If you’ve served in a COVID unit as a travel nurse, you’ve probably enjoyed the hefty boost to your earnings over the past year. While travel nursing is already one of the profession’s more lucrative career paths, the pandemic has increased demand — and therefore pay — for those nurses who have stepped up to do battle on the front lines.

    But when the crisis is finally over, and your compensation returns to more normal levels, will you be ahead or behind in meeting your personal financial goals?

    If you haven’t been setting aside a significant portion of your pandemic salary for the future, it’s not too late to start. If your budget permits, try to stick with your pre-COVID income spending and allocation levels, while setting aside as much of the added income as possible for your future. Here are a five ways to put that money toward your future:

    1. As no one can predict when the next pandemic, weather disaster, or personal crisis will strike, personal finance guru Suze Orman recommends you set up an emergency fund of at least eight to 12 months of living expenses. This is the best way to cope with future uncertainty.
    2. Upping your contribution to your 401(k) or other retirement vehicle is also a good idea. Obviously, the more money you can set aside now, the more time it will have to grow until your retirement.
    3. Now is an excellent time to pay down credit card or student loan debt, mortgage or car loans, or other high-interest obligations, and defer spending on new big-ticket purchases until you’ve built up a generous reserve. And don’t just pay the interest on those loans; chipping away at the principal is the only way to make the debt burden go away for good.
    4. If you think you’ll be needing cash in the next couple of years, perhaps for some remodeling work on your house or even a well-deserved vacation, set up a dedicated add-on CD and pay into it monthly. When the fund’s maturity date arrives, you’ll have a good chunk of the money you need for that expenditure.
    5. And remember, education is also an investment. If you’ve been thinking of getting a second degree or adding new skills to your professional portfolio, using some of that money for furthering your education is likely to pay off handsomely down the road. You can also set up or increase your contribution to a 529 plan for your child’s eventual college tuition. Either way, it will be money well spent.

    However you decide to use that extra money, the most important thing, or so say all financial advisors, is to have a plan for how to spend, save and invest your recent earning, and then stick to that plan even when your post-pandemic paycheck returns to “normal.”

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