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Smart Financial Moves in Your 20s, 30s, 40s and 50 & Over

Smart Financial Moves in Your 20s, 30s, 40s and 50 & Over

By Matt Diehl • August 05, 2019

Financial success doesn’t just happen. It takes planning, execution, monitoring and knowing when to adjust your strategy.

Each decade of your life offers opportunities to help make financial success a possibility. No matter what stage of the game you’re in, here are some moves you can make to set yourself up for future success:

Smart financial moves in your 20s

  • Establish a budget – Creating a budget in your 20s can help teach you the value of fiscal responsibility early on. If you need help getting started or staying on task, check out these blogs on finding a budgeting style that works for you and 5 tips for sticking to a budget.

  • Start a savings habit – When it comes to saving, a little now can turn into a lot later. Brew coffee at home. Pack your lunch for work. Buy in bulk. Once you start your first savings habit, it could positively influence your overall spending and help you establish a good financial routine.

  • Get insured – Accidents happen. If you’re not insured, a medical injury or home emergency could cost you thousands of dollars. Here are some common types of insurance to help you get started:

  • Make a debt repayment plan – By setting a firm repayment plan and sticking to it, you could get started on the right track to being debt free. Consider these steps to creating a debt-repayment plan.

  • Start an emergency fund – Nearly 40% of Americans said they couldn’t afford an emergency expense of $400.1 By saving for the unexpected, you could reduce the risk of going into debt. Here’s some advice on how to build an emergency fund.

Smart financial moves in your 30s

  • Prioritize your retirement savings – Advisors recommend that you should have the equivalent of twice your current annual salary saved for retirement by your 35th birthday.2 If you need to get started or ramp up your efforts, try these smart ways to save for retirement.

  • Monitor and improve your credit – Establishing good credit can benefit your finances now and in the future. To check your reports for free every 12 months from each credit reporting company go to AnnualCreditReport.com. If you could use some advice on tracking and boosting your credit, check out these tips to improve your credit score.

  • Utilize your company benefits – Are you enrolled in a pension plan or a matching 401(k) at work? It could be time to reexamine your benefits package and take full advantage of what’s offered to you.

  • Consider investing – Supplementing your retirement savings with an investment portfolio could be a smart move. These days, you don’t need to be rich to invest; anyone can jump in without fear. If you’re unfamiliar with the stock market or investing in general, you should seek the guidance of a financial advisor or other qualified professional.

  • Increase your emergency fund – A safe minimum amount for an emergency fund is around three months of living expenses. However, if you now have a spouse and/or children, it may be time to start stashing away more money in this account.

Smart financial moves in your 40s

  • Maximize retirement contributions – If your budget allows, put as much money into your retirement accounts as possible. Employees can contribute up to $19,000 to their 401(k) plan in 2019, up from $18,500 in 2018.3

  • Consider refinancing your mortgage – Getting a better rate on your mortgage can save you thousands of dollars. However, it’s not always the best move for everyone. See where you stand by reading these tips on when (and when not) to refinance your mortgage.

  • Discuss plans for your parents – One in five middle-aged adults have provided some type of financial support to a parent older than 65 years.4 If one or both of your parents are still living, discuss potential financial needs with them and include any relative who wishes to join.

  • Pay down high-interest debt – If you have outstanding debt, try to place emphasis on paying down accounts with the highest interest rates first. If you’ve accumulated multiple debts over the past two decades, it may be time to consider a debt consolidation loan. By reducing or eliminating your balances on higher rate debts, you can potentially save on interest and increase your financial security.

  • Revisit your investment portfolio – From annual checkups to big life milestones, there could be many reasons to revisit your portfolio and reshape your financial future.

Smart financial moves at 50 & Over

  • Take advantage of 401(k) Catch Up Contributions – Once you hit 50 years of age, you can put an extra $6,000 into your 401(k) each year in excess of the standard limit. Dubbed the “Catch Up Contribution,” this rule is meant to help people speed up their saving efforts before retirement.

  • Map out your social security strategy – If you can afford to hold off on claiming Social Security, it can really pay off. You can file as early as age 62, but if you wait until full retirement age (currently 66), you’ll get 33% more than at age 62.5 If you wait until age 70, you’ll get 76% more than at 62 in addition to all of the cost-of-living increases during that time.6

  • Plan ahead for long-term care – The average cost of long-term care, when paid out of pocket, is $140,000 per year.7 If you believe you might need this type of care later in life, check out these facts and tips on the long-term care provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Explore ways to lower spending – Some expenses can decrease or be eliminated the closer you get to retirement (daily commute, work wardrobe, etc.) Look at your spending and find ways to put more money into your savings account.

  • Do a retirement “practice run” – To get a true picture of the retirement lifestyle, spend one month living on your planned income. This can help you test the financial allowances you have in place and make any last-minute adjustments.

Set yourself up for success

No matter what decade you find yourself in, it’s never too late to start planning for success. Hopefully these tips will help you recognize and define goals for your own financial future. Stay positive, stay focused and make it happen!


Check out this infographic offering a list of smart financial moves
to make starting in your 20s and past your 50s!
Smart Financial Moves Infographic - small banner 700px

1. Boesler, Matthew. “Almost 40% of Americans Would Struggle to Cover a $400 Emergency.” Bloomburg.com. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-23/almost-40-of-americans-would-struggle-to-cover-a-400-emergency (accessed July 22, 2019).
2. Martin, Emmie. “Here’s how much money you should have saved by 35.” CNBC.com. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/12/how-much-money-to-have-saved-by-age-35.html (accessed July 22, 2019).
3. Kagan, Julia. “401(k) Contribution Limits for 2019.” Investopedia.com. https://www.investopedia.com/retirement/401k-contribution-limits/ (accessed July 22, 2019).
4. Crawley, Mary. “4 Smart Money Moves for Your 40s.” Fool.com. https://www.fool.com/retirement/2017/11/13/4-smart-money-moves-for-your-40s.aspx (accessed July 30, 2019).
5. Clark, Jane Bennet. “5 Money Moves in Your 50s as You Ramp Up to Retirement.” Kiplinger.com. https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T047-C000-S002-5-money-moves-in-your-50s-as-you-ramp-up-to-retire.html (accessed July 22, 2019).
6. Clark, Jane Bennet. “5 Money Moves in Your 50s as You Ramp Up to Retirement.” Kiplinger.com.
7. Stark, Ellen. “5 Things You SHOULD Know About Long-Term Care Insurance.” AARP.org. https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/financial-legal/info-2018/long-term-care-insurance-fd.html (accessed July 22, 2019).

*This article has been updated from its original posting on December 19th 2016.


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