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Hitting age 40 can be a major wakeup call for a lot of people. The cold, hard fact of the number often throws people into a panic, reminding them that they haven’t got all that long to work for their own future, and the future of their whole family. If you’re approaching this big milestone, or you’ve just passed it, here are some important steps you should be taking to assure a stable future…
Shave Down your Debt
If you still have credit card debt, student loan debt or outstanding debts from medical bills, the next priority on your list should be shaving down and ultimately eliminating that debt, so you can put more towards saving and investing for the future. With credit card debt, the only real option you have is to set a plan for paying it down quickly, and then stick to it. If you still have debt from a student loan, the first thing you should do is see if it’s tax-deductible based on your bracket. If not, you’ll simply have to work at paying it down, but your cards should take priority. Aside from this basic financial planning, you should also check the interest rates on your cards and loans, and see if you can find anything lower.
Save for College
The advice from most financial advisors is that you should start planning to save for your kids’ college education more or less as soon as they’re conceived, even if you’ve only got a small amount to spare. Hopefully, you’ll be able to increase the amount you regularly put away through stocks, real estate, forex or other investments. You can enter a 529 college savings plan in order to shave down the amount you or your kids have to borrow in order to go to college. A lot of state universities run their own paid tuition plans that will allow you to lock down the cost of tuition at current rates. Obviously though, you or your child may have a more prestigious (but less accessible) school. A lot of families will need to sit down and think of realistic ways to minimize the cost of education, like spending a couple of years at a community college before a four-year university.
Max Out your Employee Benefits
As soon as you reach your 40s, you should be putting as much money in your 401(k) as your employer matches as a bare minimum. Even if you aren’t making any profit on this investment, your money will double just from your employer matching it. Retirement plans vary from business to business, so take steps to find out how much you can contribute, and if it’s practical, maximize what you’re putting in up to that limit. There’ll usually be someone at your work who can explain everything you need to know about different investment options. Most importantly, you need to understand why it’s generally better to make proactive investments when you’re in your 40s, rather than when retirement is just around the corner.