Finance Tips

Money Advice for Your 30s

Plenty of big changes happen between the ages of 30 and 39. With some life experience under their belts already and most “adulting” firsts out of the way, today’s 30-somethings typically look forward to big career moves, home ownership, settling down with a partner and raising children. 

This time period also marks the “halfway point” to retirement, which means that if you haven’t gotten serious about your finances yet, it’s time to buckle down. Here are 10 money goals to focus on before you hit the big 4-0.

Pay Off Your Non-Mortgage Debt

Between student loans, car loans and credit cards, you may have racked up a sizable amount of debt in your twenties. Additionally, the longer you wait to pay off those debts, the more you’ll end up paying in interest. If you’re juggling debts outside of your mortgage as you enter your thirties, one of your biggest priorities should be paying it off. 

Consider using a repayment strategy, such as the snowball or avalanche method, to reframe your payments and boost your motivation. Consolidating your debt through a personal loan or a credit card balance transfer could also help you secure better terms and lower interest rates. However, if you’re struggling to make your monthly minimum payments, a debt settlement program could provide you with the additional support you need.  

Boost Your Retirement Investments

“Your thirties is when you should be starting to envision your retirement and thinking more carefully about how much money you believe you will need, given the lifestyle you want, to achieve that goal,” recommended Bryce Walker, CEO of CPA Exam Guy. While it may seem far away, this decade is a halfway point to retirement for many. 

Experts recommend that you have 1x your salary in your retirement accounts by age 30 and triple your salary by age 40. Of course, saving that much is easier said than done! A recent SimplyWise study revealed only 53% of Americans in their thirties feel confident that they’ll be able to maintain the same quality of life they enjoy now once they retire. 

If you’re behind, don’t panic: there are steps you can take to boost your savings and get back on track. Aim to bump up your 401(k) contributions to 15%, and consider opening a separate IRA. 

“The best way to prepare for your retirement is to increase your savings rate yearly,” explained Michael Hammelburger, CEO of The Bottom Line Group. He advises his clients to increase their savings rate by 1% every year. “Typically, employees forget about increasing their savings and later realize that the extra money they’ve spent on unnecessary purchases would have been better if it was channeled to their 401(k) plan.”

Adjust Your Emergency Fund

If you already created an emergency fund in your twenties, great work! As you cross over into your thirties, it’s time to reexamine your finances and grow that nest egg to match your current needs.

The purpose of an emergency fund is to provide you with backup money in a worst-case scenario, such as an unexpected home repair, accident or loss of income. Ideally, your emergency fund should cover your essential expenses for six to twelve months. Don’t forget to factor in your dependents; make sure you’re saving enough to cover any children, spouses or pets who rely on you as well. 

Prepare For Home Ownership

While visions of home ownership have become a staple part of the “American Dream,” being a homeowner is a huge commitment. However, many people find themselves with a positive credit history and financial stability by the time they reach their thirties, making this decade an excellent time to settle down, transition out of renting and purchase a home.

“When considering home ownership, make sure to not just look at the estimated monthly payments,” noted The Financial Cookbook Founder Lisa Andrea. “Look at the overall cost of the home and consider all expenses, including interest, property taxes, HOA, maintenance and home insurance. Weigh the sunk costs that aren’t going to equity before making a decision.”

If you’re itching to find your dream home, it’s also a good idea to save as much as possible for your down payment. Bernadette Joy, founder of Crush Your Money Goals, recommends making at least a 20% down payment. “I hear you. I said the same things,” she wrote for NextAdvisor, “But my unpopular opinion is informed by my own home buying mistakes. And learning from these mistakes ultimately allowed my husband and I to pay off our current home in five years, and become 100% debt free in our thirties.”

Revisit Your Insurance Coverage

You’ll need to adjust your insurance coverage as you get older, grow your family, obtain more property and experience lifestyle changes. Look into these additional types of insurance in addition to the auto, health and disability insurance you obtained in your twenties:

Renters Insurance or Homeowners Insurance 

If you’re still renting, make sure you update your policy to cover any new assets you may have gained in recent years. If you purchase a home, you’ll need to switch to homeowners insurance. Your insurer will determine your premium based on your home’s location, size, age and build, as well as whether or not you’re in a natural disaster-prone area.

Life Insurance

If anyone can claim that they’re your dependent, such as a child, spouse or elderly parent, you should get life insurance. These policies get more expensive as you age, so locking in a more affordable rate when you’re younger can help you save in the long run. 

Many workplaces offer individual policies for their employees as a free benefit, but you may want to supplement with additional coverage depending on your unique situation. Term life insurance policies, which cover a set time period rather than your entire life, can be an affordable option. This kind of coverage is especially handy if you’re looking for coverage for children who will eventually live on their own.

