How to Be a Financial Virgin Again … at Any Age

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reboot money virginThere is such a thing as a second chance—and even a third and fourth chance. And, thankfully, that good fortune can also extend to our finances.

You can make a fine mess—whether it’s getting into too much debt, making such ill-advised money moves as tapping your 401(k) like a piggy bank, or buying more house than you can afford—and still have the opportunity for a financial makeover.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re in your thirties, forties or fifties either—it’s never too late to hit the reset button. So to celebrate the spirit of rebirth on this first day of spring, we reached out to those who can speak from experience—Certified Financial Planners™—to show us how people in each decade can work to recover from a big money mistake and start anew with a clean financial slate.

Hitting the Financial Reset Button in Your Thirties

Thirty seems to be the age of the wake-up call. Many people float through their twenties, focusing on careers, dating, traveling and generally living—and spending—like there’s no tomorrow.

The end result?

“They have racked up credit card debt, and the idea of budgeting and saving is non-existent—not to mention that repaying student loan debt is still looming,” says Melinda Kibler, a Certified Financial Planner™ with Palisades Hudson Financial Group.

Often, the rude awakening comes around the age of 30, when financial milestones—say, buying that first home and having that first baby—suddenly bring finances to the forefront.

So how do you get back on track?

“The best way to move forward from debt and poor spending in your twenties is to create a plan—and stick to it,” Kibler says.

Step One: Assess Your Finances

Review your spending habits, and focus on separating your necessities from your luxuries. If you habitually find that you have days at the end of each month and a lack of funds to properly budget for them, start reducing your discretionary spending—and also look for ways to cut expenses on your necessities list.

This can be as simple as making small moves—like switching to a cheaper cable package—in addition to big ones, such as renting a less expensive apartment. Ultimately, making both big and small changes will allow you to create a workable budget, with the goal of keeping your spending within limits for the long term.

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  • Carolyn Schinsky

    Great article, Sheryl!