Arriving at your 40s can bring you sudden perspective on life. Your youth is definitively behind you, yet you still feel young.
Your world is book-ended by clearly older folks, you parents’ generation, and growing children around you. Financial planning is suddenly more real, more urgent, as the long-term responsibilities you face become obvious: You will get older and you will stop working. Retirement beckons.
It’s at about this age, the ramp upward toward true middle-age, that many people take financial planning seriously for the first time. They buy life insurance and seek to eliminate nettlesome debts.
Here are some of the key moves to make as you head into your fourth decade:
1. Transfer risks with better insurance
Chances are, you carry the right kinds of insurance, but do you carry enough? If you have small children at home and a non-working spouse, term life insurance should be a consideration.
It’s still cheap in your 40s and reduces the risk of leaving your family to struggle in your absence. Review your homeowner and auto policies, and consider adding umbrella insurance.
2. Minimize revolving debt
When you are younger and earning less, consumer debt is a useful tool at times. As you get older, however, credit cards tend to allow you to extend those bad habits and cut into your ability to save more money.
Get your credit cards under control by canceling all but one, and don’t carry that one unless you are traveling or otherwise expect to need it.
3. Maximize tax breaks
If you are like many Americans, you save enough in your workplace 401(k) plan to get the corporate match and maybe a little more.
But you could be saving quite a bit in taxes by raising your savings level, especially if you are in a two-earner household. Now is the time to maximize these benefits and bank the tax savings for your retirement.
4. Invest for a long life
You will live longer than you expect, without a doubt. Most financial planners tell their clients to assume a maximum number quite a bit higher than 90.
5. Think like a pension manager, not a trader
Active investors treat the markets like a timed athletic event, where the short term is all that matters. They measure their performance against pie-in-the-sky assumptions and trade furiously as a result.
A pension manager, in contrast, understands the future costs he or she must cover and targets returns that match up to those liabilities. The result is a calmer, more predictable investing style that more often meets its goals.