3 crucial money decisions for every decade of life

You know the saying, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint”? Well, it’s actually a good money mantra too.

Translation: All too often, we race through the nitty-gritty details of our finances and neglect to focus on crucial to-dos in the process — like saving for retirement long before those golden years approach.

But if you adopt a marathon approach to money, it can allow you to take a more holistic look at your overall financial picture to see how decisions that you make in your 20s and 30s can impact your 40s, 50s, and beyond.

Of course, no matter how old you are, financial health usually boils down to the same three basic goals: paying off credit card debt, growing your emergency fund, and saving for retirement. But the way you approach these tasks — and other money priorities — may change as you age.

That’s why we tapped Natalie Taylor, a CFP® with LearnVest Planning Services, to help make it simpler for you to begin taking more of a marathon tact with your finances by highlighting three of the top money to-dos she believes should be on everyone’s radar in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.

Three of the top money to-dos for your 20s

This is the time when you should be laying the groundwork for a bright financial future, Taylor says. One of the best ways to start? Consider creating a budget and tracking your expenses — then test it out for several months to make sure it’s realistic for you, adjusting it as need be. “This seems like a basic step, but a lot of people miss it,” Taylor adds.

The reality is that your finances are likely a lot simpler now than they will be in the future, when you may be juggling priorities like saving for a down payment on a house while also starting a family. So this is why your 20s are an ideal time to establish good money habits — like getting that emergency fund going — that can help carry you through the next decades.

Read more: 3 crucial money decisions for every decade of life

7 Salary Negotiation Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

Getting a new job offer or making a new business deal is exciting — but negotiating? Not so much. The process ofnegotiation can be nerve-wracking, and it’s easy to make mistakes, especially if you haven’t had much experience negotiating. Before your next negotiation attempt, make sure you watch out for these seven common negotiating mistakes.

Lacking confidence

“Many people think they need to show a certain kind of confidence, like being loud, bold or brazen, to successfully negotiate a deal. Others think that a lot of experience is required to be a good negotiator. Most of the time, it merely takes tenacity and good old preparation to ensure you are aptly equipped to assert mutually desirable terms, anticipate objections, and discern what … motivators or ‘hot buttons’ will resonate with your opponent,” said Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez, CEO of consulting and training firm Dynamic Vision International and author of “Think Like a Negotiator” (Amazon Digital Services, 2014).

Lewis-Fernandez added that projecting confidence also means having a heart, which can make the opposition less defensive and more likely to agree with your stipulations. However, it’s also important to back up your confidence with solid, well-researched information.

Thinking something is non-negotiable

You may not think the terms in front of you are negotiable, but anything is possible with the right attitude.

“When you think like a negotiator, everything is negotiable! It’s a mindset you have to operate from in order to become not just a good negotiator, but a great one,” Lewis-Fernandez said.

She added that, while negotiators must adhere to several rules, even those are negotiable so long as you can propose an ethical, viable and mutually beneficial alternative.

Read more: 7 Salary Negotiation Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

How to Cut Your Summer Electric Bill Now

You don’t have to replace your entire air-conditioning system to lower your summer electric bills. Maybe a higher-efficiency system is in your future. But until then, take these eight steps right now to reduce your electric bill right away:

1. Install a programmable thermostat. Raising the heat a few degrees in your home is a no-brainer when it comes to saving on electricity. The warmer you let your home get, the less work your air conditioner needs to put in. But who has time to mess with the thermostat every hour?

Instead, install a programmable thermostat. Pick up a basic model at your local hardware store for 30 bucks. Or splurge on a self-regulating model, like the Nest Learning Thermostat, which learns your home-and-away patterns over time.

2. Only use ceiling fans when you’re under them. Ceiling fans are more efficient than air conditioners, but leaving them on all the time won’t do you much good. A ceiling fan merely circulates air. It won’t actually lower the temperature.

Ceiling fans work by making you feel cooler by circulating air against your skin. So only use a ceiling fan when there’s someone in the room to feel it. Otherwise, you’re just wasting electricity.

Read more: How to Cut Your Summer Electric Bill Now