Research from Payscale puts the salary for an American female graduate reaching its highest point at age thirty-nine, and for her male graduate counterpart at aged forty-eight. But what happens if you haven’t reached your earning potential as defined by these age markers? What happens if you drifted from one job and career to the next? A more haphazard journey through jobs brought about by a series of random events (like being made unemployed, like waking up one morning and deciding engineering wasn’t really for you, like finding out you were having a baby…)
Age is a great divider. Below a certain age, let’s say thirty, you may not have had much money, but maybe you were more able to roll with the changes. You had enough to do what you wanted, whether this was spending a summer backpacking through India, or buying a second hand car. But what a difference ten years makes.
If Payscale’s research tells us anything, it’s that in general, our financial security is related to our age. So this begs the question, if by 39 (for women) and 48 (for men) there are some of us out there, who let’s say, maybe are earning less than we did in our early thirties, is there any hope of financial security as we age? Of course there is… fingers crossed.
Lay the Foundations for Financial Security
Here are a few tips to build financial security:
1. Come up with a budget. Do you know what you spend your money on? Even if you think you do, sit down and make a simple budget. List incoming money and all outgoings. Knowledge is power after all. You may not want to change your spending or earning levels, but you’re also wise enough to acknowledge what your lifestyle is costing you.
2. Monetize yourself. Sounds pretty ruthless, but it doesn’t have to be. Your ability to navigate through jobs and careers, while trying to stay healthy, have new families, manage old families, find shelter, food etc is commendable. Realize your assets, think about the skills you have, and the experience your increasing age have proffered. There’s no cheating Time. Your knowledge and skills have been hard won. Update your resume, create a snapshot of your professional self.
Are you under-selling yourself?
3. Set short term and longer-term goals. Then work out a way to achieve them. If you want to work less hours at the office, come up with a plan that will allow you to action this. Maybe you could work from home, or work on transferring your skills to a job or a career that allows greater flexibility? Leafing through the pages of your local college is often a good starting point; part-time and night classes allow you to dip your toe in to other career options, without giving up your day job.
4. Save. Find some way to save some of what you’re making now for the future. Investing doesn’t have to be scary. Setting up monthly payments in to a personal retirement plan may be one option, hiring a personal financial planner is another. But there are others. Investing your hard earned bucks in to property is one example. Spending money to professionalize your skills may mean an initial outlay, but in the longer term may offer greater financial rewards.
5. Learn about personal finance. While the term has become mired in controversy and easily associated with other less positive terms (greed, banking, profit), you owe it to your financial security-self to figure out how to better manage your money. To use a gardening analogy, know how to plant your seeds in order to reap a better harvest. To push the analogy to its extreme, prepare for leaner years by making jam with the left overs.
Time waits for no Financial Mismanagement
So, having skim-read these points, are you moved to act? Do you feel empowered to take a cool, hard look at your finances, whatever state they happen to be in? Drafting a plan, or several plans, that lead you towards greater financial security also has the added advantage of offering peace of mind. It’s reassuring to plan ahead isn’t it? Especially if you happen to be growing older.