The 40s are a turning point for most Americans. It’s a time of peak earnings, and people are halfway between entering the workforce and the traditional retirement age. How you invest and save for retirement in your 40s can strongly impact your future assets. Here are 10 things you should consider to help you financially plan and build wealth in your 40s.
1. Emergency fund
Big expenses pop up without notice, as does losing a job. Whether it’s a health issue, expensive home repair or your company downsizing, an emergency fund provides financial stability in what can be a time of chaos.
While this is one of the top financial priorities at any age, a well-stocked emergency fund is especially important in the peak earning years, when there can be more at stake financially and you’re responsible for more people than in earlier years. There should be enough in the fund to cover living expenses for at least three to six months. Having a cushion that lasts up to a year is ideal.
2. A debt-free plan
It’s common to have education loans, car loans, a mortgage, credit card debt and other debts by age 40. At this point, you should have a solid financial plan for how to eliminate these debts.
As you plan how to build wealth in your 40s, you should begin to shed credit card debt because it tends to have the highest interest rate. Budgeting and changing spending habits might allow you to put more money into debt reduction, so you can move through your 40s owing less and focusing on other repayments.
3. Save for retirement at 40
You should have been contributing to your retirement plan since you started working, whether it’s a 401k, an IRA or something similar. If you haven't, there’s still time to catch up with contributions if you begin saving for retirement at 40. Retirement plans have tax advantages and use the power of compounded interest to increase retirement savings over the long run.
If you contribute by visiting your bank branch or your company’s HR office, switch to an automatic fund transfer from each paycheck into your retirement plan. That way you won’t have to think about it and you can spread out the investment over the entire year.
4. Investing in your 40s outside of non-retirement accounts
It’s important to invest outside of retirement as well. Federal laws limit how much you can save for retirement in tax-advantaged accounts. Once you’ve maxed that out (and even before), consider investing in other investment accounts. If you have kids, set up a 529 plan for educational expenses. This has tax advantages and benefits from compound growth. Given that college tuition and fees continue to rise, this account makes it less stressful when it’s time to determine college funding options.
5. Estate plan and will
A bevy of documents will help you and your family in the event of your death or incapacitation. The first item you need is a will, which not only determines who gets your money and possessions but lets you name a guardian for your children, should you need one.
A living will states your wishes for end-of-life care, while a durable power of attorney for healthcare lets you name the person who will make healthcare decisions for you, if you can't. A durable power of attorney for finances allows your named person to handle your finances.
6. Life insurance
You should already have health insurance for you and your family. Having life insurance is a crucial part of financial planning in your 40s. Whether term or permanent, life insurance provides a death benefit to your beneficiaries that can be used for household expenses, education, the mortgage and funeral expenses.
7. Disability insurance
Disability insurance provides income in the event that you’re no longer able to work due to illness or injury. Many companies provide a policy through work, though you may want increased coverage or to get your own if you work for yourself. It’s a different kind of safety net for you and your family.
8. Meet with a financial professional
Whether you have a financial professional you consult with frequently or you just go for a one-time consultation, it’s helpful to get a professional’s opinion on how best to handle your finances. As you enter your peak earning years and begin to look at retirement, having a financial professional to consult about investing in your 40s is a wise idea. A financial professional will look at the big picture, including retirement, investments, college funding and other goals, and he or she can help piece together a holistic plan. If you aren’t sure where to get started, check out these tips on finding the right financial professional for you.
9. Maximize company benefits
Companies provide benefits adding up to 30% to 40% of a person’s base pay. That might include matching retirement contributions, tuition reimbursement, tax-advantaged accounts for childcare expenses and healthcare, and pre-tax transportation benefits. Find out what your company offers and take advantage of it as you build wealth in your 40s.
10. Save for a house
If buying a house makes sense for your financial situation and location, your 40s are a good time to start getting serious. It’s a good idea to save 20% for a down payment. With that amount, you’ll avoid paying private mortgage insurance, an additional home cost for some, which protects the mortgage company if you default on payments. Those putting 20% down when buying a house don’t have to purchase this coverage, which is a financial savings to you.
While this is a long list of things to do, you don’t have to do it all at once. Chances are you’re already on track with many of these financial steps, but considering all these factors is a good start to building wealth in your 40s. For more information, the professionals at Nationwide are available to answer your questions and help you reach your financial goals.