Taking care of your money is an important part of caring for your whole self. Setting actionable goals to improve your finances can lead to improvements in other areas of your life as well. This five-part series maps out some key financial goals you may want to set for each decade of your life. Part 1 outlines which money moves to tackle in your 20s. Part 2 dealt with financial targets for your 30s. Part 3 examines the most important financial goals to aim for in your 40s.

Turning 40 can be a major milestone, particularly from a financial perspective. Retirement is starting to loom on the horizon and college may be just a few years off for your kids. You also may be ramping up to enter your peak earning years as your career advances.

So how do you make the most of this time in your life and continue elevating your financial situation? Having these financial goals on your radar is a step in the right direction.

1. Double Down on Debt Repayment

Hopefully by your 40s, you’ve put your student debt to rest. If not, this is the time to buckle down and wipe those lingering loans out for good.

The reason? Debt is a hurdle to building wealth, which is something you should be turning your thoughts to in your 40s as you consider your bigger financial health picture. According to Federal Reserve Bank of New York data, student loans make up 47 percent of the total debt of households that have between $47,500 and $52,000 in negative wealth (when your total debt exceeds your total assets). Student loans accounted for less than 10 percent of debt among households with a positive net wealth.

Student loans aren’t the only thing to consider paying off. The average 35- to 44-year-old owes $8,235 in credit card debt, which increases to $9,096 for 45- to 54-year-olds. Credit cards offer convenience and in some cases, rewards, but their value may be diminished if carrying a balance means paying interest to the credit card company. Accelerating your debt payoff frees up money that can be applied to your other financial goals — such as saving for retirement — and it saves you the pain of paying interest.

2. Review Your Investments

A 2016 report shows that the mean retirement savings for a family between 44 and 49 years old was $81,347, according to the Economic Policy Institute. That’s not bad, but it may be far less than the six times your income that Fidelity Investments recommends having saved by age 50.

For most Americans, your fourth decade is when you see a significant bump in your paychecks. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income for 40- to 44-year-olds was $80,876 in 2017, and $82,329 for those aged 45 to 49. If your salary is on par with that number or higher, it’s to your advantage to find a way to make it work for you with regard to your investments.

Start by maxing out your employer’s retirement plan, if you’re not already doing so. Then, consider adding to your savings with an Individual Retirement Account or a taxable investment account – both of which typically can be found at various types of financial institutions and providers.

As you’re increasing your investments, review your asset allocation. Unless you’re planning to retire in your 50s, you still have ample time to recover if the market takes a dip. Keeping the right mix of aggressive and conservative investments can help you maximize growth while managing your risk tolerance. Consider rebalancing periodically and check the fees on your investments to help make sure those costs aren’t diminishing your returns.

3. Calculate College Savings Needs

These days, a college education can be a more expensive investment than buying a home. The average yearly cost of in-state tuition, fees, and room and board at a public four-year college or university came to $21,370 for the 2018-19 academic year, says CollegeBoard.org. The average climbed to $48,510 for private nonprofit four-year colleges and universities.

When college is in your child’s future plans, consider whether it makes sense for you financially to commit to helping them with these costs. If it means compromising your ability to save at the pace you’d like for retirement, consider whether there’s a concession you could agree on. For example, you might agree that instead of paying all their college expenses, you’ll pay half or pay for them to attend a two-year college in place of a four-year university.

When you know what you’re comfortable saving for college, consider opening a dedicated education savings account to hold the funds. A 529 college savings plan is a popular and potential tax-advantaged way to save. You also may consider a Coverdell Education Savings Account, a certificate of deposit or an online savings account to set aside extra cash. But remember, part of financial self-care means planning for your needs (that is, retirement) first.

4. Draft an Estate Plan

Estate planning isn’t just for people who are already retired or the super-rich. The most important element of a basic estate plan is a will. If you don’t already have a will in place by the big 4-0, it’s certainly time. A will allows you to name guardians for minor children, name an executor for your estate and decide how you’d like your assets to be distributed after your death. Surprisingly, 58 percent of Americans don’t have a last will and testament in place, according to a Caring.com survey.

A health care advance directive is another useful estate planning tool 40-somethings should consider. The advance directive includes a health care power of attorney and a living will. The former gives someone of your choosing the power to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re temporarily incapacitated. The latter allows you to spell out the kind of care you do or don’t want to receive in an end-of-life situation.

A separate financial power of attorney, also referred to as a durable power of attorney, would grant your chosen representative the authority to manage your bank accounts or other financial assets if you’re not able to for some reason. If you have substantial assets, you may consider placing them in a living trust to minimize any tax bite your heirs might suffer.

An estate planning attorney can help you determine which estate planning tools are best suited to your situation. While you’re at it, take time to review your life insurance coverage (or get covered if you haven’t already). Thinking about these things may not be pleasant, but it’s necessary to ensure that you and your family are set up for financial health over the long term.

Over the course of your life, your finances can vary greatly and what’s most important to you may evolve as you move from your 20s to your 60s and beyond. This series is designed to help you build a blueprint for practicing financial self-care through the various stages of your life. Creating plans to improve or stabilize your money situation and reviewing them regularly may help you reach your final objectives with less stress and more security.

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