Your guide to financial decisions - the 40’s edition.
By the time you hit your 40’s, your financial life is probably a bit more certain than it was in previous decades. Your earning power is likely several times what it was when you left college, and ideally you’ve built up some assets such as a home and retirement account. Even if you haven't done all of that, it is time to hyper-focus on your future.
In the next ten years, it’s time to make sure you’re on a financial path that ensures you hit the long-term milestones you set in your 20’s and 30’s. To do this in the best possible way, it’s advised that you consult a financial expert, if you haven’t already.
Here are our tips to maximize your finances in your 40’s.
Tune-up your savings. This is the age when you must start planning carefully for retirement. Meet with a financial planner now to determine a realistic retirement date, then devise a solid plan for getting there. Bolstering your savings is almost guaranteed to be a part of this plan, but you can do this without overhauling your whole financial life.
Do small things to help yourself, like increasing your 401(k) contribution when you get raises and bonuses. Alternatively, if the interest on your mortgage payment is more than the returns on your 401(k), put extra cash toward prepaying the principal on your home loan.
Another great way to check your progress toward retirement is to use an online calculator. You can also access our easy-to-use retirement calculator when you sign up with the MoneyLion app. It offers you a great snapshot of what you'll really need in retirement.
Ask for advice. In your 40's, your financial life is more complicated than it was in decades past, so it’s probably time to meet with a financial advisor to help focus on achieving those long-term goals.
Beginning a relationship with a financial advisor can be daunting, since you are disclosing a lot of personal information and trusting them to act with your best interests in mind. One of the best ways to find a financial advisor is by word of mouth: ask your friends and family for a referral, someone they trust who’s helped them with their financial life.
Another way to go is searching online – there are several places to search for financial advisors online and some allow you to communicate directly with financial advisors in real time.
No matter where you find your advisor, make sure they are a fiduciary, which means they are obligated by law to act in their clients’ best interests. A few specific credentials suggest an advisor works as a fiduciary: designations such as certified financial planners, registered investment advisors, and fee-only advisors are often good places to look.
Open a brokerage account. If your earnings power has expanded and/or your kids are out of school, you may be able to supplement your investment income by opening a brokerage account. Low-fee index funds (just like the ones in your 401(k)) are great places to put your cash to work instead of letting it sit in your savings account.
Index funds are especially great for people in their 40's because they balance healthy returns with an appropriate level of risk. They are pegged to a benchmark, like the S&P 500, with the stocks or bonds in the fund selected and maintained to that standard. By its definition, an index fund won’t “beat” the market, but it also won’t do worse – something that is common in actively managed mutual funds. Index funds are also less expensive, since they do not have active management fees.
Assessing your risk tolerance is important at this age, so diversify your investments between stocks and bonds (stocks being more risky, bonds being less so). As a general rule, the further you are from needing the money, the more risk you can tolerate in your portfolio. One common piece of advice is to subtract your age from 100. The resulting number is the percentage of your assets you should invest in stocks.
If you have built a solid foundation of terrific financial habits when you were younger, this decade could be straightforward and relatively stress-free. But even if you're not exactly where you want to be, don't worry: you still have time to clean up some old messes, conscientiously get rid of debt and put your savings into serious overdrive. Just keep going and you’ll get there.