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Money Smart in Your 30s

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Where You Are

At 30, you are suddenly expected to have everything, including finances, in order. You have likely been out of trade school or college for a while now, and may even still be paying on student loans. You also may be looking to buy a home or move to a different area. You likely have been in a career for a few years, but are still younger and less experienced than your supervisors. You may also have some debt you need to manage. Oh, and the pressure for having a solid retirement plan is heavy! Not to worry, we have tips to help with all of that.

Why It’s Important

Your 30’s can either be a time that sets you up for future financial freedom or put you in a position to be working off poor financial decisions in the next decades. Hopefully, your take-home pay has gone up since your 20’s, but odds are, so have your living expenses. This is especially true if you are married and have kids, or plan to in the near future. Figuring out how to balance all of your new responsibilities can be stressful, and some people choose to just continue on as they have been. However, your 30’s is the perfect time to create a financial routine that will stick with you throughout your life.

How To Do It

The best way to create smart financial habits is to get organized, set goals, and keep your finances simple and easy to manage. Make your finances a priority, and soon you will have a system that works for you and fits your financial needs.

1. Update (or start) Your Budget.

If you don’t have a budget, check out our Smart Money Moves In Your ‘20s article to get started. Once you have a budget, you are in a position to really dig in and cut extra expenses. The 30’s is the time to be ruthless with your spending habits. Go back through your spending, is your budget reflective of your actual spending habits? Many people start a budget, but then let it sit and do not track their actual spending. Dig into your spending and see what unnecessary cuts can be made. Are there any old subscriptions that you don’t use but you’re still paying for? Could any of your bills be lower by switching providers or negotiating a better rate? Where else can you cut spending? Get your budget back on track, and then stick to it! Stay on track by using either an online budgeting tool or one of many third-party apps you can find on your phone. Remember, the smartest move for any age is to spend less than you make!

2. Compare Salaries In Your Area.

Speaking of spending less than you make, is your take-home pay what it should be? You can run a quick internet search to see what people with your experience are making in your area. Does your pay stack up? If not, it may be time to ask for a raise or more responsibility at your current position. You may also want to look for a position at another company with better advancement opportunities and pay. Either way, make sure your current pay rate is competitive.

3. Pay Off Debt.

Next, if you have consumer debt or student loans, now is the time to pay it off (and keep it down). As a general rule, a person’s debt should be about 10% to 15% of their take-home pay, excluding a home mortgage. If you have more debt than that (and many do), now is a good time to see if you can pay those debts down faster. The simplest way to pay off debt faster is to pick one bill and pay extra until that bill is gone. Then, take the extra money from having one less bill and dump it into paying off your next debt bill. Keep going until your debt is paid off. Just make sure to continue to make timely minimum payments to keep everything current.

4. Start Planning For Retirement.

While retirement may still feel a long way off, setting up your retirement now in your 30’s will bring you the most financial security. Even starting small can have a huge earning potential over the course of your working years. Small amounts left alone will grow more than higher amounts later in life when you have fewer working years left. Plus, because retirement is further off, you can take a more aggressive investment approach with your retirement fund. Check with your employer to see what retirement plans they have available, including any employer matching programs. If your employer offers a match to any investments you make, you could be missing out on extra money if you are not opted into the program. Most retirement investment companies have simple guides that can tell you how much you should be allocating to your retirement based on your age and how much money you would like to have at retirement.

5. Grow Your Emergency Fund.

Hopefully, you already have at least a small emergency fund. If not, we have tips for starting one in our prior article. In your 30’s, you will want to continue to grow your emergency fund in case of potentially higher emergency costs. As you get older, the chances of medical expenses increases. This is also true as your family grows, and bills start adding up. If an emergency comes up and you have to take time off work, do you have enough money available to cover your expenses? It may seem like you have more to save for and more to spend now, and that’s true. You can manage it, however, as long as you have a solid budget and a clear plan of where and how you are saving.

6. Automate Your Savings and Investments.

One way to help ease the stress of saving is to automate it. Create monthly or weekly automatic deposits into your savings and investment accounts so you are saving without thinking about it. Check with your employer to see if you can set up your direct deposit so that a portion goes directly to your savings account each paycheck. The less you have to think about saving, the easier it is. You’ll be surprised how quickly your savings can grow while you aren’t looking.