Expert: 5 Common Money Mistakes — And How To Fix Them

8.16 Money Matters

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Chances are, you did not win the 337-Million Powerball Jackpot.

But stretching your dollars with these tips can help make the money you do have work harder for you.

Carmen Wong Ulrich, finance expert and author of The Real Cost of Living, sat down with TV-55’s John Elliott and Lisa Kerney to answer the 5 big questions people have about money

Where is the safest place to put your money?

Always the bank, said Ulrich. Pick between a checking or savings account, depending on what your plans are for your funds. In terms of investing, “if you want a return, you’re going to have a little bit of a risk,” Ulrich said.

Either way, she said, “you want to make sure you are not putting the money under the couch.” Fire and burglars could take away your life savings in an instant.

Where can I put my cash?

Inflation can cut the value off your cash 2 to 3 percent a year. But UIrich said cash is still the best form of emergency funds, over a credit card.

“Think of it as a lesser of two evils. What happens if that income goes away? What are you going to use? The money that’s shrinking a little bit every year, or a credit card, which is on average 14%,” explained Ulrich. “Keep that emergency fund in cash.

And if you want to make sure you keep earning on that cash, she says to shop around. Shoot for 1 percent from places like bankrate.com, or go to a credit union.

Is it smart to pay your mortgage off early?

The answer to this question depends on personal factors. Saving for retirement, paying of credit card bills and addressing high-interest debt should come first, especially if you have a mortgage with a low interest rate.

“If you’re all set on all those other fronts, then repay your mortgage,” said Ulrich.

What is the best way to save for college?

“Early and often,” said Ulrich. “But 529s are great.”

529s are educational savings plan operated through the state or an educational institution. They were created in 1996 to allow parents to better utilize the money they save for their children’s tuition. When you use a 529, you the money you are saving can grow.

“You can invest it, tax-free for educational means,” said Ulrich.

How much is enough when saving for retirement?

“That magic number—it doesn’t exist,” said Ulrich.

Again, she said, a safe amount for retirement depends on a number of factors, including if a person plans to rent a home, own a home, take care of aging parents or support their own children.

One website that can help suggest an appropriate number is AARP.org. Ulrich said it offers a calculator that takes all of these factors into account and offers a general number value.

For more advice from Ulrich, watch the full interview below.