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Doing it by the Decade – Financial Goals You Should Accomplish in your 20s, 30s, 40s 50s and 60s

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It doesn’t matter how old you are, there are certain goals you should try and accomplish in each stage of your life.

I don’t mean the old traditions of going to college by age 20, get a career by 25, get married by 30 and so on, those are outdated in my humble opinion. I’m focusing on your financial life and where you should be ready “money-wise” for the next stage of your life.

Let’s explore the different financial goals by decade:

Your Twenties

This is the time when you’re fresh out of school, working a new job and are excited about being out on your own.

But it’s also the time where you’re not thinking about the future, or even thinking as far as next year for that matter. This is also when financial trouble can begin – thinking about what you want now, socializing with friends, racking up charges on a new credit card, and “YOLO” – the “you only live once” philosophy.

Nevertheless, you should accomplish the following goals while you’re in your 20s:

1. Learn to Live Below your Means

To “live below your means” means that what you spend each month is less than the amount of money you bring in each month.

First, you need to learn to budget your finances and figure out exactly how much you have coming in and going out each month. Once you have your numbers you then can:

  • Cut out the unnecessary spending – All that eating out, bar-hopping, and more
  • Reduce your expenses – Find lower priced services, make it yourself, thrift shop, and more
  • Lower your limits – Live on a smaller budget (i.e. you make $3,000 a month – budget for $2,600)
  • Tame your ego – Be satisfied having a used car and a smaller place. Be a minimalist.

This leaves you with money left to complete the other steps in this section.

2. Open a Retirement Account

Yeah, I can see the young adults going “wait, wut?” Seriously, it’s never too early to start a retirement account.

“But I’m barely out of college, retirement is so far away” you may argue. But let me show you some financial numbers to support my statement.

Let’s say you want to retire at 65 and live off $60,000 a year and can only put in $100 a month:

  • You start saving now at age 25, by 65 you’ve saved $335,737
  • You wait until you’re 35 to start contributing, by 65 you’ve saved $146,815
  • You procrastinated until you’re 45, by 65 you’ve only saved $59,307

I know my example is a small one, but you can already see the huge difference it made. Start saving early for the best payout at retirement.

3. Learn your Credit Score

Your credit score can have an effect on how much money you’ll save and how much money it’ll cost you.

Here are some examples of what your credit score will influence:

  • How much interest you’ll pay lenders and insurance companies.
  • The likelihood to get hired at some jobs (banking, government, high-risk, etc.)
  • Your ability to rent places, as landlords will check your reliability.
  • Your chances to refinance in the future, you may be stuck paying high interest for a long time.

Learn how to improve your credit score and improve your life.

4. Start Paying off Debt

Hopefully, it’s a small one, maybe it’s just the student debt you owe. Still, you should start paying it down now.

There are many ways to start paying and a few ideas are:

  • Pay more than the minimum – This simply shortens the payoff date and you pay less interest.
  • Pay weekly – Pay a bit every week instead of once a month, this again shortens the payoff date
  • Pay the highest interest first – Then the money saved goes towards principals on the other debts.
  • Pay the smallest bill first – Once paid, the money goes to the next largest bill and so on.
  • Consolidate – Consolidate all your debts on a 0% interest card and save money in long run.

Pay off your debts and try and stay debt-free and you’ve started a great financial habit for the rest of your life.

5. Start an Emergency Fund

Simply put, an emergency fund covers all the emergencies that you did not plan for in your budget.

Such emergencies like:

  • Emergency medical bills
  • Car and home breakdowns and repairs
  • Job loss
  • Weather disasters

Building an emergency fund really helps to keep your budget safe and from going into further debt.

6. Start a Savings Account

If you started living beneath your means, you can put the “untouched” money into your savings accounts and let it build.

Several things you can do with your savings:

  • Dedicate an amount for a goal – Set up a goal for a vacation, a car, new technology, etc.
  • Have money for non-emergencies – See something you want and can get it without hurting your budget or your emergency fund
  • Prepare for your future – You never know what your future has that will need significant cash
  • Build wealth – Let your money grow however small it may be

Having a savings account (or two) is simply a good financial move.

7. Get Health Insurance

Most young adults can stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26. But after that, you should have your own health insurance if it’s not provided by your employer.

Health insurance isn’t necessarily expensive as some people indicate – my family and I get everyone (4 adults) covered for $56 a month. Just go through the Heathcare Exchange during enrollment and check to see if you qualify for any deductions based on your income.

