A couple of years ago, after eyeing my slow but steadily growing savings account, I set goals for the new decade approaching.
When I turned 30, I told myself, I’d get serious about putting some things in motion so that I’d be financially secure later in life, after age 65.
I wanted to make sure that I didn’t repeat the financial mistakes I made in the prior 10 years. In my twenties, when most of the people I knew were opening retirement accounts and stashing chunks of their paychecks away in savings accounts, I was spending most of my money rather than saving it.
I was paying a lot in rent in a city more expensive than most (New York City) and burning through cash on things like food, entertainment and other social activities. One thing I knew would make me feel better about my past was to go full-force, all-in with plans to improve my financial future.
That’s why a few months before my thirtieth birthday, I came up with a future-focused, four-step game plan with my financial security in mind. I started funding things like retirement accounts and paying for insurance that I likely wouldn’t need or benefit from until after turning 65, giving me 35 years to grow my retirement nest egg and protect myself from the unexpected.
Here are the four money moves I made:
I started investing in a 401(k)
When I started my first full-time job at 22, I naively thought the idea of taking a portion out of my paycheck on payday and putting it into a retirement account that I couldn’t touch for many years was bonkers. I felt I needed every penny now. The idea of opening a 401(k) in my twenties didn’t make sense, even though I realize now that I missed out on years of savings and matching contributions — and free money — from my employer.
According to the experts at “Money Under 30,” a personal finance website that delivers advice to young adults, a great target is to have a 401(k) account balance that’s equal to about one year’s salary by the time you turn 30. Mine was empty. That zero balance amounted to a wake-up call.
To get back on track, I decided to invest a portion of my yearly income into a 401(k). I started out socking away 6 percent of my salary every payday. While that’s significantly less than the 10 percent to 20 percent of gross income many financial experts recommend you should save, I decided to start out slowly. My plan is to save more as my income increases.
I bought life insurance
Early in my twenties, I remember hearing someone casually mention to me that I should think about getting life insurance before I turn 30.
Life insurance policies, of course, are usually something you begin looking into once you’re no longer single, have a family or a spouse, and have big bills that still need to be paid, such as a home mortgage or college tuition, in the event of your death. However, the younger you are — and the more healthy you are — the more affordable life insurance is to buy.
It was something I decided to look into before I turned 30. What I learned was that I could get a 20-year, $250,000 term policy for only $13 a month. (Term life insurance is the cheapest form of coverage, as it is pure insurance and has no cash or investment value as a whole life policy does.)
The low cost alone was why I decided to start paying for term life insurance now.
I purchased long-term care insurance
I first heard about long-term care insurance from my parents, who are both over the age 65.
They discussed having to pay a hefty premium every few months for this coverage, which helps defer the costs of things like elder home care and stays at assisted living facilities or nursing homes. While it’s an investment towards something you may need as you age, it can be a lot to budget for when you’re 60 and eyeballing the path toward retirement.
While experts say the best age to apply for this insurance is in your mid-50s, where you might pay upwards of $1,000 a year, I decided to start saving now. I put just $25 away a month for long-term care insurance.
I started a personal savings account
While it might be a bit presumptuous, I created a savings account that I labeled, for later, to be used after age 65. I take $50 from my paycheck every month and put it into that account. By the time I am 65-years-old, the account will exceed $21,000 with interest.
Putting away money every month reminds me of the power of personal savings and allows me peace of mind that when I reach the age to retire, I’ll have a stash of cash that can be used for any pop-up desires that I have, such as a spur-of-the-moment vacation, a home repair or a down payment on a new car.