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Are you thinking of ways to improve your final picture? No matter what your age, taking steps towards securing your financial life is always important. But how do you know what steps to take? Not surprisingly, things may be drastically different for someone in their 20s compared with those in their 60s.
This article will walk you through the four main age demographics from millennials to those entering the golden age of retirement and how handling each stage differently can make all the difference when it comes to doing your "money life" right.
Welcome to adulthood! At this age, you’re most likely starting out in your first full-time job, moving into your own place, and figuring out how much daily life truly costs (toilet paper is really going to set me back that much?!). With so many new doors opening it can get overwhelming, especially when some of the common financial worries that typically plague those in their 20s: How long will it take to pay off my student loans? Can I afford rent? How do I even start saving?
It’s an exciting chapter filled with new people, places, and opportunities, but in terms of our finances, some simple mistakes made during this time can have far-reaching effects. That’s why it’s crucial to start cultivating positive spending habits and figure out a realistic personal budget. Think of it this way: Navigating your financial journey should end with having enough saved for retirement. Building lifelong financial management skills will help put you on the right path in order to achieve financial success throughout your career. Completing this short, straightforward spending plan worksheet will help jumpstart you in this crucial first stage.
Another thing that nags at the majority of those in this stage is student loan debt. 2016 graduates broke an all-time high with owing, on average, $37,172 and there are now more than 44.2 million Americans currently paying off student loan debt. With a substantial obstacle standing in your way of managing your money, begin learning these smart saving principles as soon as possible. We also encourage you at this stage to start viewing your finances long-term and try to focus beyond just the immediate future. Begin by building up your emergency savings. This easy-to-use worksheet can help you figure out how much you will need to cover your expenses, how much you’ll need to save every month to reach that goal, and how long it should take. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, the earlier you can start saving in that the better, especially if a match is offered.
Saving early, even if it isn’t a ton of money, can make all the difference when you reach the end of your financial journey.
Key Actions for Your 20s:
Master the creation and maintenance of a basic budget: This is a skill that will carry you through your entire life, no matter what your salary is.
Build an emergency fund: You never know when you could lose your job or incur a major unexpected expense, but having an emergency fund queued up will help you immensely should you ever find yourself in one of those situations.
Start saving for retirement now: Saving during your 20s will allow your money to grow through your entire career and make it easier for you to retire when you want. 401(k) and 403(b) plans are a great vehicle to save on a pretax or Roth basis, but if you don’t have that option, IRA accounts can be a great alternative as well.
Thirty and thriving! At this age, you’re probably thinking about the next big steps in life. Maybe it’s buying a house, starting a family, or just deciding to dive into investing. No matter how big or small the step, hopefully, you’re a multitasker because, in all likelihood, life just kicked into high gear and your finances are going to play a big part in these potential changes. You'll have some big questions to answer: What do I need to know before buying a home? How do I even start investing? How much will growing my family cost?
At this age, the financial focus should be placed first on making sure you have a grip on the basics: Emergency savings? (Yes, check) Basic budgeting plan? (Check) Saving for retirement? (Check) If you checked yes to all of these then it’s time to start talking about goal-based savings and investing strategies. (If you didn’t check yes, FREEZE!) It’s never too late to get your finances on track. Read through the key actions above to get your finances up to speed before progressing. Think of your 30s as going beyond just navigating your financial journey, and into applying your money knowledge to larger financial endeavors. This starts with focusing on goal-based savings and learning basic investment options to ensure that in the future you have way more than a few bucks to spend.
There are three categories when it comes to saving goals: short-term (emergency saving), goal-based (everyday savings), and long-term (retirement savings). At different stages of life you’ll want to put more focus into each category: 20s (short-term), 40s-50s (long-term), and your 30s are about goal-based or medium-term savings. Your goal-based savings is for major purchases in 3-10 years, for example saving for a family, car, house, or vacation. At this age, having prosperous goal-based savings accounts will allow you to spend more freely from time to time, and not have to worry about your finances being set back. That’s why we encourage you to start putting a larger portion of each paycheck into your goal-based savings at this point in your life.
Besides beginning to set saving goals, this is a good time to start considering additional investing. Investing of course is when you put capital into an asset with the goal that it will produce income, appreciate over time, and/or generate wealth through interest, dividends, tax advantages or capital gains. To put it more simply, it means giving your money the opportunity to grow over time because ideally what you invested in is worth more in the future. Use this questionnaire to figure out what sort of investor you are and how much risk you’re willing to take on with your investments.
You’re going to have big decisions to make at this age so just take your time and count on changes so you can be prepared for your financial journey.
Key Actions for Your 30s:
- Secure your financial foundation: Retirement, basic budgeting, emergency fund; having these set will pave the path for your entire financial life.
- Start setting goal-based saving targets: Saving to buy a home, purchase a car, or plan a family ( A baby can cost parents $233,610 from birth to 17-years old, according to the Department of Agriculture) so start building your savings ASAP.
- Invest the time in learning sound investment strategies: When it comes to investing there's always a trade-off between risk and reward, determine what's best for you.
You’ve been through it all by this age: emergencies, house payments, career changes, and more. With a big life change approaching it’s normal to be asking yourself: Should I support my adult kids? How can I support my aging parents? Is it too early to be thinking about retirement?
At this stage of life men and women typically reach their financial peak. On average, women’s pay peaks at age 39 and men’s at age 48 and while achieving this salary high we encourage you to ramp up saving for the long term. Long-term is generally considered retirement and soon enough you could be cashing in, so you’ll want as much saved as possible when the time comes. If you’re not sure how prepared you are, check out our retirement readiness calculator to give you a better idea of what you still need to improve in the meantime.