Maybe you think that you’re healthy enough and you’d rather spend the money elsewhere, but let me share some facts:

  • About 8% of Americans have no health insurance
  • Injury-related ER visits annually – 2 million
  • The average cost of an ER visit without insurance – $150-$3,000
  • About 20% of Americans visit the ER more than once a year.

That means without insurance your yearly ER visit can cost anywhere from $150 – $9,000 or more a year. So, get some health insurance and you’ll only pay roughly $50 – $100 per ER visit.

8. Become Financially Independent

This sounds like a no-brainer, right? But did you know that 33% of 25 to 29-year-olds lived with their parents or grandparents in 2016?

Now, if you started on the previous steps in this section, you’re off to a good start to becoming independent as you’re establishing some savings, lowering your bills and debts, and establishing your own credit.

In addition to starting Steps 1 to 7, here are some other ways to begin weaning off your parents:

  • Pay them rent – Look up local rent prices in your area and start paying your parents
  • Establish a timeline – Decide a move-out date and work towards accomplishing it
  • Make extra money – I know most entry-level jobs don’t pay great but don’t use that as an excuse, find ways to make more money.
  • Learn to be there for yourself – Learn how to rely on yourself

Hate to be a killjoy, but the fun’s over and it’s time to start adulting.

Your Thirties

Popular culture often portrays the 30s as life’s best years. If you planned things right and learned life lessons from the previous ten years, then the thirties should be free from financial and personal insecurities and troubles.

During your thirties you should aim to accomplish:

9. Have 1X your Salary Saved for Retirement

This means that whatever you make in a year at your job should now be in your retirement accounts.

I hope that by now all your debts were paid off so that you can now contributed more to your retirement account.

Let’s change our tactics now:

  • We saved $100 a month, upon reaching age 30 we’ve got $7,603 saved up.
  • Increase the monthly payment to $240, by the time you’re 40 you’ve saved $61,473
  • At 65, this would now be $648,385

10. Pay off all Non-Mortgage Debts

All being well you’ve paid off your student loans by now. But we all know “life happens”.

Maybe you’ve incurred some new debts – car loans, from a wedding, professional development classes, kids, and so on.

Just continue with your previous debt payoff plan and stay on top of your payments. In the off chance that your previous plan wasn’t working, it’s a good idea to switch tactics and find a better plan.

Some other debt payment plans can be:

  • Automate everything – Were you missing payments? Create auto-bill pay for all your bills to stay consistent.
  • Refinance – Refinance your loans for a smaller interest rate, but continue paying the same premium for faster payoff.
  • Get a loan – Get a good loan rate and pay all your bills off and have only one monthly payment to worry about, then put as much as you can on that payment.

Debt payoff should be a priority in your thirties as you do not want to carry this into the next two decades when you should be concentrating on your retirement.

11. Create a Will

Your wild days should be over by now and you’ve settled into a more secure routine. You should now think about creating a Will.

It does not matter if you have no benefactors at all, or if you wanted to donate it all to a dog shelter – it doesn’t matter, the important thing is that a Will tells the government to keep their hands off your stuff and where you want it all to go.

Writing a Will isn’t complicated or expensive, you can complete one online at LegalZoom for only $69.

12. If You’re a Parent

Being a parent is a wonderful joy and experience, but it does throw a wrench into our finances if we weren’t prepared for it ahead of time.

Raising a kid until they’re 17 costs about $233,610! I’m not going to go into the specific financial needs of raising a family, but there are some new financial needs to consider when you are a parent.

These include:

  • Get life insurance – You need to continue supporting your family after your demise
  • Start kids’ college funds – Start a fund for each child to attend college
  • Get disability insurance – Get coverage in case of short-term or long-term disability
  • Change your W2 forms – Claim your family members for the most income tax credits

Don’t forget to start teaching your kids at a young age about good financial habits and get them started off right money-wise.

13. Increase your Emergency Fund

You should have been maintaining at least $1,000 or more in your emergency fund.

It’s now time to build up your emergency fund to have about 3 to 6 months of your budget’s expenses covered. Using our $60,000 yearly income example, that should be between $15,000 and $30,000.

