Like many of life’s key decisions, planning your finances should begin with a few questions: What are my financial goals? How do I want to live my retirement? And what will it take to get there? To help you think through those questions, Lake Norman Magazine consulted with two local financial planners, Mary Jo Lyons, a certified financial planner with Preferred Financial Strategies in Mooresville, and Eileen Stoner, a retirement planning consultant with the Stoner Group, the Lake Norman branch of UBS Financial Services. They offered these tips to help readers manage their finances at every stage of their working lives.
In your 20s 1) Start saving It’s never too soon to take advantage of employer-sponsored retirement plans, and to begin making regular monthly contributions. Many employers will match a percentage of what you contribute, and any investment earnings are tax-deferred. “It’s almost always the most cost-efficient way to invest,” Stoner says. If your employer doesn’t offer such a plan, start an IRA account and begin contributing to it. As with 401 K plans, the earnings from investments inside IRA accounts are tax exempt.
2) Establish a safety net How much would you need to pay your expenses if your income was cut off for three months? Create an emergency fund to cover yourself if you lose your job. That amount should increase as your lifestyle expands.
3) Beware of debt Borrowing for a car or house is expected. But steer clear of credit cards. Get a debit card instead. “With a debit card, you don’t spend what you don’t have,” Stoner says. In your 30s 1) Draw up key documents See an attorney and establish: A will. A living will, a legal document in which you convey your wishes regarding life-prolonging medical treatments. A medical power of attorney, in which you give someone else power to make decisions regarding your healthcare and medical treatment. A durable power of attorney, authorizing someone else to act on your behalf if you become disabled or incapacitated.
2) Protect your family Think about buying life insurance and disability insurance as your family grows.
3) Set financial goals “Now is the time to establish your financial priorities,” Lyons says. “Do you want to retire at 55 and sell tacos on the beach or send your kids to an Ivy League College while you take an extended trip to the Maldives?”
In your 40s 1) Save for college 529 college savings plans are a great way to do it. The investment earnings aren’t taxable unless the money is used for something other than college expenses. For information about North Carolina’s college savings plan, visit www.cfnc.org
2) Review your insurance needs Take a close look at your health, life, disability, auto and homeowners policies. Is the coverage sufficient? Can you get more coverage for less money? Talk to your insurance agent. You could be eligible for a safe drivingdiscount. Other ways to save: Raise your deductible or consolidate coverage with fewer carriers.
3) Do a retirement check-up Are you saving enough? Google the term “retirement calculator” to find online tools that will show you how much you need to be saving each month to reach your retirement goals. If you’re falling short, you still have time to make changes. “You can’t invest your way to retirement,” Lyons says. “You have to save your way to retirement.”
In your 50s 1) Increase your emergency fund Put enough in it to cover you for at least six months if you lose your job. “The more you make and the older you are, the longer you can expect it to take to find a job,” Lyons says.
2) Consider the cost of long term care Medical advances are increasing longevity. But can we afford to live longer? Think about buying long-term care insurance, which pays for long-term care not covered by traditional health insurance plans. It can serve as a hedge against the rising cost of care. “The sweet spot for purchasing long term care insurance is in your early fifties,” Lyons says.
In your 60s 1) Evaluate Social Security While it’s possible to start drawing Social Security payments at age 62, think twice before doing so because you’ll be subjecting yourself and your spouse to a reduced monthly benefit for the rest of your lives. The longer you wait to draw benefits, the larger your monthly benefit. To estimate how much you will likely receive, visit the Social Security Administration’s web site – www.ssa.gov – and click on “estimate your retirement benefits” on the left side of the page.
2) Plan for inflation As you plan for the next chapter of life, consider this: Everything will cost more in 10 years, particularly health care.
3) Create a new income stream Put in place a plan for replacing your weekly paycheck. Will Social Security and your 401K be enough? If not, think about ways you can reduce expenses and increase retirement income.