Do you remember The Game of Life®? In Milton Bradley's popular board game, players progress through life stages making decisions that affect their prosperity. Like those players, today's generations face financial decisions with lasting effects. Here are some tips for staying focused despite life's ups and downs.
Generation Z (teens to early 20s):
Accustomed to instant gratification, the "Digital Generation" may need to recognize that financial success takes diligence and patience. Consider sharing the following advice with the Gen Zers in your life:
Live within your means. Your first paycheck provides the chance to learn valuable lessons, such as creating a budget and spending less than you earn.
Build a saving habit. You have one powerful advantage over other generations--time. Why not make saving automatic and direct a part of your paycheck into a savings or investment account?
Understand credit and credit reports. A good credit history helps you get a car loan and a mortgage, but a bad one can ruin your borrowing chances for years. Reviewing your credit report regularly can help you manage your finances and protect your identity.
Generation Y (20s and early 30s):
In this group, you could be juggling your first "real" job, college loans, marriage, a first home, and young children. Three points for you:
Risk management isn't just for companies. Save 6 to 12 months' worth of living expenses in a savings account for unexpected emergencies. Review your insurance, and at a minimum, have health and property coverage. Also consider disability insurance, which helps pay the bills during a health crisis.
Start saving for retirement ... Like Generation Z, time is your strongest ally. Participate in a retirement savings plan at work, if offered, and if your employer offers a match (free money!), contribute enough to get all of it. If you don't have a plan at work, open an individual retirement account (IRA) and invest what you can (up to annual limits).
... And your children's college. In 18 years, a four-year degree could cost as much as several hundred thousand dollars. Give your children a head start by saving now.
Generation X (30s and 40s): Home ownership, older children, a career in full swing--if you're in this group, your finances may take a back seat to life's daily demands. To help stay focused, consider the following:
Retirement savings trump college savings. Don't risk your future to pay for your children's entire education. There's no financial aid office in retirement.
Don't neglect your health. Are you experiencing new aches and pains? At this age, medical issues can begin to surface, demanding time, energy, and financial resources. Take care of yourself, and before an emergency arises, review your health and disability coverage.
Create a will, if you don't already have one. This important document can help ensure your children are cared for and your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Medical directives should also be established now.
Baby boomers (50s and 60s): If you're in this age group, you may have both adult children and elderly parents who need assistance, as well as an impending or current retirement. Pointers for you include:
Shift your retirement savings into high gear. People over 50 benefit from higher savings limits on 401(k)s and IRAs. Strive for the maximum.
Visit a financial professional. When should you tap Social Security and your retirement savings? How should you invest your assets to potentially provide a lifetime of income? A financial professional can be a critical coach at this time of your life.
Investigate long-term care insurance. These policies help protect your family's assets from the potentially devastating effects of long-term care. The older you get, the more expensive these policies can be.
Retirees: The Game of Life ends when players reach retirement, but not so in real life--you still have years ahead of you. Consider the following:
Review the basics. Whether you plan to travel to exotic locales or play board games with your grandchildren, a key to happiness is living within your means. Develop a realistic budget and don't exceed your spending limits.
Manage your income stream. A financial professional can help you choose vehicles and determine an investment strategy to help ensure you don't outlive your assets.
Plan for your family's well-being. A properly crafted estate plan can help you ensure that your wishes are carried out--for both your and your family's peace of mind.