126

Recently I was given 50k from my grandmother in her will. I am 23 years old and have no idea what to do with it.

  • I make $33k a year.
  • I have zero savings.
  • I owe $35k in student loans over 6 years 0% APR
  • I owe $5k in medical and credit cards.
  • I have zero monies towards retirement.
  • I also need to purchase my own car.
  • I currently pay 0 rent but that will change within the next year.

I'm looking to find the best way to help start my life and have this money make me as much money long term. My job is stable and know absolutely nothing about investing.

  • 17
    Hey guess what? Now you have 50k in savings! :-) – Ben Collins Sep 23 '15 at 3:51
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    Your ten-year-from-now self will thank you for asking this instead of going out and buying a $50,000 car. – corsiKa Sep 23 '15 at 8:37
  • 135
    I am sorry to hear about your loss. – davidjwest Sep 23 '15 at 11:29
  • 9
    Pay off your loans, medical, credit card bill. That leaves you debt free with 10000 in savings. If you NEED to buy a car, get one for 3000 to 5000. – adrianmann Sep 23 '15 at 14:53
  • 39
    @adrianmann Why would you pay off a 0% interest loan? – corsiKa Sep 23 '15 at 15:39

13 Answers 13

135

Here are some possibilities:

  1. pay off the credit cards (and don't incur anymore revolving debt)
  2. if your employment has a 401(k) or 403(b) fully fund (to the maximum extent % possible) and keep doing that- choose equities (stocks) funds from low cost providers
  3. if no employment retirement available, open an IRA, depositing the annual maximum (but do it in monthly installments). Call Vanguard & talk to them re: Vanguard Wellington Fund (60% stocks, 40% bonds)- a good, balanced and dependable fund. Once you start this program, never quit, and don't pay any attention to "the investing news".
  4. put $5000 in savings/emergency account dedicated to that. It won't earn much/interest, but you'll feel better.
  5. avoid buying a car for as long as you can; if forced to own one, buy a used dependable car like a Toyota Corolla- 4 cyl and don't abuse it.

  6. open a Roth IRA, depositing max possible, the plan on doing so until you've investing the remaining balance. A Roth IRA, while not tax deductible now (you're in a low tax bracket now) will provide for tax-free distributions when you are both older and not in a low bracket. of course, invest in low cost equity funds. Come back for more ideas once the dust settles, you've got money left over and some of the above accomplished. You've got one asset many of us don't have: time.

  • 36
    This this this. I strongly agree with everything said here except the fund recommendation. It seems too conservative for someone so young. I'd recommend something like an S&P Index Fund. Or at least a good chunk in an equity index. – Rocky Sep 23 '15 at 2:30
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    Yeah, I second @rocky. Solid answer, but no way a 23-year-old should be in bonds at all. 100% equities, split between indexes and low-cost funds with a yield. – Ben Collins Sep 23 '15 at 3:53
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    +1 for investing and then "don't pay any attention to "the investing news"". – Sempie Sep 23 '15 at 6:21
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    @TobiaTesan really tiny cars like that aren't common in the US; and what are available tend to either be cheap junk (of the you're better off buying an older car of a better base quality level type) or are equipped and priced for affluent buyers who're buying a tiny car as a fashion/political statement but don't want to sacrifice any comfort features to do so. A base model Corolla still has Toyota's historically good reliability but doesn't have you paying for any frills; making them good cheap cars on the local market. – Dan Neely Sep 23 '15 at 14:03
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    @Tobia because cars are expensive to buy, and to maintain – corsiKa Sep 23 '15 at 15:40
66

First, I would point you to this question:

Oversimplify it for me: the correct order of investing

With the $50k that you have inherited, you have enough money to pay off all your debt ($40k), purchase a functional used car ($5k), and get a great start on an emergency fund with the rest.

There are many who would tell you to wait as long as possible to pay off your student loans and invest the money instead. However, I would pay off the loans right away if I were you. Even if it is low interest right now, it is still a debt that needs to be paid back. Pay it off, and you won't have this debt hanging over your head anymore.

Your grandmother has given you an incredible gift. This money can make you completely debt free and put you on a path for success. However, if you aren't careful, you could end up back in debt quickly. Learn how to make a budget, and commit to never spending money that you don't have again.