When you turn 50 you can turn up the heat on retirement readiness because you can make catch-up contributions to your 401(k) or 403(b) accounts, currently, an extra $6,000 can be added to your 401(k) plan annually. Be careful though; don’t neglect your short-term and goal-based savings when you up your 401(k) contributions. You’re beyond navigating and planning your financial journey, you’re about to live it. The focus can be placed on continuing to save and starting to think about how you’ll spend your retirement.
It’s just as important to have enough saved for retirement as it is to start picturing your practical retirement before it happens. How do you picture your retirement? To begin figuring this out, you can start by filling out this Imaging retirement worksheet. Knowing how you want to retire can provide you’re on the best track to achieving.
Before focusing on saving for retirement too much you may be faced with a few other financial conundrums at this stage. The first is what to do about your adult child that just won’t move out, and the second is learning how to best support your aging parents. By this age your children are no longer kids, they’re growing into adults so how do you determine supporting vs. handicapping them financially? There is a fine line between trying to be a helpful parent and just letting them mooch off your savings account. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation with your kid(s) if it’s not working out. Telling them it’s time to become financially independent doesn’t make you a bad parent, in the long run, it will push them to become an independent smart saver. If you feel it's time to have a discussion here is an article that covers the six steps to motivating your child to move out. It's important to note, in some households allowing your adult children to stay at home may be mutually beneficial for both parties and in such cases continue on. (Here are a few tips to help with living with your adult children). As long as the situation is mutually beneficial for all, then it’s entirely up to the family to decide when or if this conversation ever has to happen.
The next step for this stage in life is to discuss how to best support your aging parents. This new role of caregiver to your parents can be challenging to accept. Northern Western Mutual’s C.A.R.E. (Costs, Account Accountabilities, Realities, Expectations) did a study that found nearly 4 out of 10 Americans currently, consider themselves a caregiver or have been to someone who is aging, ill, or has special needs. You are not alone in accepting this caregiver role and 38% of caregivers said they hadn’t planned for the financial cost of taking care of an aging family member. Taking on these added finances can be a lot so we’d encourage you to check out these five ways to ease the financial strain of caregiving.
Some might deny it, but you’re closer to retirement now, and deciding not only when this major milestone will happen, but what you hope to get out of it are just as important as the financial aspects.
Key Actions for Your 40s-50s:
- Focus on long-term savings: Retirement could be just around the bend so emphasizing this is important.
- Max out 401(k) contributions: Starting at age 50 you can add an extra $6,000 annually into your 401(k) and 403(b) plans.
- Begin imaging your retirement life: By planning what your retirement life will look like now, you can better determine how to achieve it.
- Take into account care giving expenses: Having to provide financial support to your parents or adult children can get demanding so plan this into your finances.
Welcome to the ’60s! By this age, you’re getting very close to enjoying all of your financial hard work by taking your savings for the ultimate test drive: Retirement. Deciding to retire means shifting from working hours a week to having a free schedule, it's goodbye paycheck and hello relaxation. Before punching that final time card you could be plagued with thoughts of Have I saved enough to retire happy? Am I mentally ready to retire? Is it possible to fail at retirement?
Just like there is no perfect image of retirement there is no “perfect” age to retire. Although the average retirement age falls at 65 with nearly 24% of retirees retiring at this age, it depends on the individual and some may decide to never fully retire. So when and if you do decide to retire it will be the pinnacle moment of your financial journey. You’ve been saving money for so long and now it’s time to enjoy it. If you’re unsure about your readiness to retire we’d encourage you to look through our ready-to-retire checklist first.
Along with retirement savings deciding when to collect social security can be one of the key decisions you make in your 60s, as you can start claiming social security as early as age 62. Although your monthly benefit payment ends up being reduced between 25-30%, for the rest of your life. Just because you can collect doesn’t mean you should, and if you’re a baby boomer and wait until age 70 you will receive 32% more in monthly payments, and with those born in or after 1960, you'll receive 24% more for waiting to collect.
So let's assume you’ve retired, and started collecting social security, and now what? Well now it’s time to relax, but before you can relax too much many retirees struggle with finding the right balance between being frugal and frivolous with finances in retirement. If you find yourself struggling to spend you can follow this 5-step guide to avoid spending paralysis in retirement, or if you’re worried about draining your account use our budgeting tool to help you set up a plan for your finances.
Knowing how and when to safely withdraw from your retirement accounts is the key to a happy retirement. Have you heard about the 4% rule? This entitles that as long as you don’t take out more than 4% of your retirement accounts each year after retiring then studies have shown that your money should last approximately 30 years, with basic assumptions on rates of return, interest, and taxation. Numerically then that means, if you have $600K saved for retirement then you will want to keep your annual distribution total to no more than $24K ($2K/mo). The major challenge with this lies in the fact that many retirees spend well beyond the projected 4% in their first year which when combined with a down year in the stock market can be detrimental to someone’s ability to achieve their retirement goals. That’s why it’s important to build in a cost of living adjustment when determining this figure.
Basic money-saving skills don't stop when you retire and with the proper planning, you’re sure to live happily in the golden years that you’ve worked so hard to prepare for.
Key Actions for Your 60s-70s:
- Have a plan for retirement: Make sure your finances are in order before so you can ease into the life of retirement.
- Follow the 4% rule to make your money last: Whether you want to spend more or less after you retire you’ll still need to plan out how much money you “pay yourself” to make sure your money lasts for what many sources estimate will be upwards of 30 years.
- Collect social security: At 62 you’ll be able to start collecting social security, but before you do look into the benefits of deferring until an older age.
Whether you’re in your 20s or 70s, taking steps towards a successful financial life is always imperative. While everyone’s journey may look a little different and true retirement may not even be in the cards, hitting these basic financial milestones at some point or another is important no matter what your plan is.