Essential financial advice for women in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s

I've been thinking a lot about my retirement and how I can make the most of the time that I have now to secure a better financial future.

I realised something. When I get to my 50s I know that income independence will become palpable. Unlike my 20s, 30s and 40s, any “I’ll do it later” excuse will be undeniably absurd. There is  ssential financial advice for women in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.

No matter what stage of your life you’re in, there are crucial steps you need to take to secure your financial future. This is to make sure those dreams of a work-free life — while maintaining the lifestyle you’re accustomed to — are a reality.

Whether you have just established your career or are close to retirement, here’s what you need to know about getting ready for retirement in the decades to come.

In your 20 

1. Your 20s are the establishment of your career and the creation of your financial independence. It is crucial to avert disasters and learn good money management principles as you begin your earning years. When you’re in your 20s, you have a massive advantage on your side when it comes to saving for retirement and investing. Time is your friend. Let the magic of compounding work for you. Make sure to invest a lot of money but remember to do it wisely. The more you can do, the better.

2. If you’re lucky enough to work somewhere that provides you with perks, take advantage of them. Find out what your company offers and take advantage of it. Make sure you opt in to things like employer retirement plans and if your company is offering you an opportunity to study further don’t let these opportunities pass you by. Leverage them.

3.Insurance is important. Take care of your insurance needs: life, health, disability, home, auto and liability needs. Life assurance pays out when you die. Disability insurance is an amount paid to you if something serious happens that prevents you from working. Income protection covers the short-term loss of income if you’re temporarily out of work. Funeral insurance is to help financially when an insured person passes away. Understand what you need protected and evaluates your options.

4. You are still young and you have a lot of energy.  Take risks and challenge yourself careewise. This is essential to assist you expand your skills and establish relationships for later on in life. Each modest step you take during these years will provide more financial opportunities.

5. Build up a cash reserve as a safety net. Financial experts recommend savings of at least 3-6 months of your normal monthly income. There is no exact amount recommended to save so long as it’s enough to cushion you and your family in case you lose your job .

In your 30s

1. In your 30s, you start to feel more settled, you’re putting down roots, and you’ve learned from the mistakes of your 20s. This is also the age when you become curious about how you’re doing. That leads to measuring yourself against everyone else. By age 30, some of your peers might be enjoying tremendous success in their careers and others not. Define your values. Understanding your values can directly impact how you use your money (and how happy you are with the choices you make financially and in life generally). So stop over measuring your finances and life against that of your friends.

2. In your 30s you can't still be impressed by a new car or a big home just so you can prove your financial health or success! By age 30 you should no longer be using material things to measure your financial progress. Keep it within the parameters of your major financial goals. Don’t let your costs get out of control.

3. Be willing to spend where it counts. Stop being cheap. Chances are you are going to use the stuff you are buying for a extensive time. Whether its your wardrobe or your home, understand that sometimes quality costs and be willing to spend your money on getting it.

4. There are no excuses to carry the spending mistakes of your youth into your 30s. So do your best to get rid of debt. Make sure you repay and close all debts that charge you heavy interest rates. Limit your credit card usage. Pay off the car loan. Buy things with cash as much as possible.

5. Make sure you have a Will. By the time you reach your 30s, you will likely have started building some assets up, including your home. Your will sets out how you would like your assets to be distributed after you die. It is especially critical to have a will if you have a husband and children. If you do not, the law will dictate how your assets are distributed after you die.

In your 40s 

1. When you get into your 40s you tend to get so busy with work and your family, that you neglect your health. Sooner or later this will become a big problem because medical expenses increase exponentially with age. The lesson here is to invest in your health and minimize future medical expenses by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.Financial success is nothing if you don’t have a healthy body to enjoy it with. 

2. You may have already made a plan for the future. Gather all your information and have a full financial review. Life transitions may require you to re-think short- and long-term personal financial goals and opportunities. Set aside some time to think about your financial situation and long term goals. If you’re married or in a relationship, it’s best to include your spouse or partner. Your portfolio should be diversified in a way that feels balanced to you. Keep in mind that the future is uncertain. Nothing should ever be set in stone.

3. Be conscious of your goals. This awareness will help you move toward your goal, even if it’s a little bit at a time.This makes it easier to plan a way to get there. So, break your retirement needs down into very specific numbers. Don't allow your long-term obligations be burdened by your day-to-day costs and unexpected expenses. In your 40s there is simply no time to waste.  Once you've figured out what's needed, just do it.

4. It's harder to change careers in your forties because of the added weight of your commitments. Make five hours of your weekly life be perpetually devoted to some kind of skill-improvement project.  Acquaint yourself with the new technologies. Network smarter, not harder.  Your networks could be the foundation of a new career, a new client base or new opportunities.

5. Striking a true work/life balance is never easy. Slow down from your busy life and find ways to nurture your relationships. Create a support system of family and friends that you can turn to in times of need. Little acts of affection are a great tool for building nurturing. The secret is to be consistent and persistent.  Staying connected with loved ones or friends now could mean more chances for quality time in retirement. Also know when to give your time to others and when to take some time for yourself. This is crucial in maintaining balanced, healthy relationships as well as emotional well-being.

In your 50s

1. Take this advice from Carl Richards, author of The Behavior Gap's, "let go of the past. Given what has happened in the last 20 years of your adult lives, chances are some mistakes have been made with money…let them go. Commit to having a no-shameno-blame rule when it comes to money and extend the same favor to your spouse or partner."

2.When you reach your 50s, retirement is no longer so far off. It's right around the corner, and there's no time to waste. This is a moment of self-evaluation. In order to invest for the future, you must cut back on spending your wealth now. That means tomorrow’s goals in retirement must outweigh the pleasures of today’s spending. Now is also a perfect time to see how your investments and retirement savings are shaping up. You may also wish to simplify your investments by consolidating your retirement accounts. 

3. Life has a tendency to throw us curves and make us rearrange our priorities. If you're behind, catch up the smart way. Beware of extreme advice and instead allocate money in smart ways. Setting a realistic retirement savings goal is the most important actionable step. Determine how much you will need when you retire, subtract what you will get from old age grant and any existing pensions, and calculate what the difference is per month and takes if from there.Plan every aspect of your day from the time you get up to the time you go to bed  seven days a week, all year long.

4. The one precious commodity that’s in short supply for 50-year-olds is time. The clock is ticking, and you can’t afford any mistakes. So speak to your financial advisor before making any dramatic changes to your investment strategy. Continue to maintain three to six times your monthly income in your emergency fund.

5. For many of women in their 50s, your living expenses are standing in the way of your retirement goals. Your largest expense is probably your home loan. Why not take aim at it and get rid of it for good? Focus on the big picture and every sacrifice you make in order to reach your goal will just add fuel to your fire. If all else fails make your 50s a repeat of your 20s, 30, and the 40s. That is, continue to save, reduces debt and work with your financial adviser to keep your plans on course.

The decisions you make today could have a lasting impact on your financial future. You may get overwhelmed or frustrated, but your financial strategy is more like a marathon than a sprint. When you cross that finish line into your relaxing work-free zone, it will all be worth it.

What do you think? Which financial milestones have you accomplished? Which ones are you still working on? And, what’s next?