Family trip for 4 to Puerto Rico
—4 airfares, NYC to Puerto Rico: $1,200
—Two weeks at a resort: $7,000
Perhaps the most important concept for saving for a $10,000 vacation is the idea of purpose-based asset allocation, said Dave Edwards, president of the Heron Financial Group in New York City.
He encourages clients to save their assets into different pots—different accounts that are all consolidated into one financial statement. Set up automatic deductions from your checking account into a savings account that you name according to your goal—say, Puerto Rico.
"With a time frame this short, you probably don't want any volatility," he said. Start setting aside $500 a month now, which will give you $10,000 with four months to spare. That way, you'll be able to act on any deals that come up, either on plane tickets or resorts.
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What about investing? Only people who are very comfortable with risk—and who won't be devastated if they have to put off the trip—should invest with that short a time frame.
If you have a lump sum to begin with—say, $9,000—you could consider putting that money into a portfolio that combines bonds earning 3.5 percent a year with stocks, which might earn 8 percent a year. The average is 5.75 percent, Edwards said. Compounded over two years, you'd earn enough from your $9,000 to pay for the $10,000 vacation, with a little bit left over.
But there are risks with this approach: You might not earn the return you expect. Worse, you might lose some of the principal.
"I was in the habit of taking my family on a $10,000 vacation. Our plan was to be in Italy in 2010. That plan got canceled," said Edwards.
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If you don't have a lump sum or prefer not to take any risk, keep your money in liquid investments."You don't want this thing that is an exercise in freedom to become another stress," said Maurer. He suggests a Capital One 360 high-yield checking account. When you accumulate enough money in it to buy a CD, do so, developing a ladder of CDs that will become liquid in the year before you need the cash.