In your 40s, a lot of people will be turning to you to satisfy their needs; however, your financial health has to be a priority.
Get Rid of the Payments
If you have a mortgage, try to make additional monthly payments to shorten the life of your loan. Peace of mind will be one of the biggest benefits of paying off your mortgage early. You’ll sleep better knowing that you’re no longer a slave to your mortgage. Proverbs 22:7 warns, “Borrowers are slaves to lenders” (New International Reader’s Version). While it’s not “sinful” to be a slave, it’s a stressful way to live one’s life. So consider accelerating your mortgage payments, and make the roof over your head 100 percent yours.
Get and Stay Healthy
Being sick is expensive. So is being overweight, having heart disease, managing Type 2 Diabetes, and taking a bunch of medicine. Whatever health issues you develop in your 40s – especially those you can control (and prevent) through diet and exercise – are likely to stick around through your later years. Thus, get a grip on your health. Lose weight, eat right, and watch your medical expenses go down (and stay down). After all, why spend money on Lipitor if you can pump those funds into your retirement accounts?
Raise Independent Kids
When you don’t maintain boundaries, your kids can run you to the poor house. If you lack the resources to put them through college (without accruing debt), help them devise a plan to fund a debt-free education through scholarships, grants, savings, sacrifices, and lots of character-building side jobs. Teach your middle-schoolers that cars don’t grow on trees, and that those Lexus Christmas commercials (with the big-bow surprise in the driveway) are about as real as the tooth fairy. If they want a car, they need to save for it. If you still have younger kids, teach them the value of a dollar. Children should earn their pocket money, and know how much their favorite pizza and toy cost. Spoiled children become entitled teenagers. Entitled teenagers become insufferable adults – who never finish college, and take up permanent residence in your basement. It takes a lot of hard work to teach your kids this stuff. But if you don’t, you’ll literally pay the price.
Some people refer to their 50s as “middle age,” but this is overly optimistic. According to the United States Social Security Administration, the average life expectancy for a modern 55-year-old woman is 83. Therefore, live the life of your dreams in this season, while properly planning for your senior years.
Since you won’t be able to fully predict your future age-related needs, consider purchasing a long-term-care (LTC) insurance policy. Medicare will cover a short stay in a nursing home, or a limited amount of at-home care, but only under very strict conditions. But an LTC insurance policy will help cover ongoing medical costs (such as physical therapy, extended nursing home stays, home healthcare visits, and assistance with day-to-day activities). Depending on the policy options you select, the insurance might also pay for adult day care, and modifying your home – so you can keep living in it safely.
In your 50s, you’ll probably cringe at the thought of needing long-term-care down the road. However, if you wait to enroll in a LTC insurance policy, annual premium costs will be much higher when you’re older. Even worse, you might develop pre-existing conditions that make you ineligible for coverage.
This is not the time to be impulsive and do something stupid. Nor is it the time for recklessness or whims. But if you’ve done your homework, investing a reasonable portion of your money (an amount that you can afford to lose) into something really, really smart could pay off. In your 50s, every risk should be a smart financial move. Now is not the time to put every dime you’ve saved into your brother’s goat-farm idea. And don’t run after that hot stock that everyone else is chasing. You’ve worked hard for your money, so keep as much of it as you can.
Double-Check Your Coverage
One of the most important factors in minimizing risk is making sure you have adequate insurance. Your home, cars, life, and important assets need to be covered in amounts sufficient to replace them. Recently, I had lunch with a woman who works for a major national insurance company. She told me that after the tornado devastated Joplin, Missouri in 2011, more than a dozen cut-rate insurance companies immediately filed for bankruptcy. Their policy holders were out of luck. When it comes to insurance, you get what you pay for. Even if you’ve been with a company for 20 years, if needed, switch policies. Find a good company that was around when your grandma was buying insurance. Saving a couple hundred dollars now could cost you big bucks in the future.
Have the Tough Conversations
If you’ve been blessed to still have your parents, now is the time to start talking to them about their final wishes and whether they need help getting their affairs in order. It sounds like a morbid conversation (and it is). But when they come to the end of their lives, it’s likely going to be your responsibility to handle their care. Discussing important decisions now will save you a lot of money and heartache later.
Avoid the Mid-Life Crisis
Some people completely lose it when they get their AARP card in the mail. Suddenly, they get a whiff of feeling “old” and decide that they need to really enjoy life. Men buy cars, women get plastic surgery, and financial discipline gets tossed out the window. Don’t fall into that trap. You’re not old, and you have a lot of life in you. Don’t go crazy buying things that aren’t going to turn back the clock.