Your 40s are a pivotal point in your life. You may have a house, a family, aging parents, and a busy job by this time. College expenses for kids may be looming, as well as retirement a little farther off. Maybe you’re hatching a plan to start your own business soon or buy a beach house that’ll be your empty-nester home.
Each person will have unique financial goals in their 40s, which will depend on many factors, like lifestyle, salary, and acquired assets. Now is the perfect time to crystallize those dreams and get your money in top shape. You’re old enough to know what you want, and chances are, you have many peak earning years ahead.
Related: How to use your credit card wisely
Why Turning 40 Is a Big Deal
Where personal finances are concerned, your 40s are a big deal. You’re most likely approaching the height of your career and earning potential. Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that primetime for earnings usually hits between age 35 and 54.
But you may also have many more expenses, such as planning for college for your children, planning for retirement, and caring for aging parents. Your 40s are a complicated decade where sound financial planning is crucial for a secure future.
Why It Is Not Too Late to Start Financial Planning in Your 40s
If there is one thing that is certain in life, it is uncertainty. Things change. Many people return to school in their 40s to boost their earning potential. Some take the plunge and dive into an entrepreneurial venture. Some leave the workforce entirely to focus on raising a family.
Whatever your life brings at this stage, you still have a couple of decades to plan for the years ahead, including your retirement, so set some goals now. It’s advisable to set long-term goals (5+ years), mid-term goals (2 to 5 years), and short-term goals (1 to 2 years). Having this staggered approach can help you balance your varied aspirations. Different timelines can demand different tactics.
Financial Planning Tips in Your 40s
So how exactly can you successfully manage your money in your 40s? Here are some tips for developing a financial strategy, saving money in your 40s, and more.
Pay Off Credit Cards and High-Interest Loans
Pay off as much high-interest debt as you can. This debt, typically the kind charged on credit cards, can be a major drain on your finances. Currently, credit card interest rates hover near 20%, which can throw a wrench in your budget if you’re carrying a balance.
You don’t need to stop using plastic completely, but you do want to whittle down what you owe. Credit cards can actually boost your credit score if you use them wisely and pay off the balance each month. If you can’t easily prioritize this debt and pay it down, options include:
- Getting a balance transfer credit card, which will allow you to pay no or low interest for a period of time and catch up on payments
- Taking out a debt consolidation loan at a lower rate to pay off the cards
- Talking with a low- or no-fee credit counselor for guidance.
Invest in Physical and Mental Health
Healthcare can be one of the biggest expenses a person faces, so it pays to take care of yourself. The healthier you are, the fewer services and interventions you will likely need, and the less you will pay in deductibles each year. Most importantly, your quality of life and ability to earn will be so much greater if you are physically and mentally healthy. Take steps to assess your wellness and address any issues that are brewing. Also make sure that you choose the right health insurance plan for your specific situation.
If you have aging parents, talk to them about their health insurance plan and finances so that you understand how they are handling their wellness costs and have peace of mind.
Look More Closely at Retirement
At age 40, many people decide now is the right time to start saving for retirement. Or perhaps they already have a retirement plan or a 401(k) through their employer that they haven’t revisited recently.
Whatever your exact situation, your 40s are a good time to focus on your plan. You might think about increasing your 401(k) contributions, opening a Roth IRA, or finding a taxable investment account. Also, if you get a raise or bonus, why not put a chunk of it towards saving for your future?
You’ll likely want to consider how much of a nest egg you will need to retire and whether your current plan will get you there. If you pay for a professional financial planner, they can help you figure out how to save money in your 40s and maintain your desired standard of living into retirement.
Plan for Children’s Expenses (College, Careers)
It can be a shock when you realize that your baby is suddenly heading to college, and the cost of paying for their education may be an even greater surprise—and not necessarily a pleasant one. It can be very expensive. That’s why, when it comes to budgeting for couples or single parents, paying for higher education is often a major (and majorly challenging) goal.
There are saving plans specifically designed for college; for instance, 529 plans offer many benefits. If your children are not headed to college, other savings options like certificates of deposit (CDs) might be a better way to invest in their future. Teach your children sound financial management skills so you won’t be supporting them in their adulthood.
Some people go back to school in their 40s to help them move to the next level at work or prepare for a new career. If you are among them, create a budget that includes all your expenses and income. Project those numbers into the next few years to help you plan your life and stay on track financially.
Choose or Revisit Insurance Plans
In addition to health insurance mentioned above, your 40s can be a good time to consider disability insurance. If something happens to you and you cannot work, you could be forced to use your retirement and emergency funds sooner. Whether you choose short-term vs. long-term disability insurance, a policy can protect you by providing a safety net.
Death is an unavoidable life event, so review your life insurance policy (could you get a better deal elsewhere?) and be sure you have drafted a will. Parents who plan and pay for their funerals ahead of time ease the burden on dependents. The median cost of a traditional funeral is around $7,848, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. An insurance policy, a payable-on-death account, or prepaying at a funeral home can be good options to fund end-of-life expenses.
If you are shopping for life insurance, there are many online comparison tools that let you quickly see some different offers and how they stack up. It’s an easy way to start the process.
Keep Emergency Funds in Good Shape
Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. Some of them are not so fun, like having your car conk out, the roof leak, or your job suddenly come to an end. In times like those, you will need access to funds to cover your costs. That’s why having an emergency fund is important; with enough money to cover three to six months’ worth of your basic living expenses in a savings account, you’ll have peace of mind. If you don’t yet have a rainy day fund, start putting money aside each month (even just $25). Funnel any “found money” (say, a tax refund) to this savings account too.
Invest in a Diversified Portfolio
Growing your wealth often involves investing. While it does carry risk, it can yield big rewards. For instance, the annualized Standard and Poor’s (S&P) 500 return over the last 10 years was a healthy 14.7%. You might invest on your own, with a broker, or with automated financial planning. The vehicles you choose will depend on your risk tolerance. Some people invest in CDs and bonds, which are relatively low risk, while others enjoy speculating on the stock market. Manage your risk by never investing more than you can afford to lose.
Some people prefer to invest in stocks using dollar-cost averaging—investing a fixed dollar amount regularly, regardless of the share price—which can help you to build a diversified portfolio while minimizing volatility over the long term.
How Technology Can Make Managing Finances Easier
Managing finances and investments is so much easier in the digital age. Mobile banking and finance apps mean that you can manage your finances from your armchair 24/7. Online lenders offer favorable investment and savings options, and online trading platforms allow anyone to trade on the stock markets.
Where Should I Be Financially by 40?
Financial goals by age 40 vary. One rule of thumb is to save 15% of your income each year, but this figure is subjective and depends on many factors, including your existing assets.
It’s never too late to take control of your finances. In your 40s, you are likely entering your prime earning years, so it’s a good moment to focus on paying down debt, preparing for the next chapter of your children’s lives, and saving and investing to get ready for retirement. With some wise money moves, you’ll be set to make the most of this decade and beyond.
What financial goals should a 40-year-old have?
Ideally, a 40-year-old would be building a nest egg for retirement, paying down high-interest debt, and finding ways to sensibly pay for children’s college fees and meet other financial obligations. How much anyone needs to achieve these goals depends on many factors, such as lifestyle, income, and financial obligations.
How much should a 40-year-old have saved?
How much a 40-year-old should have saved depends on their current and future lifestyle and needs. A rule of thumb is to save 15% of your income each year towards retirement, but it will be different for everyone.
How can I build my wealth in my 40s?
You can build wealth in your 40s by paying down high-interest debt, choosing the right savings and investment vehicles, and planning for retirement.
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
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