At VMC, we are committed to helping practices be the best they can be, but we are also committed to helping owners have a work-life balance while planning for their future. We are all at different stages in our careers and life, but planning is key.

I recently attended the 2020 Annual VetPartners meeting in conjunction with the Western Veterinary Conference (WVC) in Las Vegas. I had the opportunity to meet the CEO of the AVMA Trusts, Tracey Gray-Walker. This advice is neither a commercial for the AVMA nor for insurance, but after speaking with Mrs. Gray-Walker and thinking more about my clients, their team members, and my own family, I thought it would be advantageous to discuss planning for your future.

I encourage all that are reading this article to review the following financial checklist for every decade of adulthood and – depending upon your stage of life – I urge you to start planning for your future! Many of us are behind and others are ahead. Regardless of where you are, I am hopeful this information will be resourceful.

In Your 20s

Create a budget

Use budgeting worksheets to construct your ideal spending plan.

Build your savings

This includes an emergency fund of three to six months’ worth of income and funds for any special savings goals like vacations, holiday gifts, etc.

Start saving for retirement

The earlier you start, the more time your money has to grow. Start off by opening a 401(k) or Roth IRA and see if your employer offers matching contributions.

Avoid consumer debt

Nothing you’re thinking of purchasing is worth spending the next few decades of your life repaying. Find a way to pay for your purchases in cash, and avoid the “everyone has debt” mentality.

Get insured

Even though you’re fairly carefree right now, you should absolutely have renter’s insurance, health insurance, car insurance, and life insurance. Don’t cut corners; skipping insurance is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Live within your means

Stick to a frugal lifestyle to make your money stretch as far as possible: furnish your first apartment with hand-me-downs, get a roommate to share the cost of rent, drive that old junker car into the ground.

In Your 30s

Up your savings game

Your savings goals are bigger now –- paying for a wedding, putting a down payment on a house, having a baby. Revisit your budget to see where you can free up room to put aside more money.

Review insurance coverage

With more assets and more people depending on you, you may need more coverage. Review all your policies to make sure they’re still right for you.

Continue retirement contributions

Aim to put aside 10 to 15 percent of your income.


You don’t need to be a stock market whiz. Simply split your portfolio among basic low-fee broad market index funds, exchange-traded funds, and bond funds. As a general rule of thumb, 110 minus your age is the percentage you should put into bond funds, with the rest in stock funds.

Start estate planning

Create a power of attorney, healthcare proxy (also known as a living will) and a will that outlines who will get your assets should you pass away.

Avoid lifestyle inflation

As your salary increases, channel those funds towards goals like savings and retirement, not towards a more lavish lifestyle.

In Your 40s

Plan for mortgage payoff

Calculate when you’ll be done with payments and what that will mean for your overall financial strategy. If possible, make extra payments towards your mortgage so you can be debt-free by the time you turn 50.

Save for children’s education 

If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to start, pronto. Open a tax-advantaged account like a 529 College Savings Plan.

Check retirement goal progress

You should be able to replace 70 percent to 85 percent of your current income when you retire. Are you on track? Use an online tool to see how close (or far) you are from your retirement goals.

Maximize your tax savings

You’re likely paying the highest taxes of your life, but you may also qualify for some great deductions. Meet with a certified public accountant to make sure you’re claiming everything you can.

In Your 50s

Gather an advisory board

As you near retirement, you want to make sure all your ducks are in a row and your retirement and investment strategies are ready to take you through the financial stretch. Research and meet with fee-only financial advisers and CPAs for professional advice. Make sure your financial adviser is bound by a fiduciary obligation to you, meaning that they legally must give you advice that’s in your best interest, not theirs.

Evaluate your portfolio

Review your asset allocation. Are you being too conservative or taking more chances than you’re comfortable with?

Discuss care for aging parents

Sit down with your spouse and siblings to discuss what you’ll do if your elderly parents need in-home care or must be moved to an assisted living facility. Who will pay for it? How?

Consider long-term care insurance

This covers things like nursing homes and in-home care when you get older and can give you the peace of mind of knowing you won’t be a burden on your loved ones.

In Your 60s+

Review your estate plan

Does anything need to be changed with your will, health-care proxy or power of attorney?

Create a retirement budget

You’ll lose some expenses, like that mortgage you’ll have paid off, but you’ll gain others, like additional medical expenses or the need for someone to help you with the yard work. Work out a budget to make the most of your retirement funds in this stage of your life.

Plan out your withdrawals

How will you make use of your retirement assets? In what order will you withdraw your funds, and how much will you withdraw at a time? Sit down with your financial advisors to discuss what makes the most sense for tax purposes.


Stretch your funds further by moving to a smaller home or apartment. You’ll save on maintenance, property taxes, utilities and more.

Pant, Paula. “Your Financial Checklist for Every Decade of Adulthood.”

December 26, 2014.

Monica Dixon Perry, CVPM
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