19 Life-Changing Money Moves to Make Before You Turn 40

A gold foil number 40 balloon is held high in the air
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The big 4-0.

That’s right. You’re old enough to remember the VHS versus Betamax war, and you kept your school papers in a Trapper Keeper. So rad.

But you know what? Forty’s not so bad. You worried about 30, but then it passed, and you started to find yourself. Now you know exactly who your are and where your life is headed. OK, maybe not exactly, but the picture is a lot clearer.

Milestone birthdays are a great time to step back and assess your life.

Before you turn 40, take a quick look at your finances. You’re doing OK, but we’ve found a few tips that can help you get your finances in the best shape of your life… even if your midsection isn’t.

1. You’ve Built a Great Life. Now Protect It

Portrait of a young family with two little boys, and third one on the way, being surprised by snow, early in the morning
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Chances are, by the time you reach 40, you’ve established a life. That could mean you own your dream business. Or it could mean little ones who look up at you with awe as you read them bedtime stories. It could mean that house on a few acres with the big porch you always wanted.

You’re building your dream life. If that includes a family, the last thing you want is to leave them without any financial support once you’re gone.

Maybe it’s time to think about life insurance. It doesn’t have to be the uncomfortable experience you might expect. Some newcomers in the industry are updating the old model.

A company like Policygenius offers you an easy way for anyone to compare and buy life insurance. The search engine allows you to compare policies and get instant quotes. Once you find the right fit, you can apply right online.

If you’re young and mostly healthy, consider purchasing term life insurance online from Ethos. It partners with a major A-rated life insurance carrier to provide policies for a low price. For example, $30 a month could get your family $1 million of coverage.

Anyone, including independent contractors, can secure term life insurance through Ethos without a medical exam or extensive paperwork; just fill out a digital application.

2. Start Investing for the Price of a Cup of a Coffee

Black Crow Coffee in St. Petersburg, Florida on July 5, 2018.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

In your 20s, you didn’t even really think about investing. You were too busy trying to establish yourself. In your 30s, you just never quite felt like you had enough money to get started.

Don’t let your 40s slide by the same way. Here’s the key: You don’t need a big chunk of cash to get started.

You can start small with Acorns and stack up change over time with its “round-up” feature. That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account.

Then, the app does the whole investing thing for you.

The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. For example, we reviewed how Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to save at a rate of $420 a year!

The app is $1 a month for balances under $1 million, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.

3. Finally Tackle That Debt — With a Lower Interest Rate

A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in that boat, consolidation and refinancing might be worth a look.

A good resource is Fiona, a search engine for financial services, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.

Fiona searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. Its platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

4. Don’t Just Wish for Better Car Insurance

You have car insurance. Good job. It’s a part of adulting you’ve become accustomed to. But don’t you wish you could pay less for the same coverage?

Before you blow out those candles and waste that wish, there’s a better way.

One way you could save money is by shopping around and comparing rates at least once a year. Less than 50% of us do that, according to this survey from The Zebra, though 81% of us report wanting lower rates.

So, just like you compare the prices of flights, shoes and laptops before purchasing, why not compare car insurance?

The Zebra, an online car insurance search engine that offers “insurance in black and white,” compares your options from 204 providers in less than 60 seconds.

5. Get a Piece of the Real Estate Action

What did your dad always tell you about real estate? “It’s the way to go. They’re not making any more land!”

Want a cool way to celebrate entering your fourth decade? Invest in real estate.

At just 35 and 29, Christopher and Meghan Miller are semi-retired because of this kind of investment.

In addition to four rental properties, the couple has invested in a diversified portfolio of real estate projects across the country — from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles — through an automated investment experience.

“I don’t have to manage them; I don’t have to do the work to improve the properties; I don’t have to find tenants, evict tenants,” Christopher says.

Unlike traditional real estate investments, the Millers back these national building projects through an online platform called Fundrise*. Since 2016, Fundrise has paid dividends each quarter. (Note: As with any investment, past performance isn’t indicative of future results.)

How much fun will you have over the next decade or two keeping an eye on your investment properties? Finally, something to talk about at neighborhood cookouts.

