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Financial goals for each decade of life

Written and accurate as at: Jan 15, 2024 Current Stats & Facts

How to accumulate money, spend it, and put it to work in service of our long-term goals are all important questions we face daily. How we go about them will differ from person to person, but there are some common financial goals that we can often map onto each decade of life. Here are just a few.

Goals for your 20s

This is the time that many people are fleshing out their goals, investing in themselves (think attending university or learning a trade) and starting their careers.

Your social life and the high cost of renting will likely test your ability to save, even if you’ve begun employment, but it’s important to get into the habit now so you’re on solid foundations in later years.

Financial goals in your 20s might include: 

  • Securing full-time employment
  • Having a career roadmap
  • Cultivating healthy saving habits
  • Learning to track your income and expenses
  • Creating an emergency fund
  • Hammering out short, medium and long-term financial goals.

Goals for your 30s

As you move from your 20s to your 30s, your priorities can begin to shift. These are the years many people are thinking seriously about getting married, buying property and having children. It’s also when some of the more significant financial commitments you’ll make in life will enter the picture. 

If you haven’t already begun investing, now might be a good time to start thinking about it. Even a small amount of money invested wisely each month has the potential to grow into a sizable sum over time. Of course, there’s always a risk that you might lose money, which is why it’s important to consider investment fundamentals (such as diversification, risk tolerance, and time horizon).

Financial goals in your 30s might include: 

  • Saving up a 20% deposit for a home
  • Making sure you have a sufficient safety net
  • Setting aside money for your children (or the children you plan to have)
  • Paying down existing debt and taking care not to accumulate too much additional debt
  • Building a diversified investment portfolio

Goals for your 40s

For many people, this stage can often be summed up by the three Ms: marriage, mortgage and mouths to feed. At this point you’re probably at or nearing the peak of your earning potential, but chances are your financial commitments are eating up a good chunk of your income.

Having dependents might call for some element of risk management. After all, if tragedy struck, your bills and mortgage obligations likely wouldn’t suddenly stop. Weigh up the pros and cons of personal insurance to support your family in case you suffer illness or injury, or pass away.

Financial goals in your 40s might include: 

  • Boosting your earnings (such as by negotiating a raise or looking for a higher paying job)
  • Paying down your mortgage
  • Taking out or reviewing personal insurance that protects you and your loved ones
  • Checking if your retirement savings are on track (and considering making extra contributions to your super if they're not)

Goals for your 50s

These are the years your children start to leave the nest and the strain on your wallet will hopefully start to ease. Ideally, you have made headway with your mortgage and you’ll have a clearer sense of the type of retirement that’s in store for you.

But this won’t be the case for everyone. Some in their 50s will be sandwiched between meeting the needs of their adult children (who might still be living at home) and their ageing parents. For this cohort, a prolonged caring role can sap both their mental health and their retirement savings. 

It’s also around this time that people get serious about drawing up their estate plan. For example, in terms of a Will; to ensure your belongings are distributed the way you want them to be. If you share finances with a spouse or have a particularly complicated estate, some in-depth conversations involving your solicitor may be in order.

Financial goals for your 50s might include:

  • Defining the retirement you want and estimating how much you’ll need to achieve it
  • Creating or modifying your estate plan (e.g. Will, Powers of Attorney, Advanced Care Directive, etc.)
  • Aiming to have your mortgage and other debts under control
  • Thinking about aged care for your parents

Goals for your 60s and beyond

Ideally, your debt obligations will be behind you and you’re on track to achieving the retirement you want. This is the time to reap the rewards of all your efforts over the years, but it won’t necessarily be smooth sailing.

To minimise the chances of family disputes down the track, you might want to revisit your estate plans with your children. Doing so can help ensure everyone understands what’s expected of them, especially if you’ve appointed a family member as your executor.

At some point, you might also want to have the aged care discussion — difficult as it might be — or even look into services such as the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP), which can help you access support so you can continue to live at home safely and independently.

Financial goals in your 60s and beyond might include: 

  • Reviewing your retirement plan and make changes where needed
  • Deciding whether you want your super paid as a lump sum, an account-based pension, or a combination of both
  • Finalising your Will
  • Considering whether you are eligible for the Age Pension and other government benefits
  • Thinking about what you intend to do with your home

Finally, some habits have the potential to benefit you no matter what age you are. For example, it might be worthwhile to set aside time each year to give your finances a health check. And seeking professional advice ahead of any major decisions, or even just to uncover ways to improve your financial position, might provide peace of mind too.

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