33 Things You Must Do Before You Turn 30, 35 And 40
33 Things You Must Do Before You Turn 30, 35 and 40
33 Things You Must Do Before You Turn 30, 35 and 40
Whether you're 28, settling into a career and still looking forward to starting a family, or 38, well-established in your field and ferrying kids to sleepovers and hockey matches, it's easy to think you still have plenty of time to get your "grown-up" act together. And even if you know you should be thinking about the years ahead, it's hard to get a grip on just what you need to do and when.
So, we asked a group of experts what steps women should take now, during their years of growing earning power and good health, to ensure a happier, more secure future. Click below for their age-by-age recommendations.
Before You're 30
1. Begin paying off college loans if you haven't already done so; going into default can ruin your credit rating.
2. Get one major credit card to help you establish a credit rating (necessary for when you one day apply for a mortgage). Don't overspend; you'll earn more credit by paying off your balance, no matter how small, in a timely fashion.
3. Set aside enough money for emergencies. What if you're downsized? Your goal should be to have at least three -- or, better, six -- months' living expenses in a liquid savings account (one you can get to immediately and not pay an early-withdrawal penalty).
4. Then start investing toward future goals, like a down payment for a house. Since you're young, you can be aggressive about your investments; an occasional low-return year won't be devastating. "Put 10 percent of every paycheck into an investment with maximum growth potential, such as a growth stock mutual fund," advises Royce W. Monk, a certified financial planner with The Consulting Group in Nashville.
5. Start planning for retirement. If your employer offers a program that matches part of your contributions, such as a 401(k), take advantage of it, or open an IRA. Stock mutual funds are a good bet for retirement savings, too.
6. If you're married, see an insurance agent (the same holds true for single moms). Buy policies for life, health and disability insurance when you're young and healthy to lock in a low rate. If you're covered by your employer, check that the amounts are truly adequate; your group life insurance, for example, may pay only $10,000.
7. See a lawyer about drawing up a will and establishing power of attorney for property, which is necessary if you need to get to funds in the other spouse's name. A living will or power of attorney for health care will also allow you to make medical decisions for a spouse who's too ill to do so. If you have children, you also need to name a guardian; godparents are not necessarily guardians.
Before You're 30 (continued)
8. Have a complete physical. Now, when you feel fine, is the time to get baseline readings on blood pressure, cholesterol and all your body's other systems so that changes can be noted in the future. Fill your doctor in on any medical problems your relatives have, so that he or she can recommend preventive steps or relevant screening.
9. Safeguard your fertility by seeing a gynecologist annually and, if you've never been tested before, having cultures taken for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Both of these sexually transmitted diseases can lurk asymptomatically, damaging your fallopian tubes.
10. Build up your bone density by getting plenty of calcium. During your 20s, you can still add to density; guzzling milk later won't help. Another reason to care about calcium: It lowers the risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy. How much calcium is enough? Women ages 19 to 24 need 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams a day; those 25 and up, 800 to 1,000 milligrams. If you're pregnant or nursing, take 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams.
11. Get 400 micrograms of folic acid a day. This vitamin prevents neural-tube defects in developing babies. But you must get enough in the very early weeks of pregnancy, so start taking it before you even try to conceive. You can take a multivitamin that contains folic acid or chow down on enriched grain products, citrus fruits, spinach and raspberries -- all rich sources.
12. Tighten your abs. Toned abdominals will fight off bad posture and lower back pain in the future. You should do two sets of 25 abdominal crunches three times a week.
13. Start practicing stress relief. Chances are, you're already trying to do too much in too little time. A quick soother: Breathe in deeply and hold for about four seconds, then slowly exhale, concentrating on blowing out all the tension in your body.
Before You're 35
1. Steel your resolve on savings. See if your employer can direct-deposit a regular amount into your savings, so it never temptingly appears in your checking account.
2. Broaden your investments. Keep your accounts heavily weighted toward stock mutual funds, but add bonds, which are a more cautious investment, for balance. If you're in a state with high income tax, such as California, or in a high tax bracket, take a look at AAA Insured Tax-Free Municipal Bonds. If you're in a relatively low tax bracket, treasury or agency bonds are a good bet.
3. Open a college account for each child. College costs are increasing more rapidly than the overall inflation rate, so look to growth stock mutual funds -- a little risky, but they promise aggressive payouts.
4. Expand your insurance coverage. If you now own "real" furniture or computers, make sure you have adequate renter's or homeowner's insurance. And if you stay home with kids, look into individual life and long-term health-care policies. If you were to become disabled even temporarily, you'd have to pay a caregiver to take over.
Before You're 35 (continued)
5. Have a cholesterol test to gauge your risk for heart disease and stroke. If your test comes back high, you may be able to lower the count with a low-fat diet and regular exercise.
6. Get serious about starting a family. Over 35, it begins to get harder to get pregnant and the miscarriage rate increases, and, at 37, chromosomal abnormalities start to increase dramatically.
(For information about how to get pregnant, click here.
7. Switch to a softer toothbrush. If you've been scrubbing with a hard brush, somewhere between ages 30 and 40 the root surfaces become exposed and you risk making those teeth extra sensitive.
8. Start strength-training sports to prevent the loss of bone density and muscle mass that occurs with age. Two to try: skiing and boxing workouts.
9. Learn to ward off stress. Try a simple exercise that offers the same benefits as meditation. Sit with arms dangling; then, with palms up, place hands on thighs. Push feet forward along the floor, almost completely extending legs, and, leaving heels on floor, let feet roll apart. Allow your jaw to drop, and close your eyes. Breathe deeply for a minute.
Before You're 40
1. Wipe out credit card debt before big expenses like kids' college tuition hit. Limit spending, then focus on paying off the account with the highest interest rate, not the highest balance. Need additional advice? Contact the National Foundation for Consumer Credit at (800) 388-2227 for free or low-cost help.
2. Beef up your retirement account, still weighting it toward growth. You're about to enter your peak earning years, also the peak time for building up your portfolio.
3. Up your insurance coverage. If your income has increased, make sure disability and life insurance coverage could replace lost wages. Reevaluate health and dental plans in light of upcoming needs: Will your kids need orthodontia?
4. Consider refinancing your mortgage to lower your monthly expenses. Rates may have dropped since your closing.
5. Start getting annual mammograms. The risk for breast cancer begins to rise at 35, but a woman whose cancer is picked up early with a mammogram has about a 95 percent chance of being cured.
Before You're 40 (continued)
6. If parenthood is in your plans, don't stall any longer. One-third of women between 35 and 44 have difficulty conceiving, compared with only 16 percent of those between 25 and 34. If you're not pregnant after six months of trying, seek medical guidance: At this age, the window for intervention with high-tech methods is fairly small.
7. Have an eye exam. Not only do you need to begin monitoring for glaucoma, but you may need reading glasses.
8. Include a variety of dark green and yellow vegetables as well as citrus fruits in your diet. They're rich in antioxidants (vitamins E, C and carotenoids), all thought to lower cancer and heart disease risk.
9. Have a total skin exam by a dermatologist, since skin cancer is showing up in ever-younger people.
10. Add posture correction to your workouts. Too-tight pectoral muscles contribute to rounded shoulders. How to loosen up chest muscles: Every day, stand with arms at sides, clasp hands behind back and, keeping elbows straight, hold the stretch for 15 seconds.
11. Become a master of stress reduction. Visualization exercises help you relax and recharge. Each day pick one peaceful scene from your past -- like catching fireflies at night when you were a child -- and sit for several minutes with eyes closed, reliving the memory and all its details.
Don't get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.