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    If the interests on his student loan are lower than those paid by an investment, it doesn't make much sense to repay it sooner. A bit, yes. It depends on how safe are those eventual investments. – o0'. Sep 23 '15 at 8:07
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    -1: having a debt with 0% interest and at the same time an investment of the same value with a positive interest is a net gain, even when it is a very conservative one. Also, when the debt is in a currency which has an average inflation rate larger than the interest, you essentially safe money by paying the debt as late as possible. – Philipp Sep 23 '15 at 9:05
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    "...commit to never spending money that you don't have again." Does that include never borrowing money to buy a house? – Victor Sep 23 '15 at 9:24
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    +1 - while, in pure numbers, 0% debt and making 5% on an investment will net extra money - I'm one to enjoy and agree with the simplicity of not having any debts. Add to that the fact that within the next year bills will increase (rent increase, car insurance, etc) - the one thing that will make life easier in the next stage is having ZERO debts from this stage. Never underestimate the importance of simplicity. – WernerCD Sep 23 '15 at 14:07
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    Also agree with this answer - while there is no risk in not paying off your student loans with a 0% APR in the next 6 years, there is risk that your $50k can turn into $40k (unlikely, but you never know) depending on your investment choice. If I were OP, I would invest an amount that would equal exactly $35k in 6 years by putting it in a GIC or bond. The rest can go into those long-term strategies. – sjagr Sep 23 '15 at 14:21
14

I'll add 2 observations regarding current answers.

Jack nailed it - a 401(k) match beats all. But choose the right flavor account.

You are currently in the 15% bracket (i.e. your marginal tax rate, the rate paid on the last taxed $100, and next taxed $100.)

You should focus on Roth. Roth 401(k) (and if any company match, that goes into a traditional pretax 401(k). But if they permit conversions to the Roth side, do it)

You have a long time before retirement to earn your way into the next tax bracket, 25%. As your income rises, use the deductible IRA/ 401(k) to take out money pretax that would otherwise be taxed at 25%.

One day, you'll be so far into the 25% bracket, you'll benefit by 100% traditional. But why waste the opportunity to deposit to Roth money that's taxed at just 15%?

To clarify the above, this is the single rate table for 2015:

enter image description here

For this discussion, I am talking taxable income, the line on the tax return designating this number. If that line is $37,450 or less, you are in the 15% bracket and I recommend Roth. Say it's $40,000. In hindsight on should put $2,550 in a pretax account (Traditional 401(k) or IRA) to bring it down to the $37,450. In other words, try to keep the 15% bracket full, but not push into 25%. Last, after enough raises, say you at $60,000 taxable. That, to me is "far into the 25% bracket." $20,000 or 1/3 of income into the 401(k) and IRA and you're still in the 25% bracket. One can plan to a point, and then use the IRA flavors to get it dead on in April of the following year.

To Ben's point regarding paying off the Student Loan faster -

A $33K income for a single person, about to have the new expense of rent, is not a huge income. I'll concede that there's a sleep factor, the long tern benefit of being debt free, and won't argue the long term market return vs the rate on the loan. But here we have the probability that OP is not investing at all. It may take $2000/yr to his 401(k) capture the match (my 401 had a dollar for dollar match up to first 6% of income). This $45K, after killing the card, may be his only source for the extra money to replace what he deposits to his 401(k). And also serve as his emergency fund along the way.

  • "One day, you be so far into the 25% bracket, you'll benefit by 100% traditional" Can you please revise this sentence? I feel like it's missing a few words in a few places, which is preventing me from understanding what you mean. – TylerH Sep 28 '15 at 14:10
  • @TylerH - I wrote a bit more to address your comment. – JoeTaxpayer Sep 28 '15 at 23:08
  • Thanks! I think it's mostly just missing words actually. I'm reading it as "One day, you'll be at the high end of the 25% bracket that you'll benefit from committing 100% [to the traditional route?]. But why waste the opportunity to deposit your money into a Roth IRA, which is only taxed at 15%?" – TylerH Sep 29 '15 at 3:38
  • @TylerH - thank-you, and welcome to Money.SE. I'm always happy to clarify one of my responses or offer a new one. – JoeTaxpayer Sep 29 '15 at 12:40
7

If your employer is matching 50 cents on the dollar then your 401(k) is a better place to put your money than paying off credit cards

This. Assuming you can also get the credit cards paid off reasonably soon too (say, by next year). Otherwise, you have to look at how long before you can withdraw that money, to see if the compounded credit card debt isn't growing faster than your retirement. But a guaranteed 50% gain, your first year is a pretty hard deal to beat.


