We hear time and time again about the importance of setting financial goals — those specific, time-bound milestones we aim to accomplish that align with our larger hopes and dreams in life. Effective goals consider not only what we want to achieve, but also exactly how we’re going to get there.
Saying you want to “save more” tends to be less effective than setting a goal like “wanting to deposit $50 twice per month into an emergency savings fund” or “wanting to deposit five percent of each paycheck into a travel fund so I can go to New York City next summer.” The difference here is that one is very broad, while the others covers the how and why.
Naturally, your financial goals will vary depending on your priorities and personality. But they’ll also change with age, as your money management approach adapts to the needs of the various stages of life.
Here are a few common financial goals worth considering for each age group.
Money Goals for Your 20s
It’s never too early to start building your financial foundation, which means your 20s are a time to start setting yourself up for the short- and long-term future.
Build Credit: Opening up one or more credit cards and managing them responsibly can help lengthen your history and boost your score over time.
Establish Financial Independence: Getting on your feet means taking over the payment of bills like insurance premiums, cell phone, health insurance, car payments and more.
Start an Emergency Fund: Start depositing a portion of each paycheck into a designated emergency account until you have at least three months’ worth of living costs tucked away.
Start Working Down Student Debt: If you’re one of the many Americans who graduated with loans, start paying them down as soon and assertively as possible.
Start Retirement Savings: Establish a retirement fund, whether it’s a 401(k) through your employer, a Roth IRA or another type — then deposit 10 to 15 percent of your income each month (or as much as you can while still affording living expenses and other savings).
Learn to Budget: Practice makes perfect when it comes to budgeting, but today’s plethora of apps do make it easier to get in the habit of tracking spending and optimizing your habits.
Money Goals for Your 30s
Working to establish independence in your 20s sets you up to thrive in your 30s.
Save for Upcoming Life Milestones: This is around the age when many people get married, have kids, pursue graduate degrees, buy their first home, etc. Each of these goals should become a line item in your savings plan.
Expand Emergency Fund: Many experts recommend working your way up to six to 12 months’ worth of emergency savings.
Eliminate All Debt Besides Mortgage: Make it a priority to become as debt free as possible, whether you streamline your spending to tackle outstanding balances, consolidate your debts, try credit counseling or enroll in a debt relief program.
Money Goals for Your 40s
You’re at the halfway point between starting work and ending it, which brings up a few new goals.
Establish an Estate Plan: It’s time to start thinking about your assets, specifically what would happen to them in the event of your passing. With the help of an estate planner, now is generally a good time to write a will (if you haven’t), set up trusts, setting beneficiaries, getting life insurance and more.
Plan for Your Children’s College: If covering some or all of your children’s college is a priority, get your finances in order to be able to shoulder this expense.
Money Goals for Your 50s
Retirement is in sight, but still a decade or so off in your 50s.
Maximize Retirement Contributions: Take stock of where you stand in terms of retirement savings, then do what you can to maximize your saving efforts now.
Money Goals for Your 60s
You’re nearing the finish line of your career, but there’s still work to be done before you can kick your feet up and relax by the beach — or fulfill whatever your vision is for retirement.
Pay Off Your Mortgage: Wrapping up your mortgage before retirement will take a huge expense off your plate. You may also want to consider downsizing to more affordable living accommodations.
Decide When to Take Social Security: You can start taking it at 62, but your monthly payments will be higher the longer you wait. Only you can decide when to start taking Social Security.
Diversify Investments to Minimize Risk: Reallocate your retirement investments to reduce risk, like opting for bonds instead of potentially volatile individual stocks.
There are many different pieces of the puzzle you have to put together — spending, emergency savings, retirement, debt and more. Breaking down goals by age can help you get on track and stay there throughout your working years, all the while keeping in mind what’s most important to you.