Financial Checklist for Each Chapter of Life

Each chapter of life brings a new assortment of financial decisions you will have to make. We compiled useful information from Forbes, USA Today and Daily Worth to create this checklist of financial issues you may face – and how to address them.

Chapter 1. Recent College Grads

En route to independence


Organize and manage debt

  • Focus on paying down any credit card debt you may have racked up over the years
  • An online credit card calculator can help you determine the best way to pay off your credit cards and give you insight into how long it may take to pay off your balance

Save no matter how small the amount

  • Calculate how much funds you’d need to live on without income for six months, and make that amount your savings goal
  • Create a student loan repayment plan
  • A loan counselor can help you to understand your options and figure out an appropriate repayment plan

Prepare for retirement – today

  • Contribute to your employer’s 401(k), 403(b) or similar retirement-savings account
  • Track your monthly expenses
  • This worksheet can help you monitor your monthly spending

Make a budget you can stick to

  • Nationwide’s home budget calculator can help
  • Minimizing your highest expenses (such as rent) creates breathing room in your budget

Begin estate planning

  • Designate someone to have as your power of attorney and someone as your health care proxy (this can be the same person)
  • Create a living will

Designate beneficiaries on your financial accounts

  • Your beneficiary may change as time goes on, and you can always revisit it

Chapter 2. Just Married

Meeting in the middle

Married couple

Educate each other about your finances

  • Review credit reports and compile a list of the locations and balances of all assets and debts
  • Scrutinize spending to see where you can save money, such as combining auto insurance policies

Consider joint accounts

  • Figure out if joint checking, spending and savings accounts make sense
  • Update car titles, mortgages and financial accounts to have joint ownership

Re-visit estate planning

  • Update your will, beneficiaries, power of attorney and health care proxy
  • Change beneficiary information on retirement, investment, insurance and similar accounts

Review insurance policies

  • Go over insurance options, particularly life and disability coverage
  • See if it makes sense for one spouse to be covered by the other’s insurance
  • Explore which insurance policies you may want to combine

Notify financial institutions of name changes

Consider insuring engagement and wedding rings

Meet with a financial planner

Chapter 3. New Parents

Plus-one preparation


Add your baby to your health insurance

  • Your child should be added to your health insurance plan within 30 days of birth

Review employee benefits

  • See if your employer offers a dependent care account and whether you’re eligible

Have a will drafted

  • It should designate a guardian for your child in the event something happens to you or your spouse

Be sure you have adequate life insurance

  • Consider a 20-year term policy that will last until your baby is grown

Establish a college savings plan

Chapter 4. Preparing for Retirement

Reaching for some R&R

Retired couple

Have a savings/withdrawal strategy in place

  • Determine how much you want to save and how much you’ll need to withdraw from your nest egg

Review your beneficiary designations

Estimate out-of-pocket health care costs, excluding Medicare

Revisit your retirement date

  • Determine if the date you planned to retire lets you make the most of your employer’s 401(k) contribution match
  • If it doesn’t, consider delaying retirement

Create a financial plan

  • Review what your sources of income will be, how much you expect from each source and for how long
  • Go over your company’s retirement benefits (pension, 401(k) plan, etc.)
  • Estimate your gross and after-tax income to determine if it’s sufficient to live on

Create an  investment plan

  • Go over your current investments and make sure your portfolio is designed to hit your retirement date and beyond

Know your expenses

  • Determine an appropriate income-replacement ratio
  • If you plan on moving to a new area, figure out what the cost of living will be for your lifestyle there

Work with a financial planner

  • A financial planner can help you to build a retirement plan that best fits your situation

Consider relocating

  • Downsizing your home could help reduce a variety of expenses, including utilities and property taxes