This is the first of two articles where we look at ‘financial planning through the decades:’ how your financial planning needs change through the various stages of your life.

Clearly the average client’s planning needs are completely different in their twenties to their fifties and, while it’s true to say there’s no such thing as an ‘average’ client, this short guide will hopefully help to set most people on the right path to a well-planned and prosperous financial future.

In this article we look at financial planning in your twenties, thirties and forties – next month we’ll look at how your financial planning needs change as you move into your fifties and beyond.

In your twenties

For many people their twenties come with one huge financial planning plus – no children. If you’re what used to be known as a DINKY (dual income, no kids) then it makes sense to take advantage of it.

It may not sound much fun to think about a pension as you contemplate nights out and holidays in Ibiza, but making a start on saving for your retirement – even if the contributions are relatively low – will pay huge dividends later on in life. With the vast majority of people now set to retire at 65 or later, money invested in your twenties will have the best part of 40 years to grow and benefit from the tax advantages that pensions enjoy.

It’s also important to start saving for the deposit on your first home. Mortgage lenders have toughened up their lending criteria considerably over the past few years and the more deposit you can put down on your first home, the better mortgage rate you’ll be able to obtain.

If you are saving in your twenties, then make sure that you save tax efficiently by opening an Individual Savings Account (ISA). There’s no point paying tax on your savings when you don’t need to.

Finally, your twenties may be a good time to look to reduce debt. With university students now expecting to graduate with upwards of £30,000 of debt, the time before children and mortgages come along may be a sensible time to try and pay off some debt – and hence ease the burden of future interest charges.

In your thirties

Your thirties can be a tough time financially, especially if starting a family means that one partner isn’t working, or only working part-time. Perhaps the most sensible advice is to try and avoid debt building up in your thirties – but if it is unavoidable, keep an eye on the interest rate you’re paying and try and pay off ‘expensive’ debt (such as credit cards) first.

If you’re in a company pension then your contributions will automatically be deducted from your wages – however, if you’re not in a company scheme, or you’re self-employed, then it is vital that you start to make some pension contributions at this stage in your life.

It’s also a good idea to start working with an independent financial adviser to regularly review your finances – for example, to make sure you have the most competitive mortgage and that your pension is on track to give you the retirement you’ll ultimately want.

Even though your thirties may be difficult financially, it obviously makes sense to try and save a little. As in your twenties, remember to make sure that your savings are invested tax efficiently and don’t be afraid to take a long term view with them.

In your forties

The good news as you enter your forties is that you’ll now be approaching your peak earning years. The chances are that you’ll still have children at home and a mortgage to pay, but now is the time to be increasing your pension and savings contributions and cutting down on debt.

These are the years when good financial planning can make a tremendous difference to your long-term prosperity. It’s not that many years since you were in your twenties – and sadly, it won’t be that long until you’re retiring, so efficient and effective planning becomes ever more important.

Many people start to inherit money in their forties and it might also be the time to start thinking about the potential cost of further education for your children. A lot of clients we speak to simply don’t want their children to graduate with a huge burden of debt, and savings that are made now could help your children significantly.