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Investing Well at Every Life Stage

Christine Benz offers a to-do list for all investors, ranging from early accumulators to retirees, in this video replay from Money Smart Week.

Christine Benz: This particular presentation is called "Investing Well at Every Life Stage" and it's precisely that. We will share our to-do list for folks at every stage in their lives clustered into four key groups. We're going to start by talking about early accumulators, people who are just getting out of college, just landed their first jobs. What are the things that should be on their to-do lists as they embark on their careers? Then we're going to segue into a discussion of people who are multitasking. The key financial tasks at this life stage for folks in their 30s and 40s would be planning for their own retirements and getting really serious about their own retirements but also trying to fund college to the extent that they have children in their lives. We'll talk about how to strike the right balance between those two goals that sometimes can be in competition. Then we'll talk about folks who are getting close to retirement, so people who are in their 50s and 60s who are starting to look at their nest eggs, thinking hard about the viability of their retirement savings, thinking about Social Security planning, thinking about specifically how long they plan to stick it out in the work force. Finally, we'll talk about people who are already retired, and this is a group that I spend a lot of attention on in my work on Morningstar.com. As many of you know, as really probably all of you know, it's gotten tricky to make retirement work from a financial standpoint because we've got more and more of us who are getting close to retirement without the benefit of a pension. How do you make it work with the combination of Social Security and your personal savings, and that's what I focus on in my work on Morningstar.com.

In terms of young accumulators, what's on their to-do list? There are four key things. One is getting out of debt. One thing we know is that more and more college students emerge from school with a significant debt load, $30,000 on average. Many people have substantially more than that. They may also have racked up credit card debt during the course of their college years. We'll talk about the importance of staying out of debt as you start to tick off some financial tasks maybe you have some pent-up demand for various spending needs, and we'll talk about making sure that you stay out of debt as you do so. This is also a great life stage to get serious about your retirement plan. We've all seen those charts that show the astronomical growth that you can see on investments if you could just get started early. We'll talk about some ways that people can think about getting serious about retirement savings early on in their careers. Finally, as I mentioned, people oftentimes at this life stage in their 20s have a lot of things that they want to do in addition to retirement savings. In fact, retirement savings might seem a little like an abstraction to them. We'll talk about how to tackle some of those near and perhaps intermediate-term saving goals as well.