- pay off all high-interest credit-card balances;
- build up emergency savings to cover six months of living expenses if you lose your job or suffer some other serious setback;
- make sufficient annual contributions to 529 plans or other college-savings vehicles to cover your or any dependents' future educational expenses;
- make the maximum allowable contribution each year to your and your spouse's 401(k) and individual retirement accounts. For most married couples, that means putting $17,500 into each spouse's 401(k) and another $5,000 into each person's IRA (the maximum the Internal Revenue Service will allow as of 2013). People age 50 or older can also add another $1,000 "catch-up" IRA contribution, and sometimes put an extra $5,500 into 401(k)s.
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