I need financial advice
I was hoping to get some financial advise. I have a couple of decisions to make, and I want to be sure that I take the best route possible.
First, a little background. I'm 23 years old, and I live in Florida. I'm not married, nor do I have any dependents. I have an Economics degree from the University of Chicago, which was very expensive. As a result, I have about $15,000 in student loans. I consolidated them in 2004 so I'm paying about 2.8% interest. I owe about $10,000 on a car, with a 5.6% interest rate. I pay about $300 a month. I also pay $800 a month for rent. It's actually quite reasonable for where I live, and utilities are included.
I also have a large credit card debt. I've had credit cards since I was 18 and I've never carried debt month to month, but I ran into a few emergencies in the last year, and, well, you know the story. I owe about $10,000. I found a credit card that gives me a 0% APR on my balance transfer amount for life, as long as I make two charges a month on it (anything over $1). I'm going to do that, so I won't need to pay interest on the $10,000. I no longer add to that balance. All current purchases are made via a debit card.
Here's where my problem is. I only make about $35,000 a year. I'm able to pay my rent, car, student loans and misc expenses and about $500 towards my credit card balance each month. This doesn't leave me much money left over for savings or investments. My company offers a 401K, but they don't match it. I haven't signed up for it yet because of my debt.
I anticipate my income to go up steadily over the next few years. My question is what to pay off first. I was originally going to focus on my credit card, but if I have no interest, the incentive goes down a little. At this point, it looks like extra money would best go to my car payment. My student loan interest rate is so low that I may not pay ahead, just for the credit score boost. By the way, my credit is good. It's about 740.
I also need to start saving. Real estate is finally going down in my area and I'm looking to possibly buy in a few years. I only have about $1000 in savings right now. I would also like to start doing a 401K and a roth IRA, among other investments. I just don't have the cash flow right now.
What do you think would be the best long-term strategy? Focus on paying off debts, or make minimum payments and focus on saving/investing? I always thought it would be best just to pay off as much debt as quickly as possible, but if I find a great deal on a house, for example, I won't be able to do anything about it. And if I were to find myself unemployed, I wouldn't have anything to live on more than a month or so.
Please let me know any advice that you have. I want to get in the best financial shape possible before I start thinking about marriage/kids. Thanks!