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Life stages of financial management


April is Financial Literacy Month. Consumers are asked to reflect on their financial standing, both currently and into the future. In doing so, the consumer must examine the financial life cycle. This financial life cycle for an individual can be broken into four categories.

The first cycle would be when the individual is 18 to 34 years of age. As individuals enter the work force, purchase a home, start a family and most likely upgrade vehicles, they cannot lose sight of managing those expenses to live within reasonable means. Setting financial goals to include retirement savings, paying off student loan debt and establishing an emergency fund needs to be balanced with other living expenses.

Individuals ages 35 to 49 should focus on increasing investment dollars for retirement, researching college savings plans for children, and evaluating overall family finances in an effort to shift toward more equity than debt on assets. This stage provides a transitional period to review spending habits and an opportunity to make changes.

The third bracket in the life cycle spans ages 50 through 69. In a time period where retirement conversations should be a common theme, lifestyle changes may be necessary. Paying off any existing debt, possible downsizing a home, and contacting the Social Security Administration about withdrawal options all encompass this two decade time frame.

The final stage starts at age 70 and continues until death. If planned effectively, this concluding chapter in life should yield quality time with family and friends, travel opportunities to dream destinations, and no fear that the retirement nest egg will run empty. An estate plan should be in place including either a will or trust for the disposition of family assets upon death.

Depending where you fall in the life cycle described above, remember it's never too late to start evaluating your financial situation and tweaking your monetary future. The sooner an individual or family starts asking the tough questions about saving and investing, the earlier the dreams of retirement can become a reality.

Dr. David Pecha is vice president for administration at Northwestern Oklahoma State University and teaches a night class of personal finance, a general education requirement at NWOSU.


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