6. Start a Budget. All the Cool Kids Are Doing It

TPH photo editor, Alexa Vincent, uses various budget apps in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

Budget. There. We said it, and it wasn’t so bad, was it? Budgeting can be a little scary, but it doesn’t have to be. And… we all need it.

The first step is to find out how you’re doing now. Luckily, you can have a financial assistant right in your pocket to help you out.

The Empower app is a powerful budgeting tool that can help you figure out how you’re spending your money and develop a budgeting plan to keep you on track.

Link the app to your bank accounts, and it will track your spending. It will also categorize your spending so you can see exactly where you are overdoing it. That’s right: It will show you just how many times you went out for dinner because you didn’t want to do the dishes.

Set a monthly spending limit and the app will show you a graph that can tell you in one snapshot just how you’re doing for the month. Are you over the line or under it? It’s that simple to see how you’re doing so you can adjust your spending accordingly.

How can your 40s not be great with all of this cool technology?

7. Get a Grip on Your Credit Score

File this next to “run a half marathon.” You’ve been meaning to get around to it, but it just never quite made the top of your “to-do” list.

Put it there now.

Your credit score is important. The better your score, the better deal you’ll get on a mortgage, car loan or credit card. We’re talking big money here.

Even if you’re not buying a house anytime soon, a lousy credit score means you’ll get hit with a high security deposit whenever you rent a car or struggle to get a better credit card.

But did you know your credit score could be inaccurate? One out of five credit reports have an error, according to a study by the Federal Trade Commission.

To keep a closer eye on your credit, get your credit score and a “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. It breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and how to address it.

Because it simplifies everything, you should be able to spot any errors. For instance, if you find an “unpaid” credit card that you know you paid, or a bill in collections you know never existed, you can dispute the incorrect information and raise your credit score.

Who knows? There may be some incorrect charges to your Montgomery Wards card on there that you need to clear up. Yikes.

8. Make iTunes Your Friend Again

Jessica Warden walks through the city in New York, NY.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

You grew up with mix tapes. CDs? They were cool. Then the whole world turned digital, and it was a tough transition, but you did it. You have an iTunes account. But, now you’re seeing all of these random charges for subscriptions you don’t recognize.

We’ve all fallen for it. “Sign up for a free trial!” Then, the next thing you know, you’re getting billed for something you forgot all about.

Download TrueBill, an app that’ll negotiate your bills, cancel unwanted subscriptions and refund your bank fees.

After downloading the app, create an account and link your bank account and/or credit cards. Turn on the bill negotiation and outage protection features. Boom. TrueBill is already searching for potential refunds — it might get you a refund even when you didn’t know an outage occurred.

On average, Truebill says it helps customers save more than $700 a year by lowering their bills, canceling necessary subscriptions and getting refunds.

The app will also remind you of all those sneaky subscriptions you’ve signed up for through the years, so you can cancel what you don’t use.

Mixed tapes never treated you this way, did they?

9. Give Your Retirement Fund a Boost

Remember when retirement seemed like some concept set for the far, far distant future?

Yeah, that future’s coming up kinda fast, isn’t it?

You have a 401(k) — kudos for that, but is it doing what you need it to?

If you’re like most people, you have no idea whether your 401(k) is on pace for your retirement or just sputtering along.

Chances are, it could be doing a lot better. Take control with help from Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm that can optimize and monitor your retirement account for you and keep it speeding toward retirement.

It just takes a few minutes to get a free 401(k) analysis that will show you whether your investments are allocated properly and whether you’re losing money paying hidden investment fees. It’ll even tell you just how much more money your account could earn by the time you want to retire.

After that, if you sign up, it’s just $10 per month to have Blooom monitor and maximize your 401(k). Bonus: Penny Hoarders get the first month free with the code PNNYHRD.

It’s like giving yourself a birthday present for a future birthday.

10. Save for a Rainy Day or a Leaky Roof

By now, you’ve run into an unexpected expense. Your car breaks down. One of the kids breaks an arm. The roof started leaking.

When life throws you a curveball, it can wreak havoc on your finances. Don’t leave yourself your family vulnerable to a setback like that again. Start a savings account to protect you from ugly surprises.

Digit makes that possible.

