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Article by Julia Carpenter | Found on CNN

Q: How do I create a lifelong finance plan and how much money will I need for all of those things? Emergency fund, wedding, buying a house, retirement, college savings for my future kids (how much do kids cost?), elder care for my parents (god forbid, but just in case)? –Delilah

Life is full of big-ticket purchases: moving expenses, school tuition, weddings, honeymoons, buying a house, kids, retirement … the list goes on and on.

You can’t plan for all these things, but you can decide what savings goals matter to you. Add them as line items to your weekly budget, and make a point of sitting down once a year to craft a financial plan for next year’s goals and expenses.

Your first goal should always be saving for retirement — even beyond the short-term expenses (vacations or other big purchases) that may feel more pressing year to year, according to Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, senior vice president at Charles Schwab.

Retirement may not sound as exciting as buying a home or funding a honeymoon, but it’s important enough to warrant the No.1 spot on your priorities list every year.

As Schwab-Pomerantz points out, retirement is always going to be expensive — and it’s always going to be up to you to prepare for it. People often prioritize short-term expenses instead, or they decide to save for their children’s future before they save for their own.

“There’re no scholarships for retirement,” Schwab-Pomerantz says.

Her point: many of your circumstances could change. You could decide you want a small wedding. Your child could get a scholarship to college. But you’ll still need money when you retire.

Schwab-Pomerantz then recommends reevaluating your budget and financial plan every year, to decide what your next priorities should be.

Take the time out of your holiday schedule to make sure you’re adjusting the amounts you’re saving and spending. Have a bit more wiggle room this year? Up your contributions to your savings. Need to tuck away some money for a new car? Cut back on money spent on other things.

And remember: There’s no “one amount” to save for any of these goals. Instead, Schwab-Pomerantz recommends setting aside 10% of your income as savings. Adhere to that even as you earn more money with a bonus or a new job — you never know when you’ll need it.

“You know that your life is going to get more complicated,” Schwab-Pomerantz says.

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