Are you entering, or already in, your peak earning years?
If so, here are some great financial tips….
According to CNBC, college-educated, full-time workers reach peak earning around age 55, with median income about 87% higher than at age 22 for men, and 57% higher for women.
At age 40, men’s median income is already within 12.5% of their peak, and women’s median income is within 2.5% of their (lower) peak. By age 60, both men’s and women’s median income is already a few percentage points off their respective peaks.
Your 40s and 50s, your peak earning years, are when financial decisions can make or break your financial freedom dreams.
That’s why I asked several fellow top finance writers to offer their best financial tips for this crucial period.
Introducing the Panel
First up, Charlie Brown, whose Medium profile says, “11x top writer. Traded a wine career for writing. Expect entrepreneurship, minimalism, finance + personal development.”
Second, Ben Le Fort, economist and personal finance writer and enthusiast, whose Medium profile reads, “Making of a Millionaire editor | Personal finance writer | Author of ‘The Financial Freedom Equation’.”
Third, Jason Clendenen, who works full time, but makes his real money from a residential real estate portfolio. His Medium tagline reads “Self-taught investor helping busy professionals learn how to ignore mainstream advice and build real wealth. Build your ark today!”
Finally, yours truly, full-time consultant, part-time financial strategist, with several other income streams including residential and office real estate.
Interestingly, Charlie and Ben are about to enter their 40s, Jason is already there, and I’m almost to the end of my 50s, so between us we span that nominal 20-year peak-earning period (though I expect my income to keep growing, and I suspect the same will likely be true for most or all my co-panelists).
Our Top Money Tips for Making the Most of Your Peak Earning Years
Charlie, our resident free spirit who sold everything and moved abroad to pursue her dreams says her advice for your peak earning years is similar to what she advises people just starting out. specifically:
- Don’t allow your higher income to drive your spending higher (a.k.a. lifestyle inflation), and most especially don’t try to “keep up with the Joneses”
- That money you don’t waste chasing stuff you don’t need? Save it!
- What you do spend, “spend with intention”
Ben’s advice centers on retirement planning:
- “Make retirement planning your #1 priority. [You’re] entering crunch time and have limited number of years to leverage compounded returns.”
Jason echoes Ben, but adds a nuance:
- “Depends on your financial situation. If you aren’t on track for retirement, learn about personal finance and investing to get on track. If you are on track, learn about generating cash flow to see if you can retire early.”
Rounding things off, given that Ben and Jason already hammered home the importance of retirement planning, I’ll offer two tips – the first mainstream, the second less so.
- If you haven’t done so already, buy a home; just don’t buy more home than what you’d be happy with because someone (your lender?) says you can afford more. Your primary residence is a great way to save on rent, but isn’t usually a good investment (true, my first house doubled in value in the 5 years I owned it, and my current house is worth 40% more than in 2019, that’s far from typical).
- While you’re busy buying a home and investing for financial independence, make sure to also spend on fun experiences – you don’t want to put off all enjoyment to the future, since you don’t know if you’ll live long enough and be healthy enough to enjoy the fruit of all that financial prudence.
The Bottom Line
Between the four of us, we advise people in their peak earning years to be reasonably frugal, but not to such an extent that they put off enjoying their life. We emphasize the importance of planning and investing for retirement, as well as buying a (reasonably priced) home if they haven't yet done so, and educating themselves about investing for appreciation and cash flow.
This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered financial, business, or legal advice. You should consult a relevant professional before making any major decisions.