11 Financial To-Do's Before Age 26
Taking care of business the easy way.
Weeks before your 26th birthday, your parents sit you down to have “the talk.”
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They’ve done this before. Perhaps it was in your adolescent years, or when you hit puberty. Maybe it was the night of prom or when you began to date. You aren’t particularly sure what this conversation is about, but because of the dramatic fashion you know that it's serious.
The reason this time: you’re being kicked off of their insurance.
After years of dependence on your parents’ employer benefits, the time has come by law for you to venture out on your own. That means your medical, dental and vision plans are all gone. Yikes!
To make the transition a little less stressful, we’ve created a list of 11 to-do’s for you to consider before the age of 26:
Create a Budget: Often, we manage our finances by letting the chips fall where they may. This is the wrong way to go about developing your spending habits. By creating a budget, you will be able to track both your inflows and outflows, making it easier for you to pinpoint strengths and development opportunities. Your budget should include rent or mortgage expenses, utilities, auto loans, auto insurance, student loan payments, transportation costs and food and entertainment expenses.
Understand Pre-Tax Deductions: Do you know exactly what is coming out of your paycheck every pay period? If the answer is no, now is a good time to get a grip on those deductions. Your pay stubs are the key to understanding exactly how much your employer benefits cost and can help you to unravel information on your taxes, retirement plan contributions, health savings account contributions and other vital details. Your health benefits, once paid for by your parents, should be listed in this section on your pay stub.
Get Health Insurance Coverage: In 2010, nearly 13 million Americans between the ages of 19 and 29 were without basic health insurance coverage. With the passing of the Affordable Care Act, that number has been reduced, but there are still too many Americans without sufficient health coverage. There are a number of options to get health insurance; the easiest way is through your employer. If that is not an option, consider your state exchange, buying directly from insurance companies or an online insurance finder. If you qualify, there are special programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program that provide low cost federally-subsidized insurance.
Contribute to Your Company’s Retirement Plan: You may have noticed that your parents' current number-one priority has shifted toward living a fruitful and enjoyable retirement. Your youth is the time for you to begin to slowly accumulate the assets that will help you with that same goal. By investing early and often, you will be able to take advantage of the power of compound interest to accumulate the funds needed to keep up with inflation and to ensure you don't have to lower your standard of living after retiring.
Understand Your Taxes: Do you understand your taxes? How much you pay or receive has a lot to with your income bracket, federal and state allowances, martial status and dependents. Taxes can be complicated, but the better you understand them, the better you will be at making decisions that influence your tax liability.
Outline Financial Goals: What are some specific goals that you would like to achieve financially? These goals can range from buying your first home to retiring early to sending a child to college. By outlining your goals early, you will be able to then develop actionable steps to make them a reality.
Open a Roth or Traditional IRA: The cost of waiting can be expensive. Studies show that by contributing $200 per month starting at age 25 with an assumed eight percent average rate of return, an investor will have over $700,000 accumulated by retirement. In comparison, if you invested $1000 per month at age 45, you would end up with approximately $592,000 assuming the same rate of return. This fundamental principle known as the time value of money suggests that a dollar today will be worth more in the future due to the power of compound interest. Utilizing an individual retirement account can be beneficial in accumulating these funds and can come with tax benefits as well.
Find a Financial Adviser: There is something to be said about relationships, particularly relationships where an individual, family or business can grow with a trusted adviser. By finding a financial adviser, you can begin to build this relationship, gaining an ally that will help you progress towards your financial goals. Look for advisers that are credible, have a transparent business model and have the ability to provide advice without conflicts of interest.
Get Sufficient Life Insurance Coverage: Life insurance can be obtained through your employer or through an insurance company. After calculating the value of your current assets and future needs, you may require additional life insurance coverage to take care of final expenses and payment for assets in the event of the unthinkable. By purchasing additional coverage at an early age, you will likely be subject to lower premium payments than if you waited to do so at a later age.
Understand Your Parents' Plans: Over the years, your parents have had many tough conversations with you. At some point, you may need to have a tough conversation with them about their wills and retirement plans. By having an open line of communication with your parents, you can prepare in the best way possible for the unexpected. Every family is different, and as a result, there is no cookie-cutter way of having this discussion with aging parents. The important thing is to have the conversation before it is too late.
Live Your Best Life: You are entering what should be some of the best years of your life. Through trials, tribulations and victories – big and small – you are penning a story that will be worth being told for many years to come. Plan and prepare, but don’t forget to enjoy the ride.
Serious talks don't have to be scary, and making sure your health and future are secure don't need to be overwhelming.