While there are many financial milestones to celebrate at every age, some of the most significant milestones could be life-changing.
From getting that first paying job to putting a college degree into practice, these milestones can form some of the greatest memories and set a financial foundation for success later in life.
Knowing what financial milestones are important will help you get a head start on planning and be able to work toward a successful financial life.
Your Financial Milestones Roadmap
Becoming an Adult (18-29)
What many people don’t realize is that between the ages of 18 and 29, you should be working on your first financial milestones. On top of landing your first job and buying a new car, you may take out student loans to attend college. To qualify for good interest rates, you’ll need to start building your credit. You could take out a line of credit or get your first credit card, as long as you use it responsibly. If you’ve already made some mistakes with credit, don’t stress too much, you are still fresh in the financial path so use this time to invest in credit repair to get yourself back on track.
Pay any loans or student debt on time each month, and be mindful that any debt you obtain will need to be paid back in the end. You may also plan to move out of your parents’ house and want to start looking for a home to rent or buy. Having good credit will make these goals easier to obtain. A great way to build credit while paying rent, is to use a rent-reporting service to get your rent payments on your credit report.
You should also start planning a budget and learn about investing. You may have the opportunity to start a 401(k) — especially if it is available through your employer and sometimes they will match a certain percentage, you should definitely take advantage of this. If a 401(k) is not provided through your employer you can look into a Roth IRA for your investments, if you have the option to do both, you should. This will give you a solid financial foundation that will carry you far later in life.
In Your 30s
By your 30s, you should be enjoying a comfortable place to live and perhaps owning your own home. You may have several retirement accounts, whether you have a 401(k) or a Roth IRA, continue making contributions to those funds and increasing that amount when you can in order to get the most return. If I said I would give you free money wouldn’t you take it? Keep improve your knowledge of investing by studying up on exchange-traded funds, stocks and bonds, as well as funds that can be matched by your employer. If you are fortunate enough to work for a company that has matching 401(k) make sure you are maxing out that opportunity.
This may be a good time to diversify your investments, choosing from a variety of stock options and markets, such as real estate or commodities. You should also be investing in yourself, pursuing an advanced degree or professional development that will accelerate your career.
In Your 40s
By your 40s, your retirement accounts will continue to accrue, and you should have started investing or saving money for your children’s college expenses. Look into a 529 plan or other college savings plans to see which one suits you best. Max out your retirement funds so that you can leverage them later in life, and contribute up to 6-8 percent of your earnings to get the most out of employer matches.
Reward yourself for achieving financial stability, make sure to make a “vacation” savings account so you can be enjoying this hard work you have been doing. Discuss health care needs with your parents in order to avoid surprises later on. Also it may be a good idea to start an investment account that is separate from other accounts, and set it up to automatically draw funds. With the help of a financial advisor, you can turn these funds into moderate-risk investments that you’ll benefit from down the road.
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In Your 50s
By your 50s, you may have started thinking about retirement and be counting down the years to the big day. Sit down and make some calculations to determine your family’s current financial needs, how much you will need in your retirement, and what your goals are for this stage and on in your life.
For your financial milestones, consider buying a vacation home, timeshare or rental property, which you can lease out in order to generate extra income. Learn about financial options available, such as Social Security, Medicare and pension benefits. Resist the urge to withdraw funds from your retirement accounts prematurely, unless you are prepared to pay large penalties.
In Your 60s
By your 60s, you may decide to retire. Your golden years can also be a time of resilience or unpredictable life changes, so each individual will face something different at this stage. You can start collecting Social Security and planning for the long term, so your retirement and health care funds last as long as you need them. Make sure your will is filed and updated. You may also want to consider changes at home, whether that means modifying your house to age in place or moving to a retirement home or supported community.
In Your 70s and Older
By your 70s, you will likely be well into your retirement years. It might even be beneficial to produce hobby work on the side and sell it at community fairs. This is a crucial time to look at your finances to decide if you need to cut back on spending or if you can be generous with charitable gifts. Ensure that any withdrawals follow a predictable, stable plan, and use your money wisely. By your 80s or 90s, your life will have changed more than you ever imagined it could. This might be a good time to downsize and move into a smaller home that suits your life as it is now. If your retirement funds have made it this far and you can still afford some degree of charitable giving, you’ve done well.
Tracking your financial milestones and setting goals, will help relieve the financial stress that pursues when you have not prepared yourself. With careful planning, saving and investing, you can ensure that both you and your family will be cared for well into the future.