Smart financial moves for every age
Wherever you are in life's journey, you can take financial steps to help you live the life you want. Financial wellness and planning should be a goal throughout adulthood, not just a way to reach retirement with a certain amount of assets.
Keep in mind that at every stage, it makes sense to work with a financial advisor. Professional guidance can help you steer clear of common pitfalls and reach important milestones.
Ages 25-35: Establish good financial habits
In your mid-twenties and early thirties, you might be embarking on a career, putting down roots in a home, starting a family, or all the above. The financial choices you make now can have lasting effects decades into the future.
- Start saving for retirement. Leverage the power of compound interest by beginning your retirement account now. Take advantage of an employer match for your 401(k). Aim to have twice your annual salary set aside by age 35.
- Budget. Track money coming in and going out, and plan how to pay for essentials, like rent and food, and big-ticket items, like vacations.
- Buy renters and life insurance. Renters insurance protects your living space, and life insurance offers a safety net to anyone who depends on your income.
- Work toward a house. If being a homeowner is one of your goals, begin saving now so you can afford 20% of the purchase price for a deposit. Putting down 20% will help you avoid paying PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) Once you're in your home, expect to pay 1% of the purchase price per year for repairs and maintenance.
Ages 36-45: Get into a groove managing your money
Now that you've been working for a few years, you might have more money coming in – but expenses could also be higher with the addition of a house and kids. With so much to prioritize, you'll benefit from the good habits you created earlier. They will help you make prudent choices automatically.
- Grow your retirement fund. Now that you're making more at work, try to earmark 15% of your annual income for your post-working years.
- Set up 529s for college savings. If you have kids, divert money each month into their 529 accounts. With 10 years before college, you'll need to save $322 per month per child to fund a 4-year public university education.
- Prioritize an emergency fund. Aim for a fund of three to six months of expenses (not income).
- Buy disability insurance, which will cover your expenses if you become sick or injured. The Social Security Administration estimates that one in four people will become disabled at some point before retirement.
Ages 46-55: Commit yourself to saving
In this decade, retirement still feels distant, and you might be itching to let go a little. But remember that your commitment to financial health keeps stress at bay and provides stability for you and your family.
- Beware of lifestyle creep. You might have more cash now, but be careful not to compromise your priorities by spending more on a bigger home, nicer car, and fancier vacations. Stay focused on meeting your goals first.
- Draw up a will or trust. Make sure your assets will be distributed in the way you want and that your spouse, children, and grandchildren will be taken care of.
- Take advantage of retirement catch-up rules. At age 50, you can increase the amount you invest in your IRA or 401(k).
- Check in with your parents. Determine where Mom and Dad are with their finances and whether they will need your help covering expenses in the future.
Ages 56-64: Hit the home stretch in retirement planning
You're likely still working as you hit your sixties, but hopefully, retirement is within sight. Pay attention to the pre-retirement actions that will make your golden years even better.
- Consider a senior checking account. Some banks offer special accounts for customers 55 and older. Features vary but can include fee waivers and free checks.
- Purchase long-term care insurance. This type of insurance can help defray the cost of a nursing home stay, which can run to over $100,000 per year. Shop for a policy around age 55 for a couple and 60 for a single person.
- Pay down debt. Before retirement, make an effort to pay off your credit cards, your car, and even your house.
- Downsize. Have the kids left the nest? It might be time to cut costs by moving to a smaller home or selling one of your cars.
Ages 65+: Reap the rewards
A lifetime of fiscal responsibility finally pays off when you're able to fund your retirement and live the lifestyle you've earned.
- Time for Medicare. Check with medicare.gov for exactly when to sign up for Medicare, Part A, and Part B health care coverage.
- Plan your Social Security and retirement account withdrawals. In retirement, you'll need to determine how much income will meet your expenses and on what schedule you'll receive that income.
- Control your spending. Your years of budgeting experience will help you not overspend – so you can splurge when you can.
- Think about your legacy. Even if you don't have millions of dollars, you should consult a financial advisor to plan what will happen to your assets after you're gone.
Having a comfortable retirement is certainly desirable. But when you work to organize your finances throughout adulthood, you find that a thoughtful approach to money brings rewards in every decade.