Smart money moves in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond

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When it comes to budgets, one size does not fit all. After all, your life is probably very different than it was five or 10 years ago and changed circumstances call for a changed financial plan. The following tips can help you create a smart financial plan tailored to fit your age.

20s and younger -- Members of Generation Y are entering the workforce and now comprise the largest consumer group in American history. Unfortunately, there is evidence that Generation Yers can expect to struggle with student loan and credit card debt.

On average, Gen Yers have more than three credit cards, and 20 percent carry a balance of more than $10,000 according to Fidelity Investments. In addition, Gen Yers graduate with an average student loan debt of $23,200 according to Sallie Mae – the nation’s largest student loan provider.

If you are in your 20s, set yourself up for financial success by using credit responsibly. Now is also the perfect time to take advantage of compound interest by establishing a retirement savings plan.

30s -- Generation X is sometimes referred to as Generation Debt. According to a study by Demos, a public policy and research advocacy organization, the average credit card debt for 25-to-34 year-olds is $4,538.

Coupled with student loan debt and increased housing costs, many 30-somethings have difficult conditions to deal with. If you are in your 30s, make sure not to acquire more mortgage debt than you can afford and make a concentrated effort to repay education loans. Also, in addition to retirement savings, be sure to establish an emergency savings cushion so that you do not have to rely on credit.

40s -- Our 40s should be a good time, financially. Workers in their 40s are likely entering their peak earning years, making this the ideal time to secure their financial footing.

If you are in your 40s, paying down debt is imperative. Do not be tempted to take on a lengthy mortgage loan that will haunt you in the future. Now is also a good time to review your retirement goals to make sure you are on-track.

50s and beyond -- The New Retirement Survey by Merrill Lynch found that Baby Boomers who have a plan and feel financially prepared are more optimistic and less fearful compared with those who do not. If you are behind on your retirement goals, it is time to play catch-up.

Congress passed a law that allows individuals who are 50 or older to make “catch-up” contributions of $5,000 for a total of $45,500. Also take the time to prepare or update your will and other important legal documents. As always, maintaining adequate health insurance is a must.

Finally, consumers of all life stages should seek advice from a professional credit counselor or financial planner if needed. After all, a lifetime of financial security is priceless.