When it comes to money, life is a series of financial milestones. Opening your first credit card account, buying your first home and retiring (no more paychecks!) all feel like very significant events—and they are. But what age is the right age to reach each of these milestones? Of course, it depends on who you ask. But according to a new study from Bankrate.com, there’s some consensus among people on the ideal age for life’s major financial events. What does this mean for you? The results of this study could help you adjust your expectations or reconsider your plans for reaching watershed financial moments depending on where you are in life…
Most people agree on the ideal age to become a home owner. The study, which consisted of interviews with about 1,000 respondents, showed that most people think 28 is the right age to buy a home for the first time. In fact, a majority of every age group cited age 28 except for the Silent Generation—people born between 1925 and 1942—and their most common answer was similar, age 26. Of course, it’s not uncommon for the concept of “ideal” to conflict with realities on the ground. For example, there is consensus among Americans who make less than $30,000 a year, as well as those who live in expensive regions such as the Northeast, that it’s best to wait to buy a home until you’re at least 30. In reality, the median first-time home buyer in the US is 32 years old.
Young Americans are warming up to credit cards. All respondents across all age groups agreed that 21 is the ideal age to buy or lease your first car, but there was no such consensus when it comes to opening your first credit card account. The most commonly cited ideal age for that financial milestone was 22, but millennials, who have historically shunned taking on credit card debt, are now largely in favor of paying with plastic as early as possible. About 53% of millennials cited 18 to 20 as the ideal age to get your first credit card. It’s important to note that the Credit Card Act of 2009
made 21 the minimum age to acquire a credit card without a cosigner or verifiable proof of enough income to pay debts. What does this mean for you? If you have college-age kids, keep in mind that it’s now probable that they’re nearly twice as likely as you or your parents to think it’s a good idea to open a credit card account as soon as they reach adulthood.
The young want to retire earlier than those at retirement age. The survey’s younger respondents think the ideal retirement age is in one’s very early 60s—ages 61 and 60 for millennials and Gen Xers, respectively. That optimism, however, often collides with learned reality for older adults who are at or near retirement age. Half of baby boomers think it’s best to wait until at least age 65, and nearly one in five respondents age 73 or older believe that waiting until age 70 or older is better. What’s actually happening? The average age of new retirees in the US is about 63, although that varies by state, with four states in New England plus New Jersey averaging 65, the oldest average. If you’re a Gen Xer who has lofty goals of early retirement, or you’re the parent of an optimistic millennial, keep in mind that there’s a direct correlation between getting an early jump on aggressively saving for retirement, as well as limiting debt, and actually being able to retire early.