Karen Smith
Executive Director
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Topic of the Month

Financial Capability for Your Life 

Financial capability starts with a pledge to learn the skills necessary to manage your money. It’s a lifetime commitment, and there is something new to learn around every corner. Throughout April, we will take a closer look at some general money phases, while offering tips on the more common milestones.

Setting money goals should reflect your own personal values, taking into consideration where you are currently and where you hope to be at the end of your life. Not everyone finds a job immediately out of college in their desired profession. Not everyone wants to be married, have a family, and own a home by their thirties. And for many reasons, less people are retiring in their sixties. Life is more complicated and increasingly more unpredictable.

In order to live your life to the fullest (and on your own terms) you need a financial plan -- one that can grow with you as you pass through life’s milestones. Below is general timeline for financial planning:

  • Building the Foundation / Wealth Protection: This might include paying for college, getting your first job, understanding insurance, starting a retirement plan, or managing student debt. If you take the more traditional route you might be purchasing a first home, getting married, and having children. While growing your family and starting to purchase major assets, make sure you have the insurance in place to protect them.
  • Prime Earning Years / Wealth Accumulation: This part of your life is when you are probably bringing in the most income. You might be building your retirement savings and learning the ins and outs of investing. You might need a larger home for a growing family and are saving for your children’s education. Most likely you will have more money coming in, so it's a great time to start using that extra cash to cushion for the future.
  • Financial Nearing and During Retirement / Wealth Distribution: This is the time of life that you start thinking about life after work. You may want to travel, spend time with family, have more hobbies, downsize your home, etc. You also might experience the difficult reality of losing a spouse and need to assign a power of attorney. If you haven't already, this is an important time to start allocating your assets through a will or trust.

Financial capability starts with a commitment to learning financial basics and creating financial goals that make the most sense to you. Envision these goals while thinking about the cost of education, protecting your assets, health care costs, and building wealth to retire comfortably. Be mindful not to strictly plan according to outside pressure or the ‘American Dream.’ Base your financial plan on your own goals instead. After all, you only get one life, so make sure you have the financial freedom to make it your own!

Additional Resources: 

Smart About Money: NEFE is an independent, nonprofit foundation committed to educating Americans on a broad range of financial topics and empowering them to make positive and sound decisions to reach their financial goals. 21 Federal entities compose the Financial Literacy and Education Commission and provide the materials that are available on this site.

Financial Planning Association: A leadership and advocacy organization connecting those who provide, support and benefit from professional financial planning.

Practical Money Skills: Consumers, educators, parents, students, and policymakers can access free educational resources, including personal finance articles, games and lesson plans.

360 Degrees of Financial Literacy: A free program of the nation's certified public accountants to help Americans understand their personal finances through every stage of life.



Montana Credit Unions for Community Development (or MCUCD) is the award-winning, charitable arm of the Montana Credit Union Network. A state-wide nonprofit organization, MCUCD works together with the state's credit unions to improve the lives and financial independence of all Montanans.