Making the Right Money Decisions -- Decade by Decade

Financial adviser Per Larson, who literally wrote the book on how to chart one's financial life decade by decade, is screwing it all up.

The start of his own 60s, that is.

"I turned out to be a classic case," the 64-year-old author of the timeless book "Gay Money" admits with a chuckle.

"Everything I wrote, to my chagrin, applies. I can't tell you how many times I've re-read my own 60s chapter," he adds.

Simply put, he's a work junkie. He ought to be shifting gears -- away from income-producing work -- but he's still juggling clients. Plus, he's updating "Gay Money" to address the teen years, the 80s and what gay couples need to know about the financial ups and downs of civil unions, marriage and relationship contracts.

"It's been so hard for me to do stuff not related to income. It's so seductive," he says sheepishly.

Wrong, wrong, wrong for your 60s, he'd advise a client like himself, drawing on his decade-by-decade finances map that easily transfers to heterosexuals.

The 60s should be a "delicious decade of choice," he explains. If you've done things right in previous decades -- like paying off your house and debts, and securing a pension or income-producing investments -- then "you can decide to do things simply because you want to do them."

"This can be a revelation, especially in this land where people are work-obsessed," he adds.

Another revelation in this spendthrift world awash in credit card debt and sub-prime mortgages is that living a financially smart life isn't rocket science. Larson's basic idea is that there are actually few big financial issues in each decade, but you have to deal with them.

"If you don't, they keep coming back up like a bad penny," he explains.

Think of the 20s, 40s and 60s as "change decades." The 30s, 50s and 70s are "production decades." Here's a crib sheet of do's and don'ts:

20s: Do explore, take risks, travel. Don't make premature commitments.

30s: Do invest, and commit to career and relationship-building. Don't toss away money or continue the restlessness of the 20s.

40s: Do embrace change and "reshuffle the cards" of your life. Don't fight change by clinging to unfixable relationships or jobs.

50s: Do harvest, and go for the "crowns" in your field, such as leadership positions in professional associations. Don't voluntarily change jobs.

60s: Do choose a new vision of life, starting by unlinking income from conventional work. Devote your energy to community service, friendships or hobbies. Don't hunker down and keep working for the goal of money. ("Work is not the point of life," Larson reminds himself.)

70s: Do see this as the "giveback" decade, the time for peaceful mentoring that helps others to benefit from your experience and achievements. Don't pretend you aren't going to die and start huge new projects, like building a house or business.

The 80s, he says in a preview of the updated "Gay Money," are again about "change," including loss of mobility, friends and family. "The key to the 80s is crisis management. You need to embrace crises and learn the skill of pulling together teams to solve problems," he says.

The right financial decisions, made decade by decade, add up to a richly lived life.

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