The younger you are, the more time you have to bounce back from a financial mistake. As you inch closer to those retirement years, however, and as financial obligations expand, it’s increasingly important to safeguard the assets you have — and to prepare for costly expenses that inevitably crop up as youth glides into middle age.
The experts agree: Even 40-somethings who feel confident about their finances are likely to make a few money mistakes. Which are the most common? Here, the financial pros tell all.
1. An expensive home remodel
The average cost to remodel a few rooms is upward of $37,000, according to data compiled by Home Advisor. It could cost even more — as much as $125,000 — depending on the size and location of the home.
Michael Frick, president of Promenade Advisors LLC, thinks that money could be much better spent by paying down an existing mortgage. “Forty-somethings need to realize that retirement is only 20 to 30 years away in most cases,” he said. “Do they still want to have that large mortgage payment while they are retired on a fixed income? Will they even have enough retirement income to continue making those payments?”
Even worse, he added, is that many homeowners finance those pricey home renovations by borrowing from their existing home equity or — even worse — by raiding their 401(k) funds. The added monthly payments from a 401(k) loan can crimp the amount of money available to boost retirement savings during critical, high income-earning years.
2. Prioritizing kids’ college over retirement savings
Most kids today expect their folks to pony up for the full cost of college, no matter which institution they choose. So says a 2016 Parents, Kids & Money survey released by investment firm T. Rowe Price. Most parents want to comply.
Still, midlife is “a period in which you should assess whether you’re on track to fund the subsequent stages of your own adulthood,” said Anthony M. Montenegro of Blackmont Advisors. As children age, “it’s not uncommon for parents to continue putting kids ahead of themselves — even at the expense of their own needs.”
“One way to look at this trade-off is to ask yourself, ‘Am I willing to delay retirement and keep working another five to 10 years to fund my children’s college?'” said Alex Whitehouse, president and CEO of Whitehouse Wealth Management. Plus, he added, a student who works to help pay for school will have “skin in the game,” which can create a greater appreciation for the value of the education.
If there’s an additional need for tuition funds, “money can be borrowed through student loans,” Whitehouse added. “You can’t borrow money for retirement.” (See also: Why Saving Too Much Money for a College Fund Is a Bad Idea)
3. Skipping the estate plan
“The term ‘estate planning’ sounds like something old, rich people need to transfer their mansion and paintings,” said Whitehouse. Still, anyone with basic assets they want to share with a loved one (or even with a…