And if you currently have no savings, unless all of your surplus income has been reducing your debt, you're living beyond your means.

You should be earning more than you're (going to be) spending, when you start paying rent/car bills. If you don't know what this is going to be, you need to be budgeting.

Get this under control, by any means necessary. New job/career? Change priorities/expectations? Cut expenses? Live to your budget? Whatever it takes.


I don't think you should be in any investment that includes bonds until you're 40, and maybe not even then - equities and cash-equivalents all the way (cash is for emergency funds, and for waiting for buying opportunities). Otherwise Michael has some good ideas.

I would caveat that I think you should not buy any investments in one chunk, but dollar average it over some period of time, in case the market is unnaturally high right when you decide to invest.

You should also gauge possible returns and potential tax liabilities.

Debt is good to get rid of, unless it is good debt (very low interest rates - ie: lower than you could borrow the money for). Good debt should still get paid off - who knows how long your job could last for - but maybe not dump all of your $50K on it.

Roth is amazing. You should be maxing that contribution out every year.

6
  • Pay off the credit and medical debt
  • Put 8 months expenses aside in a savings account as an emergency fund
  • Buy a reliable used car, 3 years old, Honda, Toyota. Pay cash or, if they give you a deal, finance and pay off within a year as long as the interest paid will be way less then the discount. This will help build credit.
  • Invest the maximum amount for the year in a Roth IRA in an S&P 500 index fund
  • Invest the rest in a normal investment account in an S&P 500 index fund
  • Use $1000 to treat yourself to something
5

To add to @michael's solid answer, I would suggest sitting down and analyzing what your priorities are about paying off the student loan debt versus investing that money immediately. (Regardless, the first thing you should do is, as michael suggested, pay off the credit card debt)

Since it looks like you will be having some new expenses coming up soon (rent, possibly a new car), as part of that prioritization you should calculate what your rent (and associated bills) will cost you on a monthly basis (including saving a bit each month!) and see if you can afford to pay everything without incurring new debt. I'd recommend trying to come up with several scenarios to see how cheaply you can live (roommates, maybe you can figure out a way to go without a car, etc).

If, for whatever reason, you find you can't afford everything, then I would suggest taking a portion of your inheritance to at least pay off enough of your student loans so that you can afford all of your costs per month, and then save or invest the rest. (You can invest all you like, but if you don't live within your means, it won't do you any good.)

Finally -- be aware that you may have other factors that come into play that may override financial considerations. I found myself in a situation similar to yours, and in my case, I chose to pay off my debts, not because it necessarily made the best financial sense, but that because of those other considerations, paying off that debt meant I had a significant level of stress removed from my life, and a lot more peace of mind.

  • 4
    +1 for considering not having a car. Since the original question mentioned a possible rent change, that implies to me that the OP is thinking about moving. If you're going to move, you can save a lot of money by choosing a home close enough to work/school to be able to use public transportation--or walk or ride a bicycle, which is great for your health if you can do it. – dodgethesteamroller Sep 23 '15 at 18:31
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The best option for maximizing your money long-term is to contribute to the 401(k) offered by your employer. If you park your inheritance in a savings account you can draw on it to augment your income while you max out your contributions to the 401(k). You will get whatever the employer matches right off the bat and your gains are tax deferred. In essence you will be putting your inheritance into the 401(k) and forcing your employer to match at whatever rate they do. So if your employer matches at 50 cents on the dollar you will turn your 50 thousand into 75 thousand.

