Personal Finance

20s, 30s, 40s and 50s: How to save money at every age

Jean Chatzky

Young, old or in the middle — it's totally possible to start saving up more. And to prove it, I'll show you four kinds of people, real people who tweeted me what they were saving for, and what tips each can use to begin growing their nest egg.

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1. A 20-something shopping for a new house and trying to save up for all the weddings she's in.

Go "faux shopping" to figure out what kind of home you're looking for and what the down payment will have to be. Aim for 10 percent.

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Open a separate savings account for that house. Set up your paycheck to automatically contribute to it every time you get paid.

Get your credit score and work on it until it's over 740. Then you'll qualify for the best interest rate!

2. A woman in her 30s saving up for Disney World… and her kid's college tuition.

Remember, funding your retirement comes first.

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For your kid, open a 529 college savings account. Go to to find the best one for you.

Encourage grandparents, aunts, uncles to contribute, too.

Retirement: A financial hangover?

3. In their 40s, saving for retirement after being in the US Army for 20 years.

Bulk up your emergency cushion — especially if you haven't nailed down a job.

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Make a decision about your "thrift savings plan." In addition to your military pension, you likely have money in the thrift savings plan. You can leave it there — which is low cost or roll it into an IRA, and will give you more investment options. Another option is to roll it into a new employer's 401(k) plan, which if you have one is the easiest thing to do administration-wise.

Check out Operation Money, the free e-book I wrote on money specifically for military families.

4. Someone in their 50s who wants to increase retirement savings $6,000 more per year, with an optional pre-tax retirement increase.

First, break that goal down ($6000 more per year equals $500 more per month).

Figure out where that money is going to come from: Can you find it by making small changes (not buying things) or do you need to make a bigger change like downsizing or getting rid of a second car?

If you can't save more by spending less, look at the other side of the equation: Could you teach windsurfing in your spare time (or do something else) to earn a bit more?