Everyone has that magic moment where they decide to double down on their financial health — or risk meeting long-term life and money goals. After all, wealth rarely builds itself. If you're unsure of how to get or stay financially fit, here are five money questions every 35-year-old should ask themselves.
1. What is my credit score?
Your credit is uber-important to your financial health, as a solid score qualifies you for better rates on home loans, insurance policies, cell phone plans and more. That's why credit monitoring isn't one-and-done. In fact, you should check your digits regularly, ideally once a month, not just right before you apply for a loan. Added incentive to stay on stop of your credit standing: Errors on credit reports, along with instances of identity theft, are more common than you may think.
Fortunately, you can check your credit reports from the major bureaus for free every 12 months via AnnualCreditReport.com and you can monitor your credit score sans charge via certain credit card issuers or certain personal finance websites, like Credit Sesame.
2. What is my net worth?
Your net worth is the sum of your assets (investments, savings, home equity), minus your liabilities (mortgage, credit card debt, student loans). It's also probably the best gauge of your financial health at any given time. If your liabilities outpace your assets, you've got some work to do — and you can prioritize what debt or issue to tackle first. If your assets outpace your liabilities, you can explore the best ways to put your money to work.
Your net worth is also a great benchmark when you're ready to put a financial protection plan in place. Case in point ...
3. How much life insurance do I need?
If you have dependents — or plan to have dependents — life insurance is a key component to your family planning ... well, plan. A policy allows your loved ones to cover their expenses and liabilities were you to pass away while they are still reliant on you. It can also cover big-ticket items in your family's future, like college tuition. Life insurance rates increase as you age or develop health conditions so it's important to get coverage when you are young and healthy.
Most people are best-served by a term life insurance policy, which covers you for a set number of years, then expires, though there are a few instances that call for whole life insurance, which lasts until you die and comes with a forced-savings component. Policygenius can help you compare and buy life insurance, starting with a tailored online recommendation.
4. Am I paying myself first?
That's a fancy way of asking if you are saving enough for a rainy day? Basic rule of thumb says everyone should bank at least three-to-four months of expenses away in emergency savings.
If your cash-on-hand falls short of that stat, try auto-depositing a small amount of your paycheck into a high-yield online savings account. Those dollars will eventually add up. You can also tap a budgeting app or tool to find places to pare back. This simple budgeting spreadsheet, for instance, has line for "savings contribution" all ready for you.
5. Do I need to save more for retirement?
Most people do. In fact, a recent survey from Northwestern Mutual found one in five Americans (21%) have no retirement savings at all and nearly half (46%) haven't taken any steps to prepare for the likelihood that they could outlive their savings. That's unfortunate, because there are a few easy ways to boost your nest egg.
Start by upping your 401(k) contributions, even by as a little as 1%. (A small increase can make a difference, thanks to compound interest.) Where possible, take advantage of other employer-sponsored benefits to lower your taxable income, like flexible spending accounts, commuter benefits and health savings accounts. Bonus: HSAs often double as de facto supplemental retirement account because you can make penalty-free withdrawals for any reason once you turn 65.
Finally, consider opening a Roth individual retirement account. Here's why.
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