Here are some ideas to increase your emergency fund:

  • Switch to a higher interest account – Earn more with higher interest (like CIT Bank’s s 2.45%)
  • Make a deposit to your fund first – “Pay yourself first” so there’s always a contribution
  • Automate it – Make automatic bank transfers to your savings account
  • Get creative – Look for different ways to come up with the money for it.

I know $15 to $30 thousand sounds like a lot for an emergency fund, but it gives you peace of mind and less stress in your life.

14. Start Saving for a Down Payment on a House

If you have settled down, you might want to start finding a place of your own now.

The first thing you need to do is find out how much house you can afford, so using our $60,000 example that would be a house priced around $133,000 in Newark, NJ. You can use this home affordability calculator to find your estimate.

Most mortgage lenders require at least 10% of the home’s cost as a down payment, in our example that would be $13,300.

If you started a savings account in the last decade, you could already have some savings saved up to cover a down payment. The trick is to pay as much as you can on a down payment to reduce the mortgage monthly payment, the interest charged, and length of payment period.

Learn as much as you can about buying a house first so you are prepared and lessen any financial surprises.

Your Forties

The fabulous 40s, where you have supposedly settled into a career, have a life partner, kids, house and life is great.

But because of settling down, you’re apt to have more financial demands, and if you followed the steps of the previous decades, this will only be a small burden.

What should you accomplish in your forties:

15. Have 3X your Salary Saved for Retirement

It’s now time to up your retirement contribution again.

You were contributing $240 a month and now you’re 40 you have saved $61,473.

  • 3X your salary of $60,000 is $180,000.
  • Up your monthly contributions to $300, by the time you’re 50 you’ve saved $189,039.
  • At 65, this amount has increased to $705,231

16. Review your Financial Plan

Your life may be much different now than it was in the last twenty years, so you’ll need to review your financial plan.

It’s time to:

  • Reevaluate goals – Review what your original goals were and either change or adjust them to your current timeline (had kids, career goal met, debt paid, etc.)
  • Review all your policies – Check all your insurance policies to see if they need adjusting (don’t forget beneficiary names too).
  • Consider diversifying – Check to see how your retirement fund and investments are doing and consider diversifying to lessen the risk of losing money.
  • Consider consulting a financial planner – Maybe you are failing to reach your goals, now you should consult with a financial planner to get financially caught up.

Don’t worry if your financial goals were not reached, it’s still not too late to catch up, it’ll just take more due diligence to work on it.

17. Talk with your Parents

I know this title sounds confusing, but by “talk” I mean sit down with them and have a serious discussion about their financial future and goals.

Topics to discuss can include:

  • Their retirement – Do they have enough to last on?
  • Their long-term care plans – What are their wishes in times of illness?
  • Their legal wishes – Who will have power of attorney, caretakers, etc.?
  • Their final plans – What are their final wishes and who will be executors?

The reason for this talk with your parents (and your siblings) is to be financially prepared for these new duties. For example, you may need to take over paying a bill or two because their pension isn’t enough.

Yes, it’s going to be awkward discussing these things, but it will be comforting for everyone to know “things will be taken care of”.

Your Fifties

The time of being empty-nesters and new grandparents is upon us. It’s time to reap the rewards of all our hard work.

By this time your monthly expenses should have shrunk down considerably as the hungry teens have left and your major debts are paid off. Use this extra money to catch up on any financial goals you are behind on, contribute more to your retirement fund, or spoil yourself and your partner – you deserved it by now.

Now, in preparation for the next 10 years you should:

18. Have 5X your Salary Saved for Retirement

It’s now to increase your retirement contributions again. Hopefully by now the kids have left the nest and you’re almost finished paying off the house.

  • 5X your $60,000 salary is $300,000
  • Continue paying $300 a month to have $464,444 when you reach 60
  • Increase your monthly payment to $325 a month and you’ll have $469,138
  • Retire at 65 with $714,027

19. Pay Off Your House

Back in your thirties you should have saved up for a down payment (#14), and were able to buy a house.

Now, you should have just a little bit of mortgage left on it and you should find ways to pay it off now. Some ideas how to pay it off quickly are:

  • Biweekly payments – Make half of your mortgage payment every two weeks. That’s 26 half-payments, which is 1 extra month’s payment in a year
  • Make an extra full payment every 3 months – This pays off your mortgage 11 years faster
  • Round up your payments – Round up your payments so you’re paying extra every month
  • Apply any extra money – Apply any extra savings or your tax return to the principal

Do check with your lender first if extra payments are permitted to avoid incurring extra costs and fees.

