17 long-term financial goals for every stage of life

A couple sit at their kitchen table reviewing their finances using a laptop and setting long-term financial goals.Image: A couple sit at their kitchen table reviewing their finances using a laptop and setting long-term financial goals.

In a Nutshell

Long-term financial goals can take five or more years to achieve and generally apply to major life plans, like homebuying and retirement. Eliminating your debt can also be considered a long-term financial goal.
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You might feel overwhelmed when thinking about your finances several years down the road. The responsibility of a mortgage, credit card debt and personal loan can feel unmanageable all together. The key to overcoming this feeling is to prepare yourself long before the need arises.

Long-term financial goals apply to major life events and can take five or more years to accomplish. This guide breaks down how to set a long-term financial goal at any stage of your life and provides tangible financial goal examples to inspire your planning.

Long-term financial goal examples for your 20s

Your 20s represent a unique time in your financial journey, with many people starting out with a blank financial page. Knowing where to begin can be a challenge, but this time in your life has the power to set the stage for decades to come.

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1. Identify your retirement needs

Identifying your future needs early will help you make better financial decisions down the road.

Think about the likely expenses you’ll have as a retiree. How much might you receive from Social Security? Will you have rent or mortgage payments? How much should you save for retirement to cover your estimated retirement budget?

You can build your monthly savings plan around your expected future needs. Comparing these needs to your current income will help you determine if these goals are realistic and if you need to find new income streams.

Depending on how far off you are from when you’re planning to retire, you’ll need to consider other factors that can impact your future financial needs, like inflation or cost of living wherever you plan to retire.

2. Start saving for retirement

After identifying your retirement needs, consider opening a retirement account. You can make small contributions to start saving for retirement early on, so now is a great time to begin. To further maximize your savings, consider using a compound interest account — which pays interest on your initial deposit, recurring contributions, and the interest you earned in the past.

You’ll get the most value with these accounts over time because you’ll earn interest on the money you deposit, plus past interest earnings.

A good rule of thumb is to save 15% of your pretax income each year (or as near as your budget allows toward that goal).

There are multiple options for where to invest your money. A couple of the most common include individual retirement arrangements (or IRAs) and 401(k)s. Participating in your employer’s retirement program can be beneficial, since they may include company contributions in addition to your salary.

3. Save for a house down payment

According to a 2022 survey, 74% of Americans view homeownership as the pinnacle of financial achievement over having children, a degree or a career.

Since real estate is normally an appreciating asset (meaning it earns value over time), purchasing a home instead of spending money on rent can be a great way to eliminate future expenses.

But remember that the money you’ll need to save for a down payment will depend on the cost of your desired home and type of mortgage you get. A down payment of at least 20% on a conventional loan can lower your interest rate and eliminate the need for private mortgage insurance.

4. Pay off credit card debt

Credit cards can allow you quick access to funds when you need them most, but carrying that debt month to month can quickly wipe out your financial progress. In a perfect world, you’ll pay off your credit card before your due date each month, without accruing any interest.

Use our debt repayment calculator to learn how long it will take to pay down your debt.

If you’re facing a large amount of credit card debt, it can seem daunting to pay it off. High interest rates can make that debt grow quickly. There are different approaches you can take to help reduce your debt — learn which method is right for you with our Guide to Debt.

5. Increase your earning potential

Evaluating where you want to be in five years is a great starting point for securing your financial future. Does your career path require a higher level of education than you currently have? Does your current job prevent growth?

Talk to your boss about your aspirations. There may be training they can recommend to help grow your career — and your earning potential. If your current employer is unable or unwilling to help, consider upskilling on your own. Consider getting certifications independently or entering a graduate program.

Long-term financial goal examples for your 30s

During your 30s, you might notice that some of your past choices are manifesting into a sense of financial stability. Ideally, you’ll be on a path that allows you to meet most of the long-term financial goals you’ve set for yourself. However, life changes may require you to shift your priorities or resources.

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1. Pay off student loans

The sooner you pay off your debt (including your student loans), the more money you can put toward other financial goals. If you’ve already handled urgent priorities, consider taking an aggressive approach when paying off your student loans.

Putting just 10% of your gross income toward your student loans can still be enough to whittle away your outstanding debt. As your income increases, aim to pay a larger monthly amount until you eliminate the loan. Check out any loan forgiveness options that may apply to you — some professions, such as teaching, may make you eligible to eliminate debt more quickly.

To get a better sense of what you should be paying to help make your goal attainable, use our student loan calculator.

2. Improve your credit scores

A “good” credit score can make it easier to meet your personal financial goals. For example, you’re more likely to receive a better interest rate on your car loan and mortgage with better credit. Although it depends on the scoring system, aiming for a credit score in the very-good-to-excellent range (in the 700s) will generally give you more-favorable terms.

Ways to strengthen credit health include …

  • Making your payments on time
  • Using 30% or less of your total credit limit
  • Paying your credit cards in full each month
  • Keeping old lines of credit open
  • Limiting the number of hard inquiries on your credit reports

3. Set a retirement date

In your 20s, you might have had a general idea of when you wanted to retire. In your 30s, it’s time to start thinking about a precise date you can plan around. Note that your potential retirement year will vary based on your income, estimated salary changes, length of retirement and more.

