Financial literacy isn’t something you ever truly achieve. That is because there is something new to be learned at each different stage of your life. The key is making sure that you’re literate in the things that you need to be literate in by the time that you reach each stage. This is your guide to what you should know by when when it comes to your finances.

Stage 1: The Early Years

You start learning about money when you are just a child. By the time that you are 18, you should be financially literate in:

  • Setting up a savings and checking account
  • Using a debit card and / or writing checks
  • Earning an income

Stage 2: College and Living on Your Own

During this stage, it is crucial that you learn:

  • How to budget your money
  • Hot to track your spending
  • Appropriate use of credit cards including full understanding of their terms
  • How to review, obtain and repay loans

Stage 3: Your First Real Job

As you begin to earn a real income, you should also learn:

  • Saving for retirement
  • The basics of investing
  • What types of insurance you need
  • How to create a good debt repayment plan
  • The ins and outs of filing income taxes

Stage 4: Getting Married

When it comes time to get married, it comes time to become financially literate in:

  • Discussing and compromising about money
  • Setting long-termĀ financial goals and making plans to meet them
  • Figuring out a wedding budget
  • Changing your approach to income taxes according to your new status

Stage 5: Buying a Home

You are ready to buy a home when you have learned:

  • Review and update your credit report; get your credit score in the great-excellent range
  • How to put together a financial team (including attorneys, tax preparers and mortgage lenders)
  • Research and understand the costs and payoffs of owning a home
  • Review of tax benefits and deductions for home owners

Stage 6: Children

When children come along, they present an opportunity to gain financial literacy in:

  • Increased attention to family budgeting
  • Child care costs and options
  • Review of additional income tax benefits for parents
  • New savings plans for the future including options for college savings plans
  • Teaching them what you’ve learned about money over the years
  • Setting up wills, life insurance and other financial safeguards for your kids

Stage 7: Retirement

Even at this stage in life there are new things to learn:

  • How to plan for the future on a fixed income
  • Reviews of new types of insurance such as medical insurance and even funeral insurance
  • Updating wills, trusts and investments

Stage 8: Unplanned Expenses

This stage can happen at any time. It may include such periods in life as getting laid off from a job or unexpectedly having to pay for the care of an aging parent. Consider this to be a time when you can learn new things about your personal finances, adjusting your perspective and planning in a new way. For example, it may be a time to learn about getting a small business loan, finding financial aid for your elderly relatives, refinancing your home or filing for bankruptcy. If you approach it as a learning experience then you’ll get through it just fine.