20. Redo your Policies

Now you’ve reached the age of the senior discount – take advantage of it!

Discounts are not just available at restaurants and stores, look at all your insurance policies too and you will save much more every month. A great boon for your budget!

Some senior discounts include:

  • Car insurance
  • Home and Property insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Travel discounts (hotels, rentals, transportation)
  • Utility discounts (phone, cable, internet)

There are also many different things offered for free for seniors to take advantage of.

21. Look into Long Term Care Insurance

Remember having to have that talk with your parents about their financial future and their long term care plans? Surprise, it’s your turn.

Now’s the time to get long term care insurance for yourself (and your partner) while you still are healthy and mobile.

Long-term care insurance is coverage that will pay for assisted living, nursing home care or home health care in the event you are unable to care for yourself because of a chronic condition or disability. This is different from disability insurance as disability insurance is temporary help until you return back to work whereas long term care is enduring care.

Long term care insurance premiums are much higher after you’ve become ill or disabled, so it’s best to purchase it now.

Your Sixties

You’re in the homestretch towards the golden age of retirement. There’s going to be many changes in your daily routine, habits, and maybe even surroundings, but nevertheless you should make final financial preparations to enjoy retirement.

In your 60s you should:

22. Have 6X your Salary Saved for Retirement

By age sixty, you should ideally have $360,000 in your retirement

If you plan to retire in five years, you should have saved $469,138 by now and if you looked at my previous math, you should expect to have $714,027 when you retire.

Let’s say at 65 you retire and start withdrawing $5,000 a month to live off of so you can maintain your $60,000 a year lifestyle. Your retirement money will run out when you’re 87 years old. (Not counting Social Security).

Not bad right?

Alas, sometimes life gets in the way and sometimes we need to rearrange our finances for the current situation.

Let’s say we stuck it out with $50 a month – that’s $335,737, not exactly our goal but let’s work with it. Withdrawing $5,000 a month will last until we’re 72 years old.

We reduce our yearly need to $40,000 and only withdraw $3,300 a month, it’ll now last until we’re 77 years old.

So, retirement is still doable, it just won’t be as comfortable as your previous $60,000 a year income.

23. Check out your Social Security Options

Hopefully by the time you retire at 65, the government hasn’t screwed up your Social Security pension.

The SSA website estimates that your $60,000 a year income since you were 25 years old will get you about $1,800 a month.

Let’s combine this with your retirement account and you will only need to withdraw $3,200 a month. Your retirement money will now last until you’re well past 95 years old.

If you had to do the second scenario I mentioned above, then with Social Security we only need to withdraw $1,500 a month, it’ll now last until we’re well past 95 years old.

24. Establish Final Plans

It’s hard to do when you’re still “feel young” isn’t it? But you should get any final plans set up and entrusted to someone so you can go ahead and enjoy living to the fullest.

Things you need to do include:

  • Finalize your Will – Update your Will and beneficiaries
  • Establish a Living Will – Determine who will have power of attorney in case you’re incapacitated
  • Set up a Trust – Set up a trust for your surviving family

Getting this out of the way to live your life isn’t hard and ensures your last wishes are known and will be taken care of.

25. Downsize your Life

As you near retirement, you ought to consider downsizing everything in your life. You no longer need a large place that used to house your whole family, you may no longer be interested in former passions, or you just need to downgrade to accommodate your new retirement lifestyle.

Consider downsizing:

  • Your home – Get a smaller place for just you and your partner
  • Your assets – Any extra properties, vehicles, or recreational assets
  • Belongings – Declutter your home and sell for extra money
  • Your job – Prepare to cut your hours or switch to a part-time side hustle

Get to living just the right size for retirement.

Conclusion

Financial goals are important to have in every stage of your life to keep you out of debt, avoid surprises, and keep you living comfortable and stress-free.

But, don’t worry if you’re unable to stay on top of your projected numbers that you wished to obtain. Sometimes life throws curveballs we can’t plan for, but the important thing to remember is that any contribution towards a financial goal is much better than none at all. Stay true but realistic.

Also remember, retiring at 65 isn’t set in stone – you can work for as long as you’re willing and able to. This helps to extend your retirement funds and also increases your social security payout too. Did you know that waiting to retire later actually increases your monthly pension? The credit is 8% multiplied by the number of years you waited.

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