If you were unable to stick to the goals you made in your 20s, then you may need to adjust your financial planning for retirement.

If you’re committed to retiring in a specific year, you may need to ramp up your savings and cut unnecessary purchases.

4. Create a will

A will, or last will and testament, is the legal document courts will use to allocate your property after you die. It also identifies the executor of your estate — the person responsible for settling your outstanding debts and seeing that your will is honored.

If you die without a will, the courts will decide what happens to your assets based on your state’s intestacy laws — specific laws that dictate how to handle someone’s estate if they die without a will and testament. This can be a costly process with no guarantee that they’ll honor your wishes.

If you have plans for who inherits your belongings, prioritize meeting with an estate planning attorney.

5. Invest in your child’s college fund

If you have children, you’ll want to consider their future. Saving for their education can be one of the best ways to set them up for financial success. Avoiding student loan debt can help them focus on other financial goals earlier.

A college fund is a large investment that can take a long time to accomplish.

Long-term financial goal examples for your 40s

Life in your 40s is often full of responsibilities. More than any other period in your life, your 40s is when you’re more likely to own more assets, have a growing family and consider changing your goals. Now it’s time to reorient your long-term financial goals to your current situation.

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1. Pay off nonmortgage debt

Aside from your mortgage, which can follow you into your 50s and 60s, you should prioritize all other debt elimination. This step is essential because the next stage of your life should be about focusing on your retirement goal — and you’ll want as much savings as possible.

You may have new credit card debt or student loans from returning to school. Automobile purchases can happen at any point in life. Regardless of the reason for the debt, you won’t want high-interest payments lingering when you’re approaching retirement age.

2. Evaluate life insurance policies

A comprehensive policy can help meet your loved ones’ needs, even if your savings at that time aren’t enough.

You’ll want to make sure your family can cover their living expenses and settle any debts without your income.

3. Maximize your earning potential

Putting yourself in a position to maximize your earnings can set the stage for your quality of life in retirement. Additionally, a larger income will enable you to max out your retirement contributions.

This is another time to consider whether your current job aligns with your long-term financial plans or if you should make a change. Look for ways to make more money by negotiating for a raise, working toward a promotion, starting a side gig or changing employers.

Long-term financial goal examples for your 50s and 60s

By your 50s and 60s, your personal commitments may have simplified, and your set retirement date may finally within view. Now’s the time to focus on your goals and make the most of resources.

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1. Become entirely debt-free

Paying off your mortgage is a major financial goal, and knocking it out while you’re still working full time can help you put more money into your retirement portfolio.

The same goes for any other outstanding debts. These monthly expenses can prolong your time in the workforce past what you originally intended.

As you work toward true financial freedom, eliminating your debt can free up money you could otherwise use to improve your current quality of life and secure good long-term care.

2. Plan long-term care options

There may come a time in your life when you are no longer able to take care of yourself. Now is the time to establish a plan so your finances will be enough to meet your needs later. Make sure your family knows your wishes so they can also prepare.

Some things to consider include …

  • Who will be your guardian if you are unable to care for yourself?
  • Will you receive in-home care or need to move?
  • If you’re considering a live-in facility, which type would you prefer?

Long-term care services can be a costly addition to your retirement budget, but setting up funding before the need arises can make it more manageable.

3. Re-evaluate your estate

Many changes may have occurred in your life since you first drafted your will. Re-evaluating what assets are currently in your possession can make managing your estate much smoother.

This is another opportunity to discuss your financial affairs and wishes with your family. Avoid unexpected revelations after your death, so that things are clear for your loved ones.

4. Downsize your living expenses

Implementing cost-cutting measures in your life before retirement can help put your future lifestyle into perspective. You may realize that your initial retirement budget can’t meet your needs, and you need more time to save.

The space in the house you’ve been living in may no longer be necessary later in life. Selling your home for a smaller property can add to your savings while reducing expenses. The same is true for owning multiple vehicles or vacation properties.

Everyone has unique needs and obligations that impact their financial foundation. Budgeting and saving can keep you on track to meet your long-term financial goals. Regardless of where your finances stand today, it’s always a great time to prepare for many of life’s important events.

Why are long-term financial goals important?

If you only focus on short-term financial goals relevant to your current situation, you may find yourself unprepared when you experience future life events.

For example, saving an emergency fund is an incredibly useful short-term goal, but if you don’t save money outside of that fund, then you’ll likely be unprepared for retirement.

Long-term financial goals bring awareness to events that may be decades away and help to ensure you’ll be ready when they arrive.

Long-term vs. short-term financial goals

As you work to build out your long-term financial goals, it’s important to understand how these aspirations differ from other types of financial goal-setting. While long-term financial goals focus on years into the future, short-term goals are concerned with the present and very near future. Short-term goals can generally be accomplished within a year and are usually easy to achieve.

Examples of short-term financial goals include establishing a monthly budget and adding to an emergency fund. Establishing short-term goals can help you achieve long-term financial goals by getting you on the right track early on.

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Long-term vs. mid-term financial goals

Mid-term financial goals are a gray area in financial planning. There’s often overlap, with these taking longer to achieve than short-term goals but feeling less difficult than long-term goals.

For example, saving for a down payment can fall under either type of financial goal since the amount you need to save can vary based on the size of the purchase. It can take many years to save up for a house down payment, depending on your income and the cost of the house.

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