  • 5
    First priority is getting rid of the credit card debt. There is no investment on Earth that reliably brings in a higher return than he's paying in interest. – Mark Sep 23 '15 at 2:47
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    If as Jack suggested, the 401(k) has a dollar for dollar match, that would be higher than the CC rate, and since the OP owes $5K, but is getting $50K, the point is moot. – JoeTaxpayer Sep 23 '15 at 3:48
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    If your employer is matching 50 cents on the dollar then your 401-K is a better place to put your money than paying off credit cards I know of no credit card that charges 50% interest per year. – Jack Swayze Sr Sep 23 '15 at 3:51
  • @JackSwayzeSr The employer doesn't continue to match 50 cents on the dollar every year after the initial deposit is made. Yes, it's good to max out an employer-matched program like this, but don't make it sound better than it really is. – Monty Harder Sep 24 '15 at 20:11
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    If you're 23, you should NOT make 401k contributions while you still have credit card debt. You won't be touching your 401k nest egg for another 36 years, so that 50% from your employer works out to about 1.2% per annum over that period. Unless your 401k is invested in something with a return that comes within 1.2% percent of the interest rate that's incurred by your credit card, (it doesn't), then contributing to it while paying interest on your credit card is foolish. ALWAYS pay off your credit card debt first. – Dawood ibn Kareem Sep 26 '15 at 22:45
4

First of all, I am sorry for your loss. At this time, worrying about money is probably the least of your concerns.

It might be tempting to try to pay off all your debts at once, and while that would be satisfying, it would be a poor investment of your inheritance. When you have debt, you have to think about how much that debt is costing you to keep open. Since you have 0%APR on your student loan, it does not make sense to pay any more than the minimum payments.

You may want to look into getting a personal loan to pay off your other personal debts. The interest rates for a loan will probably be much less than what you are paying currently. This will allow you to put a payment plan together that is affordable. You can also use your inheritance as collateral for the loan. Getting a loan will most likely give you a better credit rating as well.

You may also be tempted to get a brand new sports car, but that would also not be a good idea at all. You should shop for a vehicle based on your current income, and not your savings. I believe you can get the same rates for an auto loan for a car up to 3 years old as a brand new car. It would be worth your while to shop for a quality used car from a reputable dealer. If it is a certified used car, you can usually carry the rest of the new car warranty.

The biggest return on investment you have now is your employer sponsored 401(k) account. Find out how long it takes for you to become fully vested. Being vested means that you can leave your job and keep all of your employer contributions. If possible, max out, or at least contribute as much as you can afford to that fund to get employee matching. You should also stick with your job until you become fully vested.

The money you have in retirement accounts does you no good when you are young. There is a significant penalty for early withdrawal, and that age is currently 59 1/2. Doing the math, it would be around 2052 when you would be able to have access to that money. You should hold onto a certain amount of your money and keep it in a higher interest rate savings account, or a money market account.

You say that your living situation will change in the next year as well. Take full advantage of living as cheaply as you can. Don't make any unnecessary purchases, try to brown bag it to lunch instead of eating out, etc. Save as much as you can and put it into a savings account. You can use that money to put a down payment on a house, or for the security and first month's rent.

Try not to spend any money from your savings, and try to support yourself as best as you can from your income. Make a budget for yourself and figure out how much you can spend every month. Don't factor in your savings into it. Your savings should be treated as an emergency fund.

Since you have just completed school, and this is your first big job out of college, your income will most likely improve with time. It might make sense to job hop a few times to find the right position. You are much more likely to get a higher salary by changing jobs and employers than you are staying in the same one for your entire career. This generally is true, even if you are promoted at the by the same employer. If you do leave your current job, you would lose what your employer contributed if you are not vested. Even if that happened, you would still keep the portion that you contributed.

  • 2
    +1 for recommending low-interest loans for late-model used cars. Spending $3-5K on a 10-year-old economy car, even one with a good reliability record like a Corolla, can be a recipe for disaster if the owner's not mechanically knowledgeable. Not everyone wants to change their own oil let alone do more advanced maintenance. A $10-15K late model used car if chosen well can be nearly 100% reliable, and the loan payments will cost no more than the maintenance costs on the older car would have, amortized. – dodgethesteamroller Sep 23 '15 at 18:19
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    +1 for "You should shop... based on your current income, and not your savings." Apply this to your entire budget, not just your vehicle. Make sure that each month your expenses are less than (or worst case, equal to) your income for the same period. – Dan Henderson Sep 26 '15 at 4:21
3

I'd be tempted to pay off the 35k in student loans immediately, but if you have to owe money, it's hard to beat zero percent. So I don't think I would pay it all off. Maybe cut it in half to make it a more comfortable payment. Currently, you are looking at $6K a year to pay them off, which is about 20% of your income. Cut that in half and you will sleep better!

