By Julia K. Pham, CFP®, AIF®, CDFA®, Wealth Advisor at Halbert Hargrove.

What if you had the chance to go back in time? What advice would you give your younger self on how to secure a stable financial future for you and your family over the coming decades — knowing what you know now?

In January, Halbert Hargrove teamed up with the Women’s Business Council of Long Beach, California, to offer the collective wisdom of three seasoned financial professionals. Samantha Garcia, Wealth Advisor at Halbert Hargrove, Jen Sawday, Partner at TLD Law, and Brooke Sigler, CPA at Windes, responded to questions concerning many of the most critical issues that impact investors over the arc of their financial lives.

What follows is their advice on helping you make the most of your 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s: Key insights they would share with their younger selves (if they could!):

Your 20s: Laying the groundwork

  1. Start saving and investing early. We’ve all heard the phrase “make your money work for you.” So, the earlier and more often you start saving and investing, the faster you can get that money to start compounding and growing. Just remember to keep a diversified portfolio with the right amount of risk. If the market takes a dive, you’re young and still have plenty of time to recover. Don’t freak out!
  2. Eliminate debt. The average American has about $38,000 in personal debt, and roughly 44 million Americans have student loans. You should have an aggressive plan to get rid of those loans; consider paying off debt with the highest interest rates first. All other things being equal, this will save you money in interest payments over time.
  3. Have an emergency fund in place. Save between three-to-six-months’ worth of expenses in a liquid account to use for any surprise expenses that pop up. You never know when you’ll need some cash for a car repair or medical expense.

During Your 30s and 40s: Covering all the bases

  1. Protect your assets. You’ve likely been a working professional for years now. Perhaps you’ve bought a new car or your very first home. Make sure you protect yourself from any property and casualty liabilities by having the proper insurance and coverages in place. Also, if you do own a home, remember to get an umbrella policy, which is an extra liability policy that provides coverage beyond the limits of your auto and homeowner’s policy.
  2. Get serious about having an estate plan. When you’re single and don’t own any real estate, a full estate plan might not be necessary, but maybe by this point, you’ve bought a house or had your first kid. If so, then it’s time to think about establishing a Trust, and creating a Will, Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive.

These documents will designate who will be in charge and set the rules for the distribution of your assets. They also allow you to designate guardians for your children should something happen, and enable you to determine which loved ones will make financial and medical decisions on your behalf. Also, don’t forget to sign the final documents and notarize where needed. Believe it or not, this is a common mistake people make!

  1. Teach your kids about money. Kids can grasp basic money concepts by age three, and by age seven, they’ve already established their money habits. Consider taking them to the bank to open their first account — or letting them help decide how they want to manage the birthday money they received from grandma and grandpa. Getting them comfortable with money early on and having open discussions with them will help them better manage their money as adults.

Your 50s should be focusing on strategies for the next half-century—including looking out for your extended family and generations to come

  1. Make sure you have a solid retirement strategy. Review your retirement plan to make sure you’re on track for when you intend to transition from working. Crunch the numbers and figure out what you’ll need to live on during retirement and assess how close you are to that number. If you determine that you’re behind, that’s okay. There’s still plenty of time to course-correct. It’s also important to involve your advisors during these major life phases and milestones. They’ll be able to give you helpful guidance to make the transition as smooth as possible.
  2. Get an Advance Health Care Directive for your adult kids. By now, maybe your kids have left home and gone off to college. Remember that once they reach age 18, you can no longer have access to their medical records or make any medical decisions on their behalf. Should something happen, having this document in place will give you legal permission to be formally involved in their care.
  3. Consider longevity and its impact on future health care needs and costs. It’s no secret that people are living longer lives, and retirement years involve much more than sitting on a front porch in a rocking chair. What doesn’t come to mind right away, though, is that we need to prepare financially for these longer lifespans and potential health care costs, which can sometimes amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You also may end up being part of the “sandwich generation.” This refers to adults who are caring for both elderly parents and their own children. Consult with your loved ones and your advisors to discuss the best ways to plan for all the complexities you’re likely to face.

No matter what decade in life, don’t be afraid to seek out professional help when you need it, and be sure to involve your trusted advisors before making any big decisions. Most of us wouldn’t cut our own hair or fix our own roof, so there’s no sense in going it alone when it comes to something important as your finances.

For more information or questions, please contact Halbert Hargrove at hhteam@halberthargrove.com

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