Millennials may still feel quite young (despite those pesky gray hairs and less-than-fine lines), but in so many ways, we have adulted. So it’s time for our money management to grow up a bit, too.
Your financial to-do list is small but mighty in your 20s. Setting up automatic transfers to a high-yield savings account, contributing enough to your 401(k) to get the full employer match and paying down high-interest debt can take you quite far.
Now, you can do more to propel yourself to financial success in your 40s and beyond.
MAKE USE OF A HIGHER CREDIT SCORE
You don’t have to treat a high credit score like a precious work of art. Good credit can qualify you for better borrowing terms, so put that to work.
Try to cut back on the cost of borrowing. “In terms of bang for your buck, refinancing is an important thing you should be doing,” says Priya Malani, founder and CEO of Stash Wealth, a financial advisory firm in Charlotte, North Carolina. “If you can move even a quarter of a percent on a really large mortgage, that’s going to save you tens of thousands of dollars.”
If you don’t have credit card debt, but you’re still using that barebones card you got at 21, switch to a card that earns cash back or travel rewards. However, leave that old credit card open and use it once in a while to keep it active. (The average age of your accounts is a factor in your credit score s, and the older, the better.)
MATCH INVESTMENTS TO A VARIETY OF GOALS
Here are two ways you can up the ante on your investing. First, if your employer offers a retirement plan with a match, and you’ve been contributing just enough to get that match, consider contributing more. A rule of thumb is to save 10% to 15% of your pretax income toward retirement.
Next, plot out your intermediate-term goals for the next five to 15 years. You can invest for these goals using other kinds of accounts, such as taxable brokerage accounts and 529s, to help fund early retirement, save for your child’s education or plan for another large expense.
Money for short-term goals (within five years or less) shouldn’t be invested. Instead, a high-yield savings account is a more appropriate place to hold that money until you need it.
THINK ABOUT HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CAREER — AND YOUR LIFE
If you spent the start of your career rising and grinding, you likely had little energy to think about what kind of work (and life) would actually bring you the most joy. When you’re financially stable and advancing in your career, you can begin to think about what comes next for you.
Shehara L. Wooten, certified financial planner and founder of Your Story Financial, a financial advisory firm in Dallas, says you don’t need to wait for retirement to do the things you truly enjoy.
“You may even want to, if you’ve planned properly, take some time off,” she says. “If that’s not something you’re able to do, take some time to find out how you can get paid more, how you can really be appreciated for the work that you do.”
Wooten also recommends seeking the help of a financial advisor to discuss what kind of lifestyle you want to have in retirement and the savings you need to accumulate to get there. You may have a skill set that can translate to a higher-paying career, which will help you accomplish your goals more quickly.
PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR LOVED ONES
What worked when you were 25 and single isn’t going to cut it when you’re 35 with two kids and a mortgage. Here are some ways to protect your family:
INSURANCE: Malani recommends a term life insurance plan if you own a home with someone else, someone is dependent on you for support or you have a co-signer on one of your loans.
ESTATE PLANNING: Talk to an estate attorney about crafting a will, naming guardians for your kids, appointing a medical power of attorney and other scary-yet-necessary details.
UPDATE BENEFICIARIES: Revisit who you listed as your beneficiaries on your bank and investment accounts. If that information is outdated and you were to pass away, your money won’t go to the right person.
GIVE TO OTHERS
As your salary grows, it becomes easier to meet your needs and still have money left over each month. Some of that money can be budgeted toward meaningful causes. Estate planning can also help you map out how you’d like to donate money or valuable possessions to charity.
“I like to have people write out their story and go to the end of their life,” Wooten says. “What do you want that to look like? What do you want people to say about you? What do you want your legacy to entail?”