EFund+invest vs debt for a newly high earner?

I’m (22F) graduating soon (woot!) and headed into a pretty well-paying job. My partner (25M) is already working. We are comfortable with our current spend per month, and I’ve calculated that with the new job (after health insurance) we’ll have about $6000/mo left over after our usual spend (i.e. avg spending per Mint including bills, food, misc shopping, etc). We’ve been married for 3 years and have spent about 1.5 in our current apartment, so we’re pretty confident spend will stay around the same.


$6k/mo after average expenses (NOT bare-bones, maximally frugal expenses). This assumes both our retirement contributions stay at 0.

$30k sign-on bonus.

Around $62k in debt after my graduation. $24k of this is a car loan at 2.95% interest. The rest is federal student loans at 2.75-4.53% interest, and a modest amount of credit card debt (under $5k).

Total credit limits are around $50k.

Current EFund at $0 (was $10k but freak accident happened).

Husband’s 401k at $2.4k, not contributing currently.

It’s not currently feasible to build an emergency fund, since my student loans fund part of our living expenses (i.e. we spend a tad more than my husband earns).

I start in July.

Husband works from home, so we won’t need a 2nd car unless he gets a new job (which he wouldn’t take unless the raise justified a second car).

Not planning on children for at least 4-5 years, would like to travel.

A nice house in our area runs around $600-750k.


What I’m considering doing is holding off on all retirement contributions and savings until the end of 2022. With a $6k/mo surplus July-Dec and a $30k sign-on post-tax, we should be able to be debt-free by the end of the year. My logic is that since I have access to $50k in credit and a large cash flow, any emergency could be paid and held on credit for two months maximum. Our health insurance and car insurance deductibles are under $6k combined, and the car is 2021 (it’s a plug-in, so with federal and state rebates we’d have had to get a 2016 for it to be cheaper used) so large maintenence isn’t likely.

I’d pay off the CC debt first, then car to increase cashflow, then tackle the student loans (I may be able to knock most of these out before my first payment is due since I have 6 month grace period post-grad).

After 2022, we could kick retirement contributions for me up to company match (husband has access to a 401k but no match), fill emergency fund (my target is around $30k for 6 months of necessity-only expenses), then start funding either a different high yield savings account if I wanted to burn hard toward a house downpayment, or index funds (or some mix of the two).

The problems I see with this plan are not having an emergency fund for another year, not getting the company match on my 401k for 6 months, and not contributing to my husband’s 401k at all for a few years in favor of house downpayment and index funds due to our age and risk tolerance. Also the general strategy… being debt-free is cool and all but the vast majority of our debt is under 4% interest. Exactly how much more optimal is it to pay this off over a much longer period of time and invest instead?

In my head, the goal is be debt-free by the end of 2022 and hit $100k net worth by the end of 2023 (I get about $50k pre-tax in stocks every year, starting July 2023). But I’m wondering if y’all have a better idea.

Happy New Year and thanks for reading!