Do These 8 Things Now to Set Your Finances up for the Next 20 Years

A man with curly long hair sorts through his cash while also being on his computer.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder
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You’ve heard all the expressions: You reap what you sow. A stitch in time saves nine. We could go on, but we’ll spare you. The point is, the best time to plan for your future is, well… now. Sometimes, a little work now goes a long way down the road — especially when it comes to finances. 

Here are 8 things you can do with your money right now that will help set you up for the next 20 years.

1. Invest 15 Cents Into the Stock Market

Yeah, we know what you’re thinking: How is investing 15 cents going to set me up for the next 20 years?

But think of it this way: Just by investing that leftover change from your morning coffee or evening grocery hauls, you could make more than $1,000. It adds up quicker than you think — a little but of work now, for a bigger payoff later. 

That’s what happened when Penny Hoarder reader Jeremy Kolodziej opened an investment account with Acorns. The app’s round-up feature bumps each of your purchases up to the nearest dollar and puts the spare change into the stock market, which helped him mindlessly save $1,076 in about 20 months.

“You don’t even think about it,” he says. 

Plus, Acorns invested the money for him, allowing him to grow his savings — without studying stock prices or managing trades.

So if you’re looking for things you can do today that will set you up for success in the long term, investing your spare change is a great start. The Acorns app is $1 a month for balances under $1 million, and you’ll even get a $5 bonus when you sign up.

2. Leave Your Family $1 Million in Life Insurance — Without Being a Millionaire

It’s easy to get stuck focusing on the here and now when you’re thinking about your finances. But have you thought ahead 15, 20 years? Have you thought about how your family would manage without your income after you’re gone? Chances are they’ll probably need some financial help.

Now’s a good time to start planning for the future by looking into a term life insurance policy.

You’re probably thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But your application can take minutes — and you could leave your family up to $1 million with a company called Bestow.

Rates start at just $5 a month, and you can change or cancel your plan at any time. Plus, the peace of mind of knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.

If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam or even getting up from the couch, get a free quote from Bestow.

3. See If Someone Else's Mistake is Ruining Your Credit Report

If you have an error on your credit report (one out of five do), someone else's mistake might be standing in the way of your future. 

When you want to buy a car or a house, your credit score will play a huge role in whether you’ll be able to do that. Don't let an error stand in your way.

Let a free website called Credit Sesame help you detect any errors. Then if you find any, it will help you dispute them.

Salome Buitureria, a working mom in Louisiana, found a major error on her report this way. She was able to fix the mistake and take additional steps to raise her credit score from 524 to nearly 700. 

Now she and her husband feel like they’re in a better position for their biggest goal — purchasing a house. 

Want to check for yourself? It only takes about 90 seconds to sign up.

4. Make Sure You Have a Budget

A woman is shown sitting criss-cross on her bed, as she hunches over and labels envelopes for the envelope budgeting method.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Arguably the most important thing you can do to set your finances up for the long term is create a solid budget. It’s important to first get a clear idea of where your money is going, then create a plan and stick to it.

We get it, though. Budgeting isn’t fun. But you don’t need to spend hours on end playing with complicated Excel equations. The 50/20/30 budgeting method makes it super easy. It’s one of the most straightforward budgeting strategies, and it offers a lot of flexibility.

Here’s how it works:

  • 50% of your income goes toward essentials.
  • 20% goes toward financial goals.
  • 30% goes toward personal spending.

Once you get the hang of it, you can tweak the ratios to fit your specific situation. Some people like to put more toward their savings, while others need a bit more for expenses. Take some time to find what works best for you and your goals.

5. Take The First Step to Becoming Debt-Free

Two hands reaching out to each other.
Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder

Every month, you’re paying huge credit card bills, thanks to those insane interest rates. Yeah, your credit card company is ripping you off — and getting rich along the way. Getting out of debt as quickly as possible is crucial in setting up your finances for the next 20 years. 

But as weird as it sounds, the answer might be a personal loan. Hear us out. A company called Upstart will loan you up to $50,000 to pay off all your credit card debt at once. Then, you just make one monthly payment on your loan. 

It might sound counterintuitive, but the truth is, this could lower your monthly payment, save you tons of money in interest over time, and allow you to pay off your debt faster.

In fact, Upstart offers interest rates starting at 5.67% — compared to the average rate on credit cards, which is close to 20%. Unlike a lot of other lenders, Upstart considers more than just your FICO score. It also looks at factors like your education and employment history (though it does require a 620 credit score).

Upstart won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars. Totally worth it.

6. Earn Extra Income — on Your Own Time

mediaphotos/Getty Images

No matter what your goals are for your financial future, having some extra income never hurts. Does earning $60 an hour sound appealing? How about the freedom to work remotely while helping others succeed?

Those are the perks of working as a bookkeeper, says Ben Robinson, a certified public accountant and business owner who teaches others to become virtual bookkeepers through his online course, Bookkeeper Business Launch.

And no, you don’t have to have a CPA to be successful in this business. In fact, all you really need are decent computer skills and a passion for helping business owners tackle real-world problems.

It’s a great opportunity for moms who want to work part-time, millennials who are just out of college and anyone who wants to bring in real money while working from home.

Robinson shares what it takes to be a virtual bookkeeper, plus tips for making this career work for you in a free class which you can sign up for here.

7. Grow Your Savings More Than 20x Faster

Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

If you’re saving some money for your future, that’s great! But if your savings are in a typical bank account, chances are your money isn’t growing as quickly as it could be. 

But there’s a legitimate way to grow it a lot faster than the average person — more than 20 times faster.

It’s with a mobile banking app called Varo. The FDIC reports that the average savings account pays a paltry .08% APY*, but when you open an online checking and savings account with Varo, it will pay you more than 20 times that amount on your savings account. 

Oh, and there are no monthly fees.

We know opening a new bank account isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of fun, but Varo makes it easy. You can open an account with just a penny, and more than 750,000 people have already signed up.


8. Ask Your HR Department These Questions

Got a new job? Here’s what to do next: Enroll in your company’s 401(k) plan ASAP so you can start saving for retirement. And yes, it fits in your budget!

As much as you want to be prepared for present-day responsibilities, the last thing you want is to leave old(er), future-you with bills, bills, bills and more bills.

If your employer sponsors a 401(k) plan, you should have access to people who can answer questions in your best interest — AKA HR.

And you’re going to have questions, because, well… 401(k)’s are tricky. To get the most out of your plan, here are some important questions to ask to ensure you’re putting your retirement savings in the best possible hands:

  1. Does your employer match?
  2. Where is your money invested?
  3. Can you rollover from your existing 401(k)?
  4. What fees are you paying?
  5. What can you do if your plan sucks?

*Like Buitureria, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.

Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.