later on.

Now that you know what to do with a five-figure windfall, don't miss: How to invest $100,000