This innovative app automates saving for you. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.

Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months.

Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward.

Besides, if you don’t need it for an emergency, you can use it for one of the kids’ weddings, right? Too soon?

11. Start Saving to Send the Kids to College

Alexa Vincent poses for graduation photos in St. Petersburg Fla. on Sept 12, 2018.
Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

If you already have kids, you know just how expensive they can be. If you think that it’s bad now, just wait until tuition, rent and all of the other bills that come along with college start rolling in.

Whatever your situation, it’s time to start thinking about saving for your kids’ futures.

It’s important to think about all the ways you can save for your child’s future, such as a low-risk savings bond or a 529 plan to cover college expenses. Why?

Because if they don’t go to college they may still be living with you. Forever. For. Ever.

12. Get Your 34-Year-Old Body Back

What better gift can you give yourself than better health and fitness?

In 2016, Teresa Suarez was frustrated by the thought of a possible future in which she continued to ignore her health — and by her own lack of motivation.

“I knew I could be at 300 pounds within months,” she recalls.

So Suarez signed up for HealthyWage — a company that will literally pay you to lose weight.

She bet $125 per month that she would lose 60 pounds in six months. When she achieved that goal, she won a whopping $2,415.28 — more than tripling her initial investment in herself.

Betting on herself and knowing she would lose the money if she didn’t follow through was the kickstart Suarez needed to actually make lasting lifestyle changes.

Depending on how much you have to lose, how long you give yourself to do it and how much money you put on the table, you could win up to $10,000!

Be like Teresa, and give yourself an awesome birthday gift. Then go ahead and have a piece of cake. You’ve earned it.

13. Get a Better Mortgage

Tyler and Courtney Varnell checks the current interest rates on better.com on Tyler's iPhone.
Melissa Lyttle for The Penny Hoarder

If you’re still paying interest on your mortgage at an old rate, refinancing could help you take advantage of better interest rates and save thousands of dollars over time.

But getting a new mortgage can take months and can be a hassle — and it’s enough to make you throw your hands up in defeat and just go on living with the uncomfortably high interest rate from years ago.

And… you might find out in the end it’s not even worth it.

Before you take the leap, we found a company that wants to help you avoid a common mortgage mistake.

Or, if you are thinking about buying a different home, let technology work for you and find you the best mortgage possible.

Better Mortgage bills itself as an online mortgage lender that’s built like a tech company — fast and innovative. It emphasizes speed and efficiency.

It can quote you an interest rate in seconds, once you type in your ZIP code, credit score range, down payment amount and the price of the house you want to buy. Better can get you an initial pre-approval for a loan within minutes, without affecting your credit score.

14. Negotiate Everything — Especially Your Bills

When you bought your car, did you settle for the sticker price? How about your house? At your age, you’ve seen enough to know that everything is negotiable.

That doesn’t mean that you want to go through the hassle of negotiating it all yourself. That’s why it’s time to call in a robot.

The negotiation bot Trim will negotiate your cable or internet bills down for you.

It works with Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and other major providers.

You can sign up simply with Facebook or your email address. Then, upload a PDF of your most recent bill, and Trim’s AI-powered system gets to work. If at first it doesn’t succeed, it’ll keep negotiating until it can save you some money.

Also, if you have any outages, Trim believes you deserve a credit, and it’ll handle that for you.

Trim takes 25% of the savings tab, and you get the rest.

Your 30-year-old self would never believe this is possible. Being 40 rocks!

15. Get Rewarded Just for Paying Your Bills on Time

Your mom probably gave you an allowance for washing the dishes and sweeping the floor when you were a kid. Now all you get for doing it is a kitchen that’s clean for, like, 15 minutes.

As an adult, you don’t typically get rewards for doing things that are expected of you… until now.

This app kind of rules them all: MoneyLion, a free all-in-one app for managing your personal finances.

MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits and will literally pay you for logging onto the app.

You can earn points in the rewards program by paying bills on time, connecting your bank account or downloading the mobile app.

You can redeem those points for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart.

If credit cards aren’t your thing, MoneyLion is like having a rewards credit card without the temptation to overspend.

