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Years v Milestones. What’s the difference?

As children, many of us had the same happy ever after checklist in mind, where marriage, kids, jobs, homes and everything in between would happen simply because we’d reached an age we decided was ‘about right’.

But, as you grow older and hopefully a little wiser, you start to realise there’s no one size plan that works for everyone, and regardless of age, achieving milestones when the time is right for you, is most important.

Why are milestones more important?

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You might not want everyone and their auntie to know you’re turning 40, but if you’ve just landed a sweet promotion, had a baby or bought your first home, you’ll probably be happy to share that kind of news and there’s good reason for that.

They’re events that are likely to shape and influence the rest of your life, milestones that demonstrate achievement and personal growth, or move you from one important life stage to the next. And with each new stage, come new priorities and financial responsibilities – the real life checklist if you will that most of us will have to work through.

If age is just a number, then a milestone is a golden opportunity.

The thing is, age is something you have no control over, but milestones you can choose and plan for.

Some are inextricably linked to money and affordability, so it’s natural for a transition from one life stage to the next, to make us take stock, sense check our goals and give more serious thought into how we can help make them happen financially.

Financial milestones

In many ways, financial milestones can be easier to chalk up than some of the other things on life’s bucket list, because you have complete control and you can manage them very closely. Financial milestones come at different times for different people, but the best tips and advice remain the same for everyone:

1. Get the basics right: The sooner the better

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  • Set yourself some realistic financial goals early on, to help you focus
  • Get on top of your outgoings and control your spending
  • Set budgets and review regularly, to make sure you stick to them
  • Avoid unnecessary debt like credit cards and personal loans
  • Pay down essential debts like student loans as early as possible
  • Start saving, even small regular amounts, as soon as you can

2. Get insured: Protect yourself first, then think about your partner/dependants

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Talk to a financial advisor about your financial priorities and get advice on:

  • Life insurance
  • Protection in the event of illness, disability or loss of income
  • Retirement planning and
  • Setting up a will

It can look a little daunting when you put everything in a list, but you don’t need to overextend yourself with policies or expensive cover. At Irish Life, we always recommend seeking financial advice, because there are plans available for every price range and a good advisor can help you get the cover you need at the best price.

3. Get savvy: Put your money to work

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  • Be choosy about where you save and invest to get the best deal for you
  • Pay attention to account maintenance charges so they don’t eat into your gains unnecessarily
  • If you’re not investing already, take a few minutes to complete a risk appetite quiz and find out which investment style suits you best
  • Talk to your financial advisor and look at whether investing is a viable option for you

You control your finances. They don’t control you.

Giving your finances the attention they deserve, exploring all your options and being open to new opportunities are three simple ways to ensure you stay in control and, even if you explore more avenues than you go down, your due diligence will leave you more informed and better placed to make smart decisions when you reach your next milestone.

Every milestone starts with a first step

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Working out what financial security means to you or what you want your retirement to look like are good first steps.

They might boil down to protecting your family, paying for your children’s education, building a bigger home or retiring early. The important thing to remember is that there is no perfect number or ideal time when it comes to personal milestones.

The only thing you can be sure of is that good advice and financial planning can help ensure they’re worth celebrating every bit as much as big birthdays when they come along!

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