At long last the nest is empty. Parents feel a bit of emotional pain but excitement about having a little more cash in their pocket.

Do they spend it or save it for retirement? According to new research from the Center for Retirement, households save only slightly more in their 401(k) when kids leave. They spend most of the newfound slack in their budget.

What are the best uses for that money?

  • Hit the reset button

“Before you book that trip to Bali, or rush to the mall, consider how that extra money can actually grow and pay you back for years to come. It might not sound exciting, but investing is a smarter option,” says Elle Kaplan, CEO of Lexion Capital in Manhattan. She suggests a Roth IRA. Your money is taxed now and can grow and be withdrawn without any more taxes.

  • Play catch up

Many parents put their kids’ needs first. “Now, it’s time to play catch up,” says Jason Hill, president of Client Focused Advisors in Westbury. After 50, you can increase your 401(k) contributions by $6,000 annually.

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  • Be strategic

Pay off credit card debt, create a bigger emergency fund, put extra cash toward the mortgage, and, says Neal Frankle, a certified financial planner with Wealth Resources Group in Westlake Village, California, “Take a portion to do whatever you like.”