As young people, we are often told that the key to a successful future is to start saving for retirement as early as possible. While this is true, there are other things that we can do in our twenties, thirties, and forties – and even our fifties – to set ourselves up for a comfortable financial life. In this article, we will discuss what your 60-year-old self wants your 20-, 30-, 40- and 50-something self to know.
Figure out your money “story”
Each of us has a money history – conscious or not – from our family of origin. This history can profoundly impact our relationship with money as adults. If you are constantly stressed about money or making poor financial decisions, exploring your childhood and early adult experiences with money may be helpful. This can be done with the help of a therapist, financial planner, financial counselor, or even by writing down your thoughts and feelings about money. Figuring this out early will aid your ability to make clearer and less emotionally complicated decisions about money for yourself, your partner, and your family.
Define financial security
You may define it however you want. Make sure it is realistic and speaks to you so it can guide you. Financial security is not the same as being rich. Rather, it has enough money to weather any financial storm or to take advantage of any financial opportunity. Create your guiding principle.
Live within your means.
One of the best things you can do for your future self is to create a spending plan and stick to it. This may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but so many people live paycheck-to-paycheck without ever taking the time to figure out where their money is going. Every dollar that comes into your household should have a task, whether that’s to pay bills or go toward savings. Entertainment and fun should be part of that plan. Your spending plan should “zero out” every month.
Make more money, save more money.
When you get a raise in income, make sure you start saving more money. Saving more money might mean saving for a “splurge” purchase because now you have more money to spend. Remember, though, as you increase your lifestyle, you’re going to need more money in the future to support that lifestyle when the employment income ceases.
The caveat to this advice is “manage your career.” If you are an employee, you need to be climbing a leadership and compensation ladder at a variety of companies. If you are self-employed, you need to remain in a growth mode with your company. Always be asking yourself, what’s next?
Early and often wins every time.
Everyone has seen the chart of the twin siblings, one who starts saving at 22 and the other who waits to save until 32, and the compound interest impact of starting at 22 beats the older sibling every time. Dramatically. Even if you can only save $20 a month, save it. Keep increasing it as time goes on.
Build good credit
Americans are expected to have a credit history. Not taking out a credit card is risky to your financial life. If you, for instance, want to buy a house, the lender is going to want to see that you can borrow money and pay it back responsibly. Make sure you build this history as early as possible.
Prepare for the worst – it happens.
Disaster, disability, and death happen. You should have adequate savings to cover any disaster that insurance may not cover completely or at all. If you are saving regularly, you’ll have this aspect covered. Then, you should have adequate insurance in case you have a “big” disaster (car wreck), become disabled (bad car wreck), or die with people dependent on your income (really bad car wreck).
The very word “risk” will send some people over the deep end. (See the part about money story above.) The world is an inherently risk place. The strategy is to take the risk you need to live your life and build wealth but not so much risk that you can’t sleep at night or may end up destitute. Most people don’t have to take that much risk to achieve their goals. Early and often, slow and steady wins the race most of the time.
For you risk-takers out there: Risk is fun for you. You should have a pile of money somewhere that you can “play” with, and if you lose it all, it does not impact your financial life. That way, you can seed fund your cousin’s company, buy that start-up company’s stock, experiment with buying and selling other assets that make money, or whatever your risk-taking heart desires.
Don’t lose sight of your dreams.
Speaking of risk, don’t allow yourself to get into a rut of denying a dream for the sake of financial stability. Too many people don’t take that job, don’t start that company, or don’t pursue another dream because they fear the consequences of “failure.” Most 60-somethings who have “failed” at something rarely regret having taken the chance.
Rather than let fear guide you, let research and information help you craft a strategy to sustain your family no matter what happens.
“Failing” financially doesn’t mean you failed in life or failed your loved ones.
Money disasters might happen to you. You lose a great job. An investment fails. You’re uninsured for a loss. You get divorced. The company you start goes belly-up.
A 60-year-old self will tell you that these losses are not permanent, that you will rebuild and recover, that your loved ones will rally around you, and that the experience of loss reflects a life well-lived. Let all your feelings be felt. Get support. When you have the fortitude to move on again, move on.
Don’t give up
One of the worst things the financial planning industry has done is create the idea of “your number” – that is, what amount of money do you need to retire? That number is invariably big and discouraging to the point it makes folks not want to start saving. Don’t get snagged. Start saving. You can and likely will get there.
You might also be a 50-something who is late to get started, and your retirement plan is starting to become “I’ll spend whatever I have and have someone put a pillow over my head” or “I’ll live on my sister’s couch.” Don’t give up. There is still time to save and make mid-flight corrections to get you where you need to be when you can no longer work for money. Happens to folks all the time.
Money isn’t everything – live in gratitude.
You’ve heard the adage that money can’t buy love or happiness or solve all your problems. While money can solve all the problems that money can solve, and it can rent happiness for a long time, there truly are things it cannot fix. It doesn’t bring loved ones back for another day, it does not fix many health problems (memory, sight, etc.), and it can’t buy love.
Remember to put your arms around those you love, appreciate the things you do have, express gratitude and love as often as you can, do those things that nourish your soul, and do anything else you may not be able to do when your a disabled or dead. Early and often.If you have any other pearls of wisdom, I’d love to hear them. Please reach out
About the Author:
Jessica Lanning JD, CFP® brings focus and perspective to your individual financial needs to identify your opportunities for investment and wealth. Regardless of what you’ve done before or what “mistakes” you think you’ve made, Jessica can help get you back on track quickly and safely. As a former practicing lawyer, she brings a comprehensive approach to legal, tax, and financial challenges so that her clients can enjoy peace of mind. A huge proponent of conscious decision-making, Jessica makes sure her clients are educated and informed so that they make sound decisions with clarity and confidence.
Lanning Financial Inc. is a registered investment adviser. The information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.