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Take your money to the next level

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By SARA RATHNER

NerdWallet

Millennials may still feel pretty young (despite those pesky gray hairs and less-than-fine fine lines), but in many ways, we’ve grown up. So it’s time for our money management to grow a little too.

Your financial to-do list is small but mighty in your twenties. Setting up automatic transfers to a high-yield savings account, contributing enough to your 401(k) to get full match from the employer, and paying off high-interest debt can get you pretty far.

Now you can do more to propel yourself to financial success in your 40s and beyond.

USE A HIGHER CREDIT SCORE

You don’t have to treat a high credit score like a valuable work of art. Good credit can qualify you for better borrowing terms, so put that to good use.

Try to reduce the cost of borrowing. “In terms of value for money, refinancing is a big thing you should be doing,” says Priya Malani, founder and CEO of Stash Wealth, a financial advisory firm in Charlotte, North Carolina. “If you can move even a quarter of a percent on a really big mortgage, it’ll save you tens of thousands of dollars.”

Get a better deal on high interest credit card debt. If your financial situation has improved, you may qualify for a balance transfer credit card offering a year or more at 0% interest.

If you don’t have credit card debt, but you’re still using that barebones card you got at 21, upgrade to a card that earns cash or travel rewards. However, leave that old credit card open and use it occasionally to keep it active. (The average age of your accounts is a factor in your credit score, and the older the better.)

ADAPT INVESTMENTS TO A VARIETY OF GOALS

Here are two ways to increase the stake on your investment. First of all, if your employer offers a pension plan with a match and you have contributed just enough to obtain this match, consider contributing more. A rule of thumb is to save 10-15% of your pre-tax income for retirement.

Next, map out your medium-term goals for the next five to 15 years. You can invest for these goals using other types of accounts, such as taxable brokerage accounts and 529s, to help fund early retirement, save for your child’s education, or plan for another major expense.

Money for short-term goals (within five years or less) should not be invested. Instead, a high-yield savings account is a more appropriate place to keep that money until you need it.

THINK ABOUT HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CAREER – AND YOUR LIFE

If you spent the beginning of your career growing and advancing, you probably had little energy to think about what kind of work (and life) would bring you the most joy. When you’re financially stable and progressing in your career, you can start thinking about what to expect next.

Shehara L. Wooten, certified financial planner and founder of Your Story Financial, a financial consulting firm in Dallas, says you don’t have to wait until retirement to do the things you really love.

“You may even want, if you’ve planned well, to take some time off,” she says. “If it’s not something you’re capable of doing, take the time to find out how you can get paid more, how you can really be appreciated for the work you do.”

Wooten also recommends seeking the help of a financial advisor to discuss the lifestyle you want to have in retirement and the savings you need to accumulate to get there. You may have a skill set that can translate into a better paying career, which will help you reach your goals faster.

PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR LOVED ONES

What worked when you were 25 and single won’t work when you’re 35 with two kids and a mortgage. Here are some ways to protect your family:

— INSURANCE: Malani recommends a term life insurance plan if you own a home with someone else, if someone depends on you for support, or if you have a co-signer for one of your loans.

— ESTATE PLANNING: Talk to an estate attorney about writing a will, appointing guardians for your children, appointing a medical power of attorney, and other daunting but necessary details.

— UPDATE BENEFICIARIES: Review who you have listed as beneficiaries on your bank and investment accounts. If this information is outdated and you were to die, your money will not go to the right person.

GIVE TO OTHERS

As your salary increases, it becomes easier to meet your needs and you have money left over each month. Some of this money can be allocated to important causes. Estate planning can also help you determine how you want to give money or valuable property to charity.

“I like people to write their story and go to the end of their life,” says Wooten. “What do you want it to look like? What do you want people to say about you? What do you want your legacy to entail?”