Thirty-Something Financial Check-Up

We all seem to feel that we’re living paycheck to paycheck—and even when our paycheck gets bigger, our spending has a funny way of rising to meet it. The secret to getting your finances under control isn’t necessarily to make more money, but to trick yourself into spending less and saving more.

Being 35 and still single—with prospects of remaining that way—means you need to consider the following basic financial issues from a new perspective:

Your credit. By this time you’ve probably got credit cards of your own—possibly too many of them. If you spent your 20s on a buying binge, now’s the time to pay down that debt, so you can put the money toward other things that are becoming more important in your life.

Your home. If you have been putting down roots in a job or a geographical location but are still renting an apartment, consider buying a home of your own— primarily as a place to live, but also as a source of tax breaks (to help offset your growing income) and a real estate asset (to help diversify your portfolio).

Your assets. You may have acquired lots of things by now—a house or condo, home furnishings, a car, investments, a retirement plan. If you have definite ideas about who should get all that stuff if anything should happen to you, the only way to make sure your wishes will be carried out is to make a will. In the absence of a will, the state in which you live will make the decision for you, in accordance with a hierarchy that goes something like this: your parents, followed by your siblings, your grandparents, and then other relatives. You may also want to set up trusts for tax-planning purposes. And draft a durable power of attorney so that someone else can act on your behalf if you are incapacitated.

Your parents. They may still be relatively young themselves, but if it looks as if you would be their primary caregiver, encourage them to look into buying long-term-care insurance—or buy it for them, especially if you have access to coverage as a benefit through your employer.

Your retirement. If you didn't start saving in your 20s, you haven't missed the boat. You've still got 30-plus years until you leave the work force - plenty of time to build yourself a comfortable retirement kitty. But start now! Excerpted from Kiplinger's Money Smart Women by Janet Bodnar, Published by Kaplan Publishing www.kaplan.com