Understanding the Financial Life Stages

It’s hard to believe, but my wife, Katie, and I have been together for more than 20 years (16 as a married couple). We’ve done a lot of life in those two decades. We’ve gone through our share of ups and downs; we’ve purchased a home; sold a home; bought a new car; changed careers; had three children. If we had to summarize this time in a word, it certainly wouldn’t be boring.

Of course, our story is not unique. Many, many Mississippians are rolling with life’s punches, just trying to keep up. With so much happening, however, it can be easy to lose track of where your finances should be.

Recently, I came across an interesting piece by the National Association of State Treasurers, of which I’m a board member. It outlined “Six Financial Life Stages for Financial Wellness” that I wanted to share with you today.

Preparing for the Workforce

You are never too young to start on your financial wellness journey. If you are a parent with teen worker, help them understand saving versus spending, what it means to build credit, and how to manage and pay off debt. You might also work with them to navigate insurance and start investing (even if they haven’t graduated yet!)

Starting a Career

After college or a few years after entering the workforce, it’s important for young adults to reflect on their past financial habits. During this stage of life, you should be focused heavily on creating a budget and preparing for your first major expenses (such as purchasing a car or home).

Building a Career

As you begin to build a strong career, risk management becomes the name of the game. At this point, you’ve probably started to gain some assets, making it a good time to start considering family financial planning or even estate planning. Your retirement account should also be gaining steam at this point. During this stage, you should begin accounting for expenses that are beyond 6 or 12 months down the line, but instead 10 to 20 years in the future.

Hitting Mid-Career

The “Mid-Career” stage is about reinforcing the healthy financial habits you created in your early career and continuing to grow the savings you’ve built. At this stage, family costs such as higher education savings, credit card management, and rainy-day savings are at the forefront of financial planning.

Thinking about Retirement

The last building stage of life comes during pre-retirement. As you’re ending your time in the workforce you want to make sure your financial future is set for retirement. This stage focuses on debt management, estate planning, and setting up retirement benefits so you can live comfortably after you leave your career.


This stage is all about staying on track financially once you’re out of the workforce. At this time, you should hopefully be able to reap the rewards of the financial planning you did during the earlier stages of life. Now, you can take advantage of non-wage employee benefits, such as pensions, Social Security, or Medicare.

Which stage of life are you in now? Do you feel comfortable with where you are financially? Is there something you can change today to get on track? The National Association of State Treasurers has more information and tools for you at You can also find budgeting tools and more at