Definitely pay off the medical and credit cards. You're probably paying 20% on that. Clean it up.

If you need a car, buy yourself a car.

You have no savings, so I would put the rest in some kind of money market savings account. You are at an age where many people go through frequent changes. Maybe you get your own place, and you'll need to furnish it. Maybe you go back to school. Maybe you get married or have kids. Maybe you take a year off and backpack through Europe or Asia. You have a nice little windfall that puts you in a nice position to enjoy being young, so I would not lock it up into a 401k or other long term situation.

  • 2
    Put the $35k for the student loan aside in a savings product of some kind, don't pay the free loan off. You will be able to make several hundred dollars in interest. – rjmunro Sep 24 '15 at 17:22
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Wow, hard to believe not a single answer mentioned investing in one of the best asset classes for tax purposes...real estate. Now, I'm not advising you to rush out and buy an investment property. But rather than just dumping your money into mutual funds...over which you have almost 0 control...buy some books on real estate investing. There are plenty of areas to get into, rehabs, single family housing rentals, multifamily, apartments, mobile home parks...and even some of those can have their own specialties. Learn now!

And yes, you do have some control over real estate...you control where you buy, so you pick your local market...you can always force appreciation by rehabbing...if you rent, you approve your renters. Compared to a mutual fund run by someone you'll never meet, buying stocks in companies you've likely never even heard of...you have far more control.

No matter what area of investing you decide to go into, there is a learning curve...or you will pay a penalty. Go slow, but move forward.

Also, all the advice on using your employer's matching (if available) for 401k should be the easiest first step. How do you turn down free money? Besides, the bottom line on your paycheck may not change as much as you think it might...and when weighed against what you get in return...well worth the time to get it setup and active.

  • 1
    Of course you have control over mutual funds. Just like choosing which house to buy, you can choose which fund to invest in. And while rehabbing a rental can work, you're not going to get very far with 55k, plus, now you're a landlord...which tends to have a lot more overhead than a fund investment does. – DA. Jan 20 '16 at 7:34
  • Really? Sure, you can pick which fund, but that is the end of your control. If you don't like certain stocks in that fund, or how it is run your only option is to change funds entirely. And you can always flip a rehab if needed, becoming a landlord also doesn't have to be a huge time investment, you can use a property management company if you bought right. My point was that no one even mentioned real estate for investing. – Rdster Jan 20 '16 at 11:49
3

Here's what I'd do:

Pay off the cards and medical.

Deposit 35k in the best interest bearing accounts you can find (maybe some sort of ladder). Link your student loans payments to this account. This frees up $486 a month in income, and generates a small amount of interest at the same time.

Now, set up some sort of retirement account. Put $400 a month in it.

This leaves you with $86 a month to use as you please.

You still have $10 000 cash, out of which you could buy an inexpensive used car, and bank some as emergency funds.

-1

I would advise against "wasting" this rare opportunity on mundane things, like by paying off debts or buying toys - You can always pay those from your wages. Plus, you'll inevitably accumulate new debts over time, so debt repayment is an ongoing concern.

This large pile of cash allows you to do things you can't ordinarily do, so use the opportunity to invest. Buy a house, then rent it out. Rent an apartment for yourself. The house rent will pay most (maybe all) of the mortgage, plus the mortgage interest is tax-deductible, so you get a lower tax bill. And houses appreciate over time, so that's an added bonus.

When you get married, and start a family, you'll have a house ready for you, partially paid off with other people's money.

