Ask the Readers: What Is Your Top Financial Priority?

By Ashley Jacobs on 24 September 2013 80 comments

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Melissa, Mary, and Lori for winning this week's contest!

Most of us have several different financial goals, and the way we handle our money will vary depending on which goal we think is most important. For some people, it could be paying off student loans, credit card debt, a mortgage, or paying rent. Others might focus on saving up for retirement or a child's college fund.

What is your top financial priority? Why? How do you manage your money to reflect your financial priorities?

Tell us about your top financial priority and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Guest's picture

Paying off Student Debt!

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Mary Happymommy

Our top priority is paying debt down.

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My TOP financial priority is to pay off my mortgage ASAP.

Right now, I've planned to pay it off in 14 years but I keep budgeting to cut my costs and put all extra money (except for my emergency fund) on my mortgage. I've prioritized my mortgage my cutting my monthly costs and only buying what I need.

It's not always easy and we all have our vices but so far, it's working for me! I also write about paying off my mortgage and read other personal finance blogs about paying off the mortgage early. Both of these inspire to me keep at my goal, even though it will take YEARS!

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Betty D.

Hopefully, I have nine more years until retirement. My top priority is to save for a home. I've been a renter my whole life, and would like something that is paid off to live in.

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My financial priority is to pare down on my annual expenses and improve my retirement savings strategy. I'm 34 years old and began my retirement savings with my first on-campus college job. I tried to max out my IRA contributions each year, and in doing so created a small nest egg with the bonus of developing a good relationship with my investment banker. I still use this banker today, and he's seen me graduate, get my first job, etc. Although I've moved across the country, he still checks in with me several times each year, and continues to guide me through the uncertainties of economic changes. This year I checked in with him early on and requested his professional advice on improving my retirement strategy. It was an eye-opener.
Each year, I begin to look at next year's budget based on the current year's expenses. How much were my essential expenses like insurance, housing, transportation, etc. What were my big ticket items? How much was spent on the "I Want" category vs. "I Need" category? How much did I manage to save? Although I'm sure other people can do this faster, I take my time - months in advance as I do a self-analysis, check for better rates and deals, and re-arrange my finances to prepare for January 1st. The toughest part for me in the process is the self-analysis - it can be rather painful. Excel is my go-to software, as it's widely available and completely customizable. Once expenses are organized by list/category and even charted, you will be able to get a clearer picture of where your money is really going.

Guest's picture

I think I would have to say right now our top priority is pay all the bills, save what we can, but saving for our family trips is a huge priority for me. Our kids learn SO much on our trips, I can't wait to take them to Europe in a few years!! (Almost done saving for that !! :D

Guest's picture

Pay off our mortgage. Then, with the cash flow, fully fund our retirement accounts and save for a new rental property.

Good luck to all with their goals!

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Carolyn Knoll

My top financial priority is making sure I have enough money to retire comfortably but to do so without stressing about it and while enjoying my life before retirement. I hope to retire next year.

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Currently my top financial priority is to save enough money for a house of my own. Basically my money reflects this by having a CD ladder already setup for an emergency and maxing out my retirement accounts each year. That leave money in my general back accounts to be allocated towards the house goal.

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Our current financial priority is to get out of the credit card debt we recently stumbled upon. Once we do that, we will be back to focusing on living within our means and paying off our vehicles.

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My top financial priority right now is to begin building an emergency fund of 3-6 months income. as a single mom with 3 teenage daughters, emergencies ALWAYS happen!

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Kyle Morosko

Paying off federal student loans and building an emergency fund!

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Holly S

My top priority right now is to pay off all my non-mortgage debts. I have two teenage boys and I want to be in a better position to be able to help with their college costs, something that won't be possible if I am spending so much on credit card debt.

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My top financial priority is to pay off my student loans! Starting with the $45k in private loans, then moving on to tackle at least one of the $75k federal loans before buying a home.

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At the moment, our top (biggest) long term priority is for a house; we're nearly cashflowing the cost of a wedding this year!

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Sue Charboneau

Many bumps in the road, and a few detours. We are getting serious about retirement.
Husband retires in 5 yrs. We will still have to work
To work to pay medical insurance. But our
Goal is to have our new house we are getting paid off in 6 yrs, Lord willing.
We have my 83yr old Father living with us now, as Mom has pasted.
Two children in College,(local,we pay). They both work and pay living expenses.
And our Son that is married, just gave us our first Grandson! We know with tightening our belts and hard work we can do this.

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I want to sell my Camry and get a Corolla to save on gas!

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Ernest S.

My biggest priority is building an emergency savings fund which equals about 3 months worth of pay. I feel like having that buffer give me peace of mind, as well as financial freedom!

