Michelle Singletary’s money milestones for every age

Select a decade below for our personal finance columnist's take on some of the biggest financial considerations for that age group.


Young or old, personal finance is complicated. The knowledge and discipline needed to run your financial life can be overwhelming. How do you know if you’re on track? How prepared are you to weather an unexpected job loss or costly repair? Can you spot a scam? It’s hard to know whom to trust when so many people are after your money.

As The Washington Post’s longtime personal finance columnist, I’ve received hundreds of your questions, and I’ve compiled the most frequent ones in this guide. There’s advice for every decade of your financial life, from 20-somethings just starting out to retirees enjoying the fruits of their smart planning to advice that applies at any decade. Each stage involves making decisions that can affect your short- and long-term goals. Identifying your money milestones can help you spend less, save more and build wealth at any age.

[Post Reports: How to be smart with your money at every age]

Because some financial deliberations are ongoing, certain topics appear in multiple decades.

You’re nearing full retirement age for Social Security. Now what?

Learn to manage a checking and savings account

You’ve hit 62. When should you take Social Security?

Why you might need a secured credit card

I’m turning 26. What do I do about health care?

Do I still need term life insurance?

I want to invest, and not just for retirement. Where do I put my money?

What should you consider before moving in with a partner?

Got kids? Here’s the best way to save for college.

Should I merge bank accounts with a spouse or partner?

Watch out for scams

When to meet with a financial planner

How will a divorce affect my finances?

Should I get a 30-year mortgage or a 15-year loan?

I’m still renting. Is that bad?

Should I be readjusting my retirement plan?

What to do if you’re having trouble making your student loan payments

How much should you put in a retirement account?

What percentage of my income should I spend on housing?

What is FICA and why is it on my paycheck?

What’s your financial legacy?

Is a retirement community right for you?

I’m single, no kids: What if I need someone to care for me or my money?

I’m still young. Do I need a will?

My credit is a mess. What can I do?

How to talk to your adult children about your finances

Social Security benefits max out at 70. What are you waiting for?

You’re finally making decent money. Here’s how much you should save.

Is it time to get a credit card?

What you need to know about your retirement account when you hit 73.

If you’re thinking about a wedding, here’s how to budget

No will? Get that done. Now!

Do I really need all that money in an emergency fund?

Should I sell my home?

At 65, don’t forget to sign up for Medicare Parts B and D

You’re 59½ and can tap your retirement account without penalty. Should you?

What should you do if you can no longer live on your own?

How you should prepare for long-term care

I’ve never owned a home. Is it too late to buy?

Should you help grandchildren pay for college?

Should you put adult children on the deed to your home?

How do you know when you are ready for a child?

Should I pay off my mortgage before I retire?

How do I budget for rising health-care costs?

I’m in my mid-50s and don’t have much saved. Can I afford to retire?

Is it too late to get long-term care insurance?

How do you decide what to leave your heirs?

Should you pay to freeze your eggs?

I’ve been a saver all my life. How do I switch to spending?

Should I get a reverse mortgage?

When is the right time to talk to my parents about their financial plans for retirement?

Retirement is around the corner. How to play catch-up.

When it’s smart to still be living at home

Do I really need life insurance?

Start investing for retirement. Your older self will thank you.

Is graduate school worth it?

How to make student loan debt more manageable

Are you ready to be a homeowner?

About this project

Articles by Michelle Singletary. Illustrations by Jordan Kay.

Design and art direction by Cece Pascual. Development by Jake Crump, Frank Hulley-Jones and Semanur Karayaka.

Audio production by Charla Freeland.

Robbie Olivas DiMesio and Suzanne Goldenberg were the lead editors. Additional editing by Adrienne Dunn, Shay Quillen, Virginia Singarayar, Rivan Stinson and Jay Wang.

Additional support from Matthew Callahan, Hope Corrigan, Maite Fernández Simon, Kathleen Floyd, Michelle Jaconi, Jordan Melendrez, Angel Mendoza, Gwen Milder, Sarah Murray, Amy Nakamura, Alexandra Pannoni, Sarah Pineda, Kyley Schultz and Sophie Yarborough.