New Year financial resolutions for every age group

by Badgley Phelps | Dec 28, 2016

Financial commitments consistently top resolution lists each year, but not every resolution makes sense for every age group. The following are some resolution recommendations categorized by age group with a focus on the life events typically experienced by those in each range.

Resolutions for those 17 or younger

As Joline Godfrey says in her book, Raising Financially Fit Kids, “The children who become most content as adults learn to use their resources in ways that give them deep satisfaction.” Help your child flex this skill by choosing financial resolutions that are focused on saving for, budgeting around and donating to things that give them a sense of purpose.  

Steer them toward resolutions like:

  • Learning about saving, spending and donating by dividing their allowance into different buckets each month
  • Creating an entertainment spending budget and sticking to it
  • Researching different charities and making a donation

High school is great time to solidify your family’s fiscal values with practical exercises. If you are interested, please ask us about our “Beyond the Piggy Bank” financial tasks.

Resolutions for those who are 18-24

The majority of younger workers disregard employer-sponsored retirement plans. According to Employee Benefit Research Institute, less than one-fifth of workers age 21 to 24 participated in an employer-based retirement plan in 2013, the most recent year for which figures are available. But those who save early may make more over the long haul. If you consistently save $200 each month beginning at age 20 and earn 8% annually you will have accumulated around $1,000,000 by age 65. If you delay starting the same monthly savings plan until age 30, you will have accumulated around $450,000 by age 65. In this example, you would have contributed about 30% more money than someone who starts saving the same amount at age 30, but end up with around twice as much money. The extra 10 years of compounding returns puts the early saver at an extreme advantage in retirement. Starting early is the best way to plan for a secure retirement.

Resolve to:

  • As a starting point, contribute the maximum amount matched by your employer, or the maximum you can afford, to an employer-sponsored retirement plan
  • Identify any large expenses planned for the year, and create and stick to a monthly budget to pay for them so your retirement savings plan does not get derailed
  • Track your monthly expenses using a financial app like Minted, Mvelopes, Wally or Bill Guard

Resolutions for those who are 25-44

Major changes that affect your financial life often happen during your late 20s through your early 40s. The average age to get married in the U.S. is 27.9 (Priceonomics), while the average age for couples going through their first divorce is 30 years old (McKinley Irvin Family Law). During this time, there are home purchases and sales, major promotions at work, relocations, babies and more. Choose resolutions that are about evaluating where you are now and where you want to be later—and actively pursue those goals.

Resolve to: 

  • Take steps to ensure that your credit is in excellent shape in advance of large first or second home purchases
  • Reassess your risk tolerance with your current situation in mind and adjust your investment portfolio as needed
  • Start a 529 or other college fund for each of your children and make monthly contributions—even if they’re babies

Resolutions for those who are 45-64

With retirement on the not-too-distant horizon, now is the time to pay off debt and save for the future as aggressively as possible. Unexpected medical issues can arise during this timeframe, so it’s a good idea to also think about how you’ll prepare for a major medical event. Include a comprehensive evaluation of your financial life in the next meeting with your wealth manager. Consider resolutions that are focused on safeguarding you and your family after you retire.

Resolve to:

  • Upgrade your homeowner’s insurance for any major upgrades/renovations to your home
  • Review the amount of income needed for retirement to come up with a monthly savings plan
  • Establish an emergency medical fund and contribute to it regularly Honestly assess your “next generation launch plan,” if you have children

Resolutions for those who are 65+

Life post-retirement looks different financially than it did when you were employed. Health care costs, reducing taxes and protecting yourself financially should be at the forefront of your annual resolutions.

Resolve to:

  • Review your long-term care and disability income insurance plans; determine if they continue to meet your coverage needs
  • Analyze the possibility of converting your Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA to reduce taxes
  • Get your free annual credit check and stay on top of your score and accounts monthly to protect yourself against identity theft
  • Consider the long-term viability of any next generation support or gifts

No matter your age, it’s a good idea to evaluate your financial plan in the beginning of each year to make sure it’s in line with your personal and financial goals.


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