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Maria S

Saving for retirement!

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Dan Cain

Our top financial priority was paying off our house - this happened in June (woohoo!) so now we're focusing on saving for retirement. We're doing this by putting $800 in our budget and then in a separate account each month when I get paid. At the end of the year we'll transfer that money to our Roth IRAs. This is our top priority because my work doesn't have a retirement program and my wife is a full-time mom so if we want to have something when our working years are done, we have to get on it!

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My top priority right now is increasing my emergency and short-term savings amounts.

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My top financial priority is becoming debt free. I have a car loan and student loans, and I'm working on paying off my student loans ASAP. Every free penny I come across goes towards getting rid of them! After that, I'm paying off the car, then saving everything I can for retirement.

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Kimberly B

Rebuilding my emergency savings ,after six months of unemployment!

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saving up for a home!

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Karen L.

My top priority is making sure I have saved enough for retirement.

Tweeted here:

Guest's picture

Getting out of debt. All of my money is directed toward paying down bills. Once I'm debt free I can focus on important things like setting up an emergency fund and planning for retirement.

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Paying off our house and student loans so that we can travel more!

Guest's picture

Top Financial Priority = Spending less than I make, and because I am not making enough, find ways to spend less and make more. So, I bicycle to a co-work space where I am building a consulting business seven days a week - and making progress. At this pace of business growth I'll be able to pay all of my bills by 2015. Frugality makes it much more likely - and luckily, I like to bicycle and know the value of good rain gear. (Hey, I live on an island north of Seattle. It rains here.)

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My top priority is saving for retirement

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My top priority is saving for an enjoyable retirement

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I have been paying off debt for 5 years, it will be gone in 6 months if all goes well. Then I will focus on college savings for kids and bumping up emergency savings from 3 months to 6 months.

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Melissa Hansson

Right now are top goal is finishing our house without going into debt to do it! That means prioritizing materials & manpower over fun shopping.

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Debbie M

Top priority: I guess I'd say maximizing my retirement income.

Why: So I can have more flexibility.

Money management: Right now that means job hunting, studying hard for my tax prep class, and finding (and trying out) more frugal ways to meet my needs and want.

Guest's picture

Definitely student debt. I look forward to reallocating my money to extra mortgage payments, retirement savings and savings for a wedding and future children when those loans are paid off!

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Paying off credit cards! I recently got a new job and have been working more hours to earn more money to put toward the debt.

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To be debt-free!

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Rebecca B. A. R.

Right now it is to have enough money to pay our bills and not running out of money before our next paycheck. My goal in the future is to pay off all of our school and mortgage debt, and to be able to fix everything that needs fixed with our house and cars.

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Right now our financial priority is lowering all expenses we can to save cash for home renovations.

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One year's worth of expenses saved in emergency fund. House is paid for. 529 has enough to pay for 4 years expected cost at a state university. We also have extra money set aside for graduate school. So, our top priority is retirement savings. It has always been a top priority, it is just our number one priority now. We are on-track to retire in 10 years or less. My wife is pushing for less.

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Jennifer Marie

Our top priority is to save for a house

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We're saving for a down payment. Lofty goal these days!

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My top financial priority is to build enough of a cushion so that we can take advantage of opportunities in life, whether that is education, investment or something else. By living below our means; budgeting for savings, retirement, and expenses; taking advantage of budget billing for utilities; and looking for opportunities to spend less on what we already buy, we can put extra money toward the mortgage and 529s and retirement so that we can be debt free, our kids can have opportunities, and we can get to some form of retirement.

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To not die poor.

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Paying off our credit card and increasing our savings and college funds four our 1 yr old twins. I've become a SAHM since the babies were born last summer and have been struggling with the culture shock of living on one salary. Savings are for a down payment on a new house (currently renting) but the biggest deal is how to KEEP the credit card balance at zero and still feed and clothe and have some kind of Christmas and birthdays, vacation (?!)... Not used to the debt and don't want to become accustomed to it!

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my top priority is to save enough money to start a family and buy a house

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Retirment is my top financial priority. I would like to enjoy life and volunteer in my community, so I want to be able to walk away from my job knowing that I will be ok. I have a IRA, a 403B and I am also putting away money into CDs and a savings account.

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Inge Hejlskov

Save, save, save so I can get new windows and a new bathroom. Pay of my mortgage, all while applying for a job

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Paying down debt and then financial independence. Taking the long term approach by optimizing monthly expenses one at a time. Switched from costly data plan to Ting. Got a great deal on a leased Nissan Leaf which after tax credits and gas savings actually puts money in our account every month compared to the older car we are selling. And so on and so on...

