Financial Planning by the Decade

Amy Goan |

As a Certified Financial Planner ™ people often hire me because they have a vague sense that they should be doing something about their finances, but they’re not quite sure what that “something” is. Basically, they don’t know what they don’t know, and that scares them.

A good financial planner will give specific advice to each client, depending on that client’s needs, values, and resources. However, I can make broad generalities of what a person should focus on during each decade of their life, which you may find helpful.


  • Build an Emergency Fund. Three to six months of living expenses is ideal, but as little as $2,000 in a bank account may prevent you from having to put a car repair on a high-interest credit card.
  • Contribute enough to any 401k your employer offers to at least get the company match. Contribute more if you can.
  • Open a Roth IRA and contribute as much as you can/are allowed.
  • If you’re saving for a home down-payment, leave it in a bank account. Don’t risk it in the stock market.


  • Focus on your budget. Fifty percent of your take-home pay should go toward necessities, 30% should go toward non-essentials, and 20% should go toward savings (or paying down debt).
  • Make sure you and your loved ones are protected from the unexpected. If people are depending on your income then look into getting life insurance or long-term disability insurance. And don’t forget about creating an estate plan!


  • Focus on your health, family, and career.


  • About 10 years from retirement, run the numbers to see if you’re on track to retire on time. If you find your investments are a little short you’ll still have time to increase your savings in order to have the retirement you envision.
  • Look into getting long-term care insurance. It’s not for everyone, but it may be right for you.

60’s on up:

  • Create the best vision of your retirement. That “honey-do” list is usually complete about 6 months after the retirement date. What are your plans for the next 30 years? The key to a happy retirement is having a reason to get up every day. What that means for many retirees is enjoying family, travelling, volunteering/helping others, continued learning, physical activity, and hobbies. What will get you out of bed each day and excited for the day ahead?