Budget Tips You Can Use at Every Age
Increase Your Net Worth at Any Age with These Helpful Tips
No matter your age, there are steps you can take right now to focus on your finances. It's never too early – or too late – to work on improving your financial health.
In Your 20s
- Curb student loan debt: If you are still a student, figure out how much you will owe in student loans after you graduate, and calculate your monthly payment. Try to avoid piling on more loans by working part-time or becoming a resident advisor or teaching assistant.
- Set your retirement savings on autopilot: When you land your first job, sign up for any retirement plan your employer offers, and contribute enough to receive matching dollars if the company provides them. If there's not a retirement plan, consider IRAs and other ways to start saving. Putting money away when you're in your 20s gives it many decades to grow before you need it for retirement. "When you are in your 20s, you think you are invincible and will live forever, but that mindset can hurt you financially," says Steve Repak, a Certified Financial Planner and author of Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training for Your Money.
In Your 30s
- Build up a down payment: If you're not a homeowner but would like to be, "shop" for your ideal home and calculate a 20 percent down payment, says Jeanne Fisher, a Certified Financial Planner with ARGI Financial Group in Kentucky. Then divide that down payment by 36 and try to save that much every month for three years.
- Review your insurance needs: If you have children and/or a mortgage, consider providing for your loved ones by purchasing a life insurance policy. Term insurance is often relatively affordable if you are in good health.
In Your 40s
- Avoid being “house poor": Some financial experts suggest that you keep your housing expenses, including mortgage/rent, utilities, taxes and insurance, at or below 28 percent of your income. Before trading up from your starter home, be sure you aren't busting your budget.
- Rethink your savings strategy: If you're trying to save for short-term needs, college educations and retirement, get help from an adviser on building a savings strategy. Use simple tools like automatic transfers from checking to savings to help meet your goals.
In Your 50s
- Put your retirement savings into overdrive: While it's often best to start saving for retirement from the day you start your first job, many people can't put away as much as they'd like while raising a family and need to accelerate their savings in their 50s. "If this sounds like you, know that although it would have been less painful financially had you started earlier, it's never too late to start," says Repak. "Buckle down and try to put every cent you make away for retirement."
- Your health is your wealth: Take up a hobby that encourages you to stay active, whether it is golf, yoga, walking, water aerobics or exercise classes. And take good care of your health, not only because you'll feel better, but because you may end up spending less of your savings on medical expenses.
In Your 60s
- Be strategic about Social Security: Do your research, and get the help of an advisor, to determine when you should start claiming your Social Security benefits. If you hold out until you're 70, your monthly payout may be higher.
- Travel on a budget: If you're retired and no longer have to worry about school calendars, consider traveling in the off-season to save on airfare and lodging, suggests Marguerita Cheng of Blue Ocean Global Wealth.
In Your 70s
- Consider right-sizing or downsizing: If your current home is too large for your needs, think about selling and moving into a smaller property. Doing so may improve your cash flow if you are on a fixed income, while decreasing maintenance and home improvement costs.
- Support the charities you care about: If your cash flows are strong and you have properly planned for your retirement and health expenses, consider sharing some of your financial resources with your favorite charities and planning for end-of-life donations from your estate, advises Repak. As they say, you can't take it with you.
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Photo: David Jakle/Getty Images | Tamar S. Snyder is a freelance writer living in the New York area whose work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the Staten Island Advance, Inc. magazine and MSN.com.