Pet Insurance

While pet insurance isn’t an absolute requirement for the furry, feathery or scaly members of your family, it can help make checkups and emergency vet visits much more affordable. Value Penguin reports that cat and dog insurance typically ranges from $10 to $70 a month. Compared to the thousands you might spend on a vet visit for Fido if you’re uninsured, having coverage is quite the bargain!

Reevaluate Your Lifestyle and Spending Habits

When you’re younger and have less money for food and entertainment, it’s easy to lean on to your cheapest options. Low-cost vices, like fast food, nicotine and college-style binge drinking, may satisfy you in the moment, but can eventually lead to expensive health consequences in your later years. We’re not saying to swear off the drive-thru forever and turn down all alcohol once you turn 30 (we promise!), but cutting down to an occasional glass or two of wine and swapping out some to-go meals for healthier home-cooked ones can benefit both your body and your bank account. 

Additionally, most young adults defer to the most inexpensive options when they need to spend in the moment, such as poor quality furniture or “fast fashion” clothing. Unfortunately, cheap doesn’t always mean sturdy; you may end up shelling out more cash to replace that broken chair or those ill-fitting jeans than if you invested in the higher-quality option upfront. Now that you have more money than you did in your younger years, you can take the time to research your purchases, weigh your options and invest in longer-lasting goods. 

Write a Will

Most people don’t like thinking about their mortality and the concept of writing a will. However, if you’re married, have children or have a positive net worth, having a will becomes increasingly important. Your will allows you to decide what happens to your dependents, money and property when you die. Without a will or a living trust, state laws will determine what happens on your behalf.

If you haven’t written a will before and aren’t sure where to start, check out this guide from U.S. News. Be sure to review and update your will every few years, and don’t forget to make changes after major life events.

If Children Are In the Picture, Save For Them

Let’s face it: from “we’re expecting” to the empty nest stage, kids are expensive. Yes, becoming a parent is also an incredibly rewarding and special experience, but having and raising children does come with a hefty price tag. 

Depending on where you live, the average cost of a traditional hospital delivery can range between $5,000 and $11,000. You can expect additional charges if there are any complications or if a C-section is needed. Adoption is even more expensive: the average cost of an adoption in the United States is $43,000.

Expenses don’t stop at birth: the USDA reported that middle-income, married parents of a child born in 2015 could expect to spend an average of $284,570 on necessities until they reach age 17. Unfortunately, that number doesn’t even include the cost of college, which is a common concern for most moms and dads. 

If you have kids or are planning on having children in the future, it’s important to start thinking about saving for them as soon as possible. Mark Kantrowitz, financial aid expert and author of How to Appeal for More College Financial Aid, recommends opening a 529 savings plan for your future scholar and aiming to save about a third of their future college costs.

“When saving for college, your greatest asset is time,” Kantrowitz wrote. “If you start saving from birth, about a third of the college savings goal will come from earnings. If you wait until the children enter high school, less than 10% will come from the earnings, and you’ll have to save six times as much per month to reach the same college savings goal.”

Look For Career Advancement Opportunities

Most adults have gained a significant amount of experience in the workforce by the time they reach their thirties. After picking up crucial skills and navigating your first few years of entry-level work, you’ve likely seen some pay increases and promotions. If you haven’t, it’s time to ask for a raise and make the case for a role with more seniority.

You may also find yourself hitting a wall — maybe you’ve moved up as much as you can at your current company, or maybe your passions and priorities have changed. If you’re feeling stuck, it might be time to consider a career change.

Big career moves come with some risks, but they can also result in great rewards. “One can actually make more money by switching jobs every couple years and renegotiating their salary than staying with one company over time,” noted Lisa Andrea, founder of The Financial Cookbook.

In addition to finding ways to advance your day job, it’s also a good idea to consider diversifying your income with a side hustle. A side job can not only give you a little extra spending money, but it can also help support you if you suddenly find yourself without your primary source of income. Check out our list of side hustle ideas for inspiration. 

Avoid “Keeping Up With the Joneses”

Comparing ourselves to others is a natural part of human nature, but the urge to keep up with your neighbors’ can be costly. 

“As you progress in your career and make more money, it’s easy to let your spending get out of step. Be realistic with yourself about what you need vs. what you want,” warned Heather Winston, CFP and assistant director of financial planning and advice at Principal Financial Group. “Understanding what you save and what you spend is one of the hardest things for people to do. As with most things, it’s all about balance.”

Rather than trying to play catch-up with your peers, it’s best to focus on your own financial goals. If you revisit your budget and continue to make smart and frugal spending decisions, you can put your savings towards the things that matter the most to you. 

Money Management Is a Lifelong Journey

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