Published January 30, 2013
If you’ve recently celebrated the big 4-0, congratulations! For the next several decades, you’re going to get happier, and experience less stress. (At least that’s what the studies say!)
Of course, this does not exactly give you license to just sit back and take it easy. You’re about halfway through your working life, which means that you have half the time left to pull in the money that will sustain you for the rest of your life.
And, not to be pessimistic (although pessimism can be good for your finances), but that’s only true if you work until your intended retirement age. Unfortunately, a lot of people face early retirement—or can’t get hired at all in their later years, as one manager revealed to us.
But we’re here to talk about solutions, so we’ve rounded up the seven most common financial challenges facing people in the 40+ set. Our goal: ensure that your 80-year-old self can sit in a rocker and watch the clouds drift by.
1. If You’ve Been Avoiding Your Finances Entirely …
Think your financial situation is bad? Well, whatever you fear now is better than the situation you’ll face if you put this off for another year. So here’s how you can take action today:
And the key to healthy asset growth is simple: You need to stick to a budget, which will ensure that you spend less than you make, and save for the future. But how much, exactly, should you spend on dining out versus contributing to savings? The 50/20/30 Rule will tell you–and Money Center users will automatically be guided in how to set up their budget according to this rule.
2. If You’re Living Beyond Your Means …
Keeping up with the Joneses is a human tendency—not a personal failing. We’ve got an entire article on how to cure comparisonitis, but, in short:
If you’re in debt, use this checklist to get out—and make sure that you know the top debt mistakes. For some added inspiration, check out how these people got out of debt, whether it was $20,000 or $60,000.
Then look into making more money. You can start by reading our Negotiating 101 guide, as well as get tips from real people who’ve gotten raises.
Finally, cut your costs. If your mortgage is too high, refinance. If your utilities bill is too steep, rethink your energy efficiency.
3. If You Aren’t on Track to Save Enough for Retirement …
The amount you need to squirrel away for retirement is the largest stash of money that you’ll ever need to save. To find out if you’re on track, do you know how much …
If you don’t know the answer to each of these questions, you must start contributing–or increase your contribution–to your retirement account(s) today.
If you have a full-time job, start contributing at least 5%—or more, if you can swing it—into your 401(k) or other employer-based account. And those with and without full-time jobs should also boost their IRA contributions—up to the limit. If you’re unsure of the kind of accounts you need, use these 401(k) vs. IRA flow charts to find out, based on your tax filing status:
If you haven’t opened an IRA, use this checklist to learn how to open an investment account.
4. If You Have Young Children or Plan to Have Kids …
Your biggest challenge is college tuition fees, which will hit you around the same time that you’re in the home stretch of saving for retirement. Your top takeaways:
If you’re expecting, consider taking the Baby on Board Bootcamp to find out how to accommodate your little one financially.
Finally, do this incredibly important thing: get life insurance. Need convincing? Read how life insurance saved this family, and then check out our Life Insurance 101 guide and this checklist.
5. If You’re About to Pay for College …
If your little ones are, well, big, then you need to know how to take out student loans smartly, and how to apply for financial aid. (Review these top student loan mistakes, so your kid gets the right education for the right price. And be aware that private student loans are a bigger financial burden than federal aid.)
Don’t let your child become another statistic in the student loan crisis–or one of the 20-somethings out there with high debt and few employment prospects.
The top things to consider:
Finally, if you’re a little late to the 529 game and wondering if opening one now still makes sense, check out Saving for College 101.
6. If You’re Getting Back Into the Workplace …
After taking a few years off, your top financial priority should be to save for retirement, since you may have some catching up to do. Here are some tips for your re-entry to the workforce:
7. If You’re Starting to Take Care of Your Parents …
Make sure that you have all of the financial, medical and legal information you need, such as:
Start accompanying your parents on visits to financial advisors, doctors or attorneys. And be wary of anyone who refuses to let you join—unscrupulous people may try to take advantage of your parents if they think that no one is watching.
If you’re researching long-term care options for your parents to cover medical and non-medical needs for long periods of time, be aware that, in most cases, Medicare won’t pay for long-term care—so evaluate other resources, such as veterans’ benefits. If you’ve heard that you need to encourage your parents to “give away” or “hide” resources in order to qualify for Medicaid coverage of long-term care expenses, consult an attorney who specializes in elder care for proper guidance.
Retirement and Beyond
Now that you’re 40, you may also be thinking about your own needs down the road. While you’re still young and in good health, it may make sense to purchase long-term care insurance. In addition, now is a great time to make sure that your own legal documents are updated, especially if you’ve had kids or if you’ve gotten divorced since you drafted your will. Also, double-check those IRA accounts or you may end up disinheriting your current spouse in favor of your ex!
Remember that your top financial goal as you head into the last half of your working years is to save for retirement, followed by prioritizing for your child’s college education, your parents’ long-term care options and any student loan debt that you still owe.
And remember that every money challenge is temporary and can be handled–the way countless other people have managed it before you.
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