Get rid of really bad debt
If you have credit card debt, aim to get it paid off as soon as possible.
"Credit card debt is really an issue for many people," Dougherty said. "It's a pure cost, and it can be a high cost. And it's a big impediment to being able to save."
The average interest rate on credit cards is pushing 17 percent and is about to creep higher due to the Federal Reserve on Wednesday raising a key rate that affects various forms of consumer debt.
By comparison, the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage is about 4.7 percent, and a five-year loan for a new car comes with an average interest rate of 4.75 percent.
Even private student loans — which typically are several percentage points higher than federal student loans — are generally lower. Credit card debt also comes with zero potential tax benefit, unlike mortgage interest and student loan interest.
In other words, credit card balances typically are far more expensive than other forms of debt.
"There's nothing wrong with taking vacations and buying gifts, as long you don't use plastic to pay for it and pay a huge interest rate," Dougherty said.
Your future self will thank you.
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