  • First, OP hasn't visited since posting, so we're not likely to get any more details. Your answer is interesting, but may not even be possible for him. Real Estate is not homogeneous within the US. If he lives in an area where starter homes are over $250K, he's not going to get financing. And he'd have no safety net. In other places, a duplex, with him living in one unit, might actually make sense. Investing in RE is passive for taxes, but can require a lot of work in real life. Overall, not good advice for OP. – JoeTaxpayer Sep 29 '15 at 18:27
  • Even in Los Angeles, you can find starter houses for 250k. With a 20% downpayment, and a 33k/year job, why wouldn't he qualify for a loan? Also, why would he have no safety net? Despite the required work, RE is the safest form of investment, especially for someone with no investment knowledge. – alekop Sep 29 '15 at 18:38
  • Because he has no savings? 20% = $50,000. He only has this $50K. Closing costs can run over $5K. Say he gets this house, finds a great tenant who moves in the day he closes, and then there's a $5000 expense. Where does he get the money? – JoeTaxpayer Sep 29 '15 at 18:41
  • My bad on the 25% figure, I update the comment. As for maintenance, he has a job. He can take out a home equity line of credit. He can use his existing credit cards. And while we don't know where he lives, there are many areas in the US where a single family house can be cashflow-positive, so that's another source of income. – alekop Sep 29 '15 at 18:49
  • I understand. You can find areas where this will work, and there are areas it really doesn't. My real issue is the unknown rental situation he alluded to. He's been paying no rent, saved nothing, and will have this expense coming soon. Where does that rent money come from? (And again, all rhetorical, OP not returned) – JoeTaxpayer Sep 29 '15 at 18:57
-2

I would be realistic and recognize that however you invest this money, it is unlikely to be a life-changing sum. It is not going to provide an income which significantly affects your monthly budget, nor is it going to grow to some large amount which will allow you to live rent-free or similar. Therefore my advice is quite different to every other answer so far. If I was you, I would:

  • Pay off the credit card and healthcare debts.
  • Buy a reasonably priced used car, looking for one which will be reliable and low maintenance.
  • Put three months' salary (after tax) in an instant access savings account, to get you through an emergency.
  • Don't touch the student debt - it is enforced saving for the future. Not only are you not paying any interest, you are probably obliged to pay something off each month. If you paid it off in one go, the extra dollars in your paycheck might get spent on nothing much very worthwhile.

I reckon this might get you through half the money. Take the other $25,000 and go travelling. Plan a trip to Europe, South America, Asia or Australia. Ask your job for 3 or 6 months off, and quit it they won't give it you. Find a few places which you would really like to visit, and schedule around them a lot of time to go where you want. Book your flights in advance, or book one way, and put aside enough money for the return when you know where you'll be coming back from.

Stay in hostels, a tent or cheap AirBnB. Make sure you have a chance to meet other people, especially other people who are travelling around. Figure out in advance how much it will cost you a day to live basically, and budget for a few beers/restaurants/cinema/concert tickets/drugs/whatever you do to have fun.

It's really easy nowadays to go all sorts of places, and be very spontaneous about what you want to do next. You will find that everywhere in the world is different, all people have something unusual about them, and everywhere is interesting. You will meet some great people and probably become both more independent and better at making friends with strangers.

Your friends in other countries could stay friends for life. The first time you see Rome, the Great Barrier Reef, the Panama canal or the Tokyo fish market will be with you forever. You have plenty of years to fill up your 401K. You won't have the energy, fearlessness and openmindedness of a 23 year old forever. Go for it.

  • If the OP leaves the student debt alone and then blows the money on a vacation, how is that "enforced saving for the future"? That's not saving; that's borrowing from your future to pay for a vacation now. – Ben Miller Sep 24 '15 at 23:57
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    There's a big difference between a cheap diversion and a vacation around the world. That having been said, I don't buy lottery tickets, and I don't go on $25k vacations, either. To each his own. – Ben Miller Sep 25 '15 at 11:01
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    It looks like this doesn't take into account everything the OP posted about his situation. He has lasting financial changes coming his way that may mean he either needs to find a new job, or use the money he has inherited to pay off debt/keep him above water. To make this a good answer, I think you need to add what you think about that part of his situation and possibly qualify your recommendation based upon those thoughts. (Or to put it another way, explain how he should prepare for post-vacation life, given that he has significant financial changes coming.) – malachi1990 Sep 25 '15 at 17:07
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    Welcome to Money.SE. This is awful advice. OP has debt to repay, at a rate of $6K per year, and a rent payment coming up soon. There is a not so small chance that once paying rent, he's in a situation where he can barely make ends meet. Spend half on a vacation that only a 1%er can afford? This is why lottery winners, on average, go broke before 5 years have passed. – JoeTaxpayer Sep 29 '15 at 15:14
  • 1
    While I agree that this isn't great financial advice, it's not the worse life advice. – DA. Jan 20 '16 at 7:39

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