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How to Manage Your Finances During Each Stage of Life

Save and invest. For single people or married couples without kids, this is the least expensive time of life. They have a job and are finally making money, but they have to be smart with how you use it. They can spend it all on clothes, cars and entertainment, or wisely and save for the future. Young adults may have just graduated from school, but this is best time to plan for retirement. Maximize retirement accounts; even though the stock market is volatile, time and compounding growth are on their side.

Pay down debt. Some may be starting out with significant student loan debt; 40% of people under 30 have outstanding student loans, and the average outstanding student loan debt is $24,301. On top of that, there may be credit card debt. This can be overwhelming, so there must be a plan to pay it off. Start with the debt with the highest interest rate and pay as much as you can above the minimum payment. If you get extra money as a gift, bonus or tax refund, use this as an extra payment on your debt. Clip coupons and take your lunch to work, and use the money you save to immediately make micropayments on your debt. The median outstanding credit card balance has dropped to $1,700 in 2010 from $2,100 in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center. Less than two in five U.S. adults (37%), or about 86 million people, carry credit card debt from month-to-month. This percentage has dropped every year since 2009.

Build up credit score. Test scores are behind them, and now is the time to focus on credit scores. This score is more important than any exam because it is how lenders judge you. Your credit score affects the terms and interest rates for all loans--credit card, mortgage and auto. The higher the credit score, the lower interest rates will be, resulting in more money consumers can keep. Payment history and how money is handled is so important that it may be used for apartment rental or insurance applications.


Full disclosure of debt, credit scores and financial obligations. Before the wedding, newlyweds must tell their partners about all of their debt, including a list of all student loans, car loans, credit card debt and even loans from friends and parents and copies of credit reports to verify all open accounts. One or both newlyweds may enter the partnership with debt payments that will drain away money they could be saving to help reach financial goals.

Joint or individual bank accounts. Will there be one bank account for all income and expenses, or will the couple start with three accounts -- yours, mine and ours? A joint account is easier to manage and will prevent some disagreements over dividing bills, but decisions need to be shared. It gives each partner some control over their own spending. Couples tend to gravitate toward joint accounts once they add children and major expenses. If the choice is for separate accounts, there must be a plan outlining which account pays each bill before the first bills payments are due.
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