Guest's picture

My top five priorities, in order, but not entirely distinct are:

1. Finding effective ways to stick to my budget each month
2. Saving for retirement
3. Paying for my girls' college funds
4. Paying off my mortgage
5. Saving for a new car

Guest's picture

Paying off the rest of my CC debt and then setting aside about $200/month to do some fun blessing of people with that money. I really want to help out some community members that are struggling. I really want to do this anomalously. What FUN it will be to help out neighbors, and family without them knowing it is coming from me.

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Paying off my mortgage

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Joseph S.

My financial priority is saving enough money to be able to cut back to part-time employment in 20 years!

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Save for retirement or future grad school!

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My top financial priority is to have a paid off mortgage in the next 10 years.

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Saving! I want to save for a car, trip to Italy and a pending move!

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pay for my daughter's college education

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Mary C

Paying off my Student Loans! I'm 10k down, 39k to go!

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Paying down debt!!!!

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Our top financial priority right now is increasing income. My husband was laid off, and I am starting a new business venture to try to pay our bills. Once we earn more than our monthly bills total, we will be working on paying off my student loans.

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My top goal is to pay off my law school debt by the end of 2014.

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Saving for retirement.

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My financial priorities are to get in charge of my spending and be more assertive about discounts or funny prices when buying.

For example, chicken breasts were BOGO free at our usual grocery store. They had taken away the price on the chicken, so I assumed it was the usual price (6.99/bag). That was my first mistake. At the register, the price for 1 bag came up $12.99. I should have just told the cashier that I didn't want them, since I wasn't saving any money, but I was too embarrassed and didn't want to hold up the line. I went to the customer service and they said I couldn't return them and couldn't do anything for me, even when I showed them the receipt from the week before that had the chicken for cheaper. If I had been more assertive with the cashier, I could have not gotten the chicken at all.

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Vee Nicholette

My top priority is eliminating any & all debt in my life. I have a personal loan from last year & I'm on a payment plan with IRS for back taxes. Eliminating this debt is important to me because not only is it stressful to have but the interest rates on both are OUT OF THIS WORLD.

To accomplish being debt free by February 2014 (my personal goal) I only buy what I can afford to pay in cash. I also cut back on eating out & going to bar for the drinks. Nothing wrong with cooking my own dinner & having friends over my place instead. I still go out and enjoy myself just not every weekend. Plenty of fun free options available.

So far so good!

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Kristine R.

Saving money for home repairs.

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My top financial priority is giving back to God out of what He's blessed me with. Before paying any bills, I set aside 10% for my local church, and also a monthly allotment for the children I sponsor through Compassion International. After that, my priority is the basics - food, housing, etc. I do think it's important to have an emergency fund, too!

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Alissa A

My top financial priority is saving for retirement as much as I can now so I have a comfortable living later.

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Our top financial priority right now is to pay off some medical debts and the car loan so that we can start saving to get a house!
We're trying to find extra ways to make money, watch the budget carefully, and do what we can to throw money at it. Every bit helps.

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Our priority is paying down our debts. We hopefully only have a year left until we'll simply be paying bills like electric or cable. After that, I'm hoping to roll the savings into land payment and a new car fund for hubby.

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A Fun Mom

I just made my top goal to be debt-free except for my house. Yeah!!!! Now my goal is to pay off the house in 10 years or less instead of the remanding 27 Years.

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Making my student loan payments!

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Amanda H

My top priority is putting some money into savings every related to that, not blowing our budget. :-P Sorry, clearance endcaps at Target.

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As a single girl 32 year old, I want to make sure that i have enough savings in my retirement. I know if that aligns, I will be able to raise a family as there are always ways to feed people for a certain price (in a healthy way) but if you do not prepare for the time when you are unable to work, you will regret till the end of life.

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Retirement savings top the list--but lately we've been encouraging the kids to pick up the coins they find and put those in their college funds.

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Laura J

Right now, my top priority is to try to reduce our monthly that we are not barely making it thru each month. I would love to be able to start a savings to cover unexpected things!

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Thrifty Writer

First goal is to save at least six months of living expenses - I'm about halfway there.
Second goal is save enough money for a vacation to remember that I'm planning for next summer.
Third goal is to eliminate unnecessary expenses, starting with cable TV and getting rid of a few other subscription services I don't use enough to justify.
Fourth goal is to come up with one or two side income streams that would help with all of the above.
There are more, but thanks for asking the question, made me think and write down some answers!

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Happy Love

Our top priority is staying out of debt (credit cards, etc.).

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My top financial priority is paying off credit card debt.

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Tabathia B

Paying off debt, I still have old college loans and trying to keep rent and utilities current

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My top financial priority is saving up for retirement. We already have a emergency fund and the girls college fund set up.

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Our priority is to pay off all unsecured debt