Are you falling behind? Ellevest recently talked to 1,000 women about their money—and their lives. Based on the priorities they shared, here are the steps you should target from your 20s to your 60s... and into retirement.
√ Pay down your bad debt.
74% of women in their twenties have debt, and 41% have high-interest debt.
What to do: Transfer any credit card balances to a 0% card and use the savings to pay down even more debt. On student loans, set up autopay, which can typically reduce your interest rates by 0.25%.
√ Build up your emergency fund.
37% of twentysomething women changed jobs, and 41% moved in the past two years.
What to do: Save six to eight months of your expenses in cash.
√ Get paid what you're really worth.
28% of twentysomethings got a promotion in the past two years.
What to do: Starting with low pay can be a drag for years, since you get raises off that base. Slay the work, learn negotiation skills, practice in advance, and ask for the raises and promotions you deserve.
√ Make a down payment on a home.
56% of women in their thirties either just bought a house or said it was a priority.
What to do: Save toward a goal of a 20% down payment.
√ Invest toward other high-priority goals.
Women in their thirties were most likely of any age group to save for having a child, paying for college, and starting a business.
What to do: Save aggressively in a 529 college savings plan or a taxable investment account for personal goals.
√ If you're having kids, map out a career plan.
49% of women in their thirties have kids; 15% say having kids is a priority.
What to do: If you're leaving the workforce but plan to return, keep your skills fresh by volunteering in your area of expertise. Staying on the job? Outsource some cooking and cleaning to save yourself unpaid labor…and invest in drops for those red eyes.
√ Make sure you're on track to grow your nest egg.
71% of fortysomething women are socking money away for retirement.
What to do: As childcare costs go away, use that money to "catch up" on retirement. Also invest extra cash in taxable accounts.
√ Protect your assets and earnings power.
Women in their forties were most likely to list "invest to grow my net worth" as a priority. That's worth protecting.
What to do: Get supplemental life and disability insurance.
√ Make sure your career—and salary—don't peak too soon.
Only 32% of women in their forties said they felt prepared to negotiate a higher salary.
What to do: The average woman's salary peaks at age 40. That's 15 years earlier than a man's. Freshen your skills (coding class, anyone?), and brush up on salary negotiation if you need to.
√ Determine what you'll need to retire comfortably—and how to get there.
Women in their fifties and sixties are most likely to say they never talk to anyone about financial advice. (Hmm.)
What to do: Talk to financial advisers to define "your number" and to make sure your investments are on the right "glide path" to get there.
√ Plan now for life-care needs later on.
50- to 65-year-olds are most likely to save for medical care later in life.
What to do: Buy long-term-care insurance now. Wait longer and you may risk skyrocketing premiums or ineligibility.
√ Really go for it in your career.
61% of women in their fifties described themselves as "ambitious."
What to do: Not only do many fiftysomething women have fewer commitments at home, but people are more likely to see mature women as leaders.
√ Start thinking about your income strategy: Create a plan for your future self to tap the money you've saved.
48% of women had an IRA by age 65, and 52% owned real estate.
What to do: Consolidate your retirement accounts into one place, and create an income distribution plan for withdrawing your money in retirement in a tax-efficient manner.
√ Anticipate how your spending needs will change after you retire.
By age 65, 74% of women say they feel in charge of reaching their financial goals.
What to do: Will you travel more? Spend less on your professional wardrobe? Think about where your budget is likely to change, and come up with a postretirement spending plan that works for you.
√ Get your legacy in order.
By age 65, 66% of women say they are satisfied with their standard of living. That's higher than for any other age group.
What to do: Review your documents (will, trusts, insurance beneficiaries) with a lawyer. And have conversations with your beneficiaries so that all of you are clear on what your intentions are for these funds.
√ Count on (and plan for) living a long time!
Shout-out to the 2% of women at the top of the age range who said they're currently working to start a business.
What to do: Downsize the stuff that you no longer need or love and focus on those things that really matter to you now (sell your home and travel the world if you like). Also, avoid taking on additional debt, and make your money last as long as you do.