Michelle Perry Higgins a financial planner and author of The Everything Binder, College Poor No More and Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Moms says the following are important to help secure your current and long-term financial life, no matter what your age:
- Create an advisory team (attorney, accountant, financial planner, insurance agent, estate planner) and check in with them regularly.
- Keep all documents for your financial, estate and personal affairs in one location so you -- or someone acting on your behalf -- can easily access information.
- Pay down debt, pay your credit card balance each month and live within your means.
- Save for retirement, and never stop until the day you are retired.
- Monitor your credit.
- Negotiate for more money -- it never hurts to ask. "Your true monetary worth takes into account salary, bonus, retirement plans and employer contribution, stock options, car allowance and any other benefits a company may offer. Knowing the full value of your compensation package gives you the tools to negotiate wisely," she says.
One major money move that can happen any time is starting your own business. "In order to launch a business successfully without jeopardizing your lifestyle, large emergency reserves need to be in place. If one has the entrepreneurial spirit, then starting a business can happen at any age once all the pre-planning has taken place," Higgins says.
Of course, we're all different, and some are savvier about money from the get-go -- others need a little extra help. Higgins also had these general recommendations for different life phases:
In your 30s:
- Get rid of student loans and other debt.
- Maximize your company's benefits and contribute to your retirement plan. Your minimum contribution should be the company's match (so if your employer puts in 50 cents for every dollar up to $3,000 a year, for example, you'll want to put in at least $3,000 to get the extra free $1,500 from your employer).
- Start an emergency reserve: The goal is 6-9 months of living expenses.
- Consider purchasing your primary home.
- Increase retirement savings 1% every year as your salary increases.
DON'T: Assume you can put off saving for retirement, or that you don't need to make a budget if you're only making a little money. Everything counts, especially when you get the miracle of compounding interest in the mix this early in the game.
In your 40s:
- Meet with fee-based financial planner to get on track with retirement planning.
- If you have children, create or review your estate plan, review beneficiaries, and specify a guardian.
- If you're married, talk about money with your spouse. Have no financial secrets.
DON'T assume your retirement contributions can lapse while paying for your kids' college. Your retirement comes first.
In your 50s:
- Consider downsizing your home or relocating to an inexpensive area in preparation for retirement.
- Review long-term care needs.
- Start the catch-up option in your retirement plan -- for example, if you're over 50 you can contribute an additional $6,000 to your 401(k) in 2016.
- Evaluate medical needs for retirement and insurance coverage.
DON'T assume you'll have enough for retirement. Sometimes people set the process in motion and realize they're falling short on what they need.
It's easy to put off thinking about money, or hand over duties to someone else, but the person who has the most riding on your financial future is you. "I strongly encourage women to advocate for their own financial security, be educated and take control," Higgins says.