The app also connects with all your bank, credit card, student loan and other financial accounts. Based on your income and spending patterns, it offers personalized advice to help you save money, reduce your debt and improve your credit.

16. Protect Your Home and Cool Stuff

young woman in casual wear touching her head with hand while lying on the floor at home
g-stockstudio/Getty Images

You’ve worked hard and for a long time to create your home. The stuff you’ve accumulated, whether you rent or own a home, is worth protecting.

If you have homeowners or renters insurance, you might be paying too much for it. Try shopping around.

If you’ve never looked into it, start by getting a free quote.We recommend the online insurance company Lemonade, through which homeowners insurance starts at $25 a month.

Beyond affordable rates, Lemonade adds a layer of transparency you don’t often see in the insurance world. Instead of profiting extra when it doesn’t have to pay out claims, the company keeps a set 20% of your premium for itself, and 80% goes into a pool for paying claims. Money left over after paying claims each year goes to a cause of your choice.

That also means Lemonade isn’t going to be super stingy about granting customers the claims they deserve — ’cause the money isn’t going into its pockets.

Lemonade is available in Arizona, California, Connecticut Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.

OK, so now that you know Lemonade has your back, here’s how to get a free quote. It’s easy — and you can do it all online. (Nope, it won’t hurt your credit score!)

  1. Click “Check Our Prices.”
  2. Get to know Maya, Lemonade’s chatbot. She’s nice and will ask you a few questions.
  3. Once you complete the application, you’ll receive a quote within a minute or two.

Plus, at the end of the day, you’ll feel better knowing your hard-earned belongings are insured. Now that you’re turning 40, it’s time to squeeze the most out of life and your finances!

17. Scour Your Emails for Money

If you’re turning 40, you remember a time before email. Can you imagine life without it now?

It turns out deleting your emails could be costing you money. Intrigued?

One of our secret weapons is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It’s free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund when there’s a price drop.

Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get compensated.

We’ve come a long way from waiting for AOL dial-up internet to connect. Cue irritating noise.

18. Get a Better Credit Card

At your age, you know enough to know that credit cards aren’t necessarily evil. You just have to be smart about how you use them. Oh, and isn’t it time you got one that gives you something back?

If you’re not using a rewards credit card for everyday purchases, you’re missing out on free money.

You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.

Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited card**. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, groceries), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.

There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire. Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.

19. Get Some Passive Income

man resting on couch at home
ridvan_celik/Getty Images

If there’s anything you know at nearly 40 years old, it’s that passive is OK. No, it’s better than OK. Passive is great. You know, like a nap.

Passive income is exactly what it sounds like: income that comes to you without you lifting a finger — at least, after the initial setup.

While you can’t expect free money to just appear in your bank account, you can take steps to set yourself up with a cash flow that comes in automatically with little to no upkeep.

Why is it important to have a source of passive income? Well, Brad Hines, who estimates 10 to 15% of his income is passive, puts it this way:

“When zero of your money is passive income, that inherently means every minute you’re not working, you’re not making money.”

Yikes.

To make the most of your down time — like that big trip you’ll take to celebrate turning 40 — set up a passive income stream of your own.

Passive income sources can range from really big (think: owning a business) to really tiny (think: owning a gumball machine).

If you don’t mind the initial work of setting up your passive income streams, the payoff and peace of mind can be sweet. Let’s face it, you don’t really want to work any harder than you need to anymore.

40 Is the New 40

What? You thought we’d say 30? Come on, you don’t want to be 30 again! You’ve accomplished too much and learned so much since then. You’re not getting older, you’re getting smarter. These smart money moves will prove it.

Just watch. Over the next 10 years, these moves will make your life easier and help set up your finances to be looking pretty when you reach that *gulp!* 50-year-old mark.

Just don’t go and spend your savings on a mid-life crisis hot rod.

*Fundrise Disclosure: Redemptions are subject to certain restrictions. See Full Disclosures for more information.

The publicly filed offering circulars of the issuers sponsored by Rise Companies Corp. (parent company of Fundrise), not all of which may be currently qualified by the Securities and Exchange Commission, may be found at fundrise.com/oc.

**Chase Disclosure: The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. His 40th birthday is still visible in the rearview mirror of his midlife crisis baby stroller. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

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