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No matter what stage of life you’re in, money matters. Whether you’re working to earn an allowance, supporting a family, or gearing up for retirement, your finances are often at the forefront of your mind.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind (and pass along) for all stages of your life:
Giving is important. One of the earliest lessons most kids receive is about sharing. It’s important not to forget this as you move into your teen years. I have found that the people who are most content with their lives are the ones who share their good fortunes with others. When you get your first job, consider supporting a charity of your choice. Even $10 every few months can help.
Wants and needs are different. In your teen years, it can be hard to distinguish between needs and wants, especially when you’re looking at what your peers have. The reality is, food, shelter, transportation, and clothing are needs—going out to eat every night is not. Wearing clothes is a need—designer clothes are not. Peer pressure is real, but learning to stand up to it is important. If you learn in your teens how to control your emotions and distinguish needs from wants when making financial decisions, you can avoid financial trouble when you get older.
20s and 30s
You’re not invincible. When you’re in your 20s, it’s easy to think you are invincible and will live forever. But that mindset can hurt you financially, especially when it comes to planning for retirement. The best lesson you can learn in your 20s is the importance of compounding money. The earlier you can start saving money, the more you will have later. Don’t wait until you’re on the brink of retirement to start saving. You’ll have to save a lot more, a lot faster, than you would have if you’d started in your 20s.
You should earn interest, not pay it. Many people in their 30s are still paying off their student loans or credit card debt from bad purchasing decisions they made in their 20s. You don’t have to be a finance professional to understand that the best way to increase your wealth is by earning interest on your own money instead of paying interest to someone else. Pay down those debts as soon as possible. If you must have debt, know the difference between good debt and bad debt.
40s and 50s
Prioritizing is important. You are getting close to your peak earning years, but why does it seem like you can never get ahead? Mortgage payments, car loans, and kids are most likely consuming all of your cash. This is definitely the time to learn about financial priorities. The key thing to remember is that retirement should be your number one priority (unless of course, your plan is to move in with your kids and expect them to take care of you during your golden years).
You can’t change the past. There are many people who don’t even start to think about planning for retirement until they are in their 50s. If this sounds like you, know that although it would have been less painful financially had you started saving earlier, it is never too late to start. Don’t whine about something you can’t change—you probably don’t have a time machine to go back to your 20s—and instead buckle down and try to put every cent you make away for retirement.
60s and beyond
A happy spouse means a happy house. Did you really think that you were going to retire and sit around the house doing nothing? This is a great time to consider a second career or maybe give back by donating your time to your favorite charity or cause. Not only will you feel good about giving back, you might also stop driving your spouse crazy by being home all day.
Your priorities will change. You might not be ready to slow down, but the lesson here is that you won’t live forever. As you age, review all of the wills and legal documents you might have drafted in your younger years, and make the changes you deem necessary.
Pass on what you know. Some of the greatest gifts you can pass on to your loved ones (and maybe even perfect strangers) are the lessons you’ve learned over the course of your life. Spend time with the people you love, teach them what you know, and take some time to smell the roses.
No matter what age bracket you’re in, it’s important to set financial goals and learn from your—and others’—mistakes. What are some money management tips you have to share?
Steve Repak, CFP®, Speaker and the Author of Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training for Your Money.
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