Finding a balance between saving and investing your money can help you build a stronger financial future, no matter what your goals are. Whether you’re working towards a down payment on a home or saving for retirement, having a good savings and investment strategy can help you pave the way to financial success. If you’re intimidated by the idea of investing, you aren’t alone. Business Insider estimates that as many as 24% of all Americans are too intimidated to invest their money out of fear of losing it. Investing doesn’t have to be high risk in order to pay off in the long term, however. Plus, you don’t need to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars to get started. Read on to find out more about when to save your money and when to invest it.

When to prioritize savings. Before you jump headfirst into investing your money, it’s wise to assess your finances first and make sure you’ve got a solid savings foundation to build on. Here are a couple things to consider.

1. Create an emergency fund. Some financial experts recommend starting with a minimum of $500-$1,000 set aside in an easily accessible account in the event that you encounter an unforeseen life event, such as a major repair or medical expense. You should work to achieve this amount prior to investing in your future. However, once you’re on your way to securing the ultimate savings recommendation, 3-6 months living expenses, it’s time to also start investing.

2. Are you saving for a major purchase in the near future? If you’ve got cash set aside for a vehicle or home down payment or other major purchase within the next few years, tying it up in investments might not be a wise move. Investments work best long term, so keeping your short-term funds in an accessible savings account is a better choice.

3. Assess your debt and financial obligations. If you’re saddled with a large amount of debt, particularly high interest debt, it’s wise to focus on paying down your debt until you work yourself into a less financially precarious situation. One way you can do this is by working on your highest interest debt first by paying more than the monthly minimums. By paying more than the monthly minimum you’ll avoid paying more in interest over time, which can help you pay off debt quicker. Finding ways to cut spending can help free up cash to pay off debt and save more. Paying attention to how you are spending money each month and setting a budget are two solid ways to get your spending under control.

Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) is a great place to start regardless of where you are in your savings journey. NFCU’s Basic Savings Account is great for beginner savers or as a place to stow away your emergency funds. A basic account earns 0.25% Annual Percentage Yield (APY), and you only need to maintain a $5 balance in order to earn dividends. You have the option to name multiple savings accounts if you want to keep your emergency funds separate from your regular savings, or create savings for your children, for example. If you’re able to maintain a balance of $2,500 or more in your savings, opening a Money Market Savings Account (MMSA) might be a better option for you. With a MMSA account you can earn higher dividends than with a standard savings account.

NFCU also offers certificates with market-leading rates* and a variety of term lengths. Certificates allow you to put away a certain amount of money for a given time in return for a higher return rate. These are a great way to secure long-term savings without the risk of investing. Certificates typically earn higher rates than savings accounts. Please note however, there could potentially be penalties and/or fees associated with withdrawing money from a certificate before the maturity date.

Set Your Future Up For Success: Save & Invest

When to prioritize investing. Although investing comes with some risk, it doesn’t have to feel like a high-stakes gamble. If you’ve got stable income and an emergency fund, you may be ready to start your investment journey. Here are a couple signs that indicate it’s the right time to invest.

1.  You have long-term financial goals. Most low to moderate risk investments aren’t going to immediately pay off, so if you’ve got time on your hands, investing is the way to go. You can invest to help build your retirement savings, create a college fund, or save for an event or purchase more than five years down the road.

2. You’re financially stable. If you’ve got some flexibility built into your spending each month and aren’t looking at any major changes to your current financial situation in the next few years, it’s wise to capitalize on that freedom and start investing to build wealth long-term.

3. You recently received a significant amount of money. Though it’s not an incredibly common occurrence, you may find yourself with a large amount of money on your hands, whether from an inheritance, the sale of a home, or other fortuitous circumstance. If you’re not planning on using those funds for a major purchase in the next few years, why not invest and put your money to work?

4. You have an employer sponsored retirement plan. If your employer offers a contribution-matching retirement plan, you’ll definitely want to capitalize on this. Some employees may worry that they don’t make enough to contribute to one of these kinds of plans. Doing so will essentially get you “free” money from your employer if they match your contributions, usually up to a certain percent of your monthly paycheck. This is a simple way to invest in your future wealth.

Navy Federal Investing Services makes it easy to get started, regardless of your familiarity or comfort level with investing. Their Digital Investor takes the guesswork out of investing. If you want more control over your investment portfolio, self-directed investing is the way to go. Self-directed investing is for people at all experience levels. If you prefer a hands-off approach, NFIS’ automated investing feature helps capture your financial goals and tailor a portfolio to your needs, complete with automatic rebalancing on at least a quarterly basis. With NFIS there’s no minimum investment requirement, and you only pay $3.50 a month for their automated or self-directed options ($2.50 if you have an Active Duty Checking account) for up to 2,000 shares each month**. If you’re looking for an even more personalized approach to investing and building your financial future, NFIS has experienced financial advisors across the country.

Finding a balance between saving your money and building investments for your future doesn’t have to feel like rocket science (unless you’re a rocket scientist and that’s all in a day’s work for you). Navy Federal makes it simple for their members to build savings and help take the intimidation factor out of investing. Once you find your balance you’re well on your way to a bright financial future.

*Based on the results of Navy Federal’s 2020 Member Giveback Study: an internal comparative market analysis of loan and deposit account rates compared to the national average for similar products.

**Self-directed investing includes commission-free trades for up to 2,000 shares per month. Any additional shares traded are charged a $0.01 per share fee.

Savings products are insured by NCUA. Investment options are available through Navy Federal Investment Services and are not insured by NCUA.

This article was sponsored by Navy Federal Credit Union.