Financial Goals Guide: Money To-Dos for Your 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s

Marisa Torrieri
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They say wisdom comes with age—but it’s never too early (or late!) to start making smart money moves.

How do we know?

Well, after culling some of the most popular goals that our premium LearnVest users are working toward, we found that the more things change, the more things stay the same. Our findings revealed that these folks place saving for retirement and building up a healthy emergency fund as among their top goals, no matter how old they are.

But money goals can also reflect your life stage: We found that younger savers in their 20s and 30s are concentrating on big-picture to-dos that will help set them up for their futures, while people in their 40s and 50s are trying to get rid of that last bit of debt before they tap into their nest eggs.

Curious to see where you stack up in the financial goals department?

Check out our guide to the financial goals you should consider focusing on each decade, including nuggets of advice from a CFP® for how to work on achieving them.

3 Financial Goals for Twentysomethings

1. Emergency Savings 
Perhaps because they’ve seen firsthand what a recession looks like, our research found that building up an emergency fund is the biggest goal that people in their 20s had for themselves.

The general rule of thumb is to work as much as possible toward saving six months’ worth of take-home pay, says David Blaylock, CFP® with LearnVest Planning Services. Of course this can seem daunting to recent college grads who are just starting to chip away at student loan debt. But the reality is that this decade can be a good time to gain traction on emergency savings because bigger costs, like a mortgage or child care, typically haven’t kicked in yet.

“You have less income, but you don’t have as much responsibility,” says Shelly-Ann Eweka, a CFP® with TIAA-CREF. “The key is to start.” And you can do this by reviewing your budget and pinpointing what percentage of your pay you can earmark for emergency savings—and then sock away that amount until you reach your six-month goal.

And remember that emergency savings is just one of the three things that we believe make up your financial security—the other two include retirement and paying down credit card debt. So consider devoting about 20% of your take-home pay toward all three goals combined, if it works within your budget.

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