Welcome to your thirties. It’s time to get serious about money.
Reaching your thirties means you’re not a kid any more, so don’t keep making rookie mistakes. Although your twenties may have been spent living the carefree life of dreams, some of those bad money decisions will be coming back to haunt you now.
Don’t worry. You still have time.
By focusing on the right financial goals in your thirties, you can make up most of what you lost. Get to work and start using these tips right away!
Have an Emergency Fund
One of the biggest reasons people struggle with money isn’t because they don’t try. It’s because they don’t have any savings. And when you don’t have any money saved, every financial emergency means taking on more debt.
We all know stuff is going to happen. Expenses we didn’t plan for are going to pop up. Get in front of the problem by building an emergency fund of 3 to 6 months expenses. That may seem like a lot, so shoot for $1,000 to start.
Use a free app like Trim to automatically weed out expenses; then, put that savings toward your emergency fund.
Also, be sure to keep your emergency fund in a separate account. This organized your money and keeps it from getting spent on something else. A high-yield savings account is great for this, and you can read more about my favorite by following the link.
Contribute at Least 15% of Your Income to Retirement
When you reach your thirties, it’s time to stop screwing around and start saving for retirement. Sure, it still seems like a lifetime away, but you’ll be getting ready to retire before you know it. In this case, time can either work for you or against you.
If you’re in your early thirties, you’ve still got time to get your retirement accounts moving in the right direction. Even if you failed to save in your twenties, socking big money away in your thirties can help you make up for lost time.
On the other hand, if you’re in your late thirties, the clock is ticking. Compound interest takes time to work its magic. So, if you haven’t started a retirement account, you need to do it now! Like yesterday.
Shoot to save at least 15% of your income in retirement accounts. If you can swing it, 20% is even better. But don’t feel like you have to save everything in one place. Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your retirement money.
A) Meet Your Company Match – If you have access to a work-sponsored retirement account, at a minimum, save enough in it to meet any company match. This is free money that can only help your retirement grow. So, if your company matches 4% of your annual salary, save at least 4% in your 401(k) to take advantage of the full match.
B) Understand Your Retirement Account – While you may be able to participate in a retirement plan at work, chances are good that your employer is not actively managing the account. Blooom provides a free 401(k) analysis and can help you see where your retirement plan is falling short. If you’d like, you can also direct the program to optimize your holdings and minimize fees. It’s worth checking out, and again the analysis is free.
C) Start Investing on the Side – It’s never hurts to diversify your retirement money by investing some on the side. This is especially important if your work-sponsored 401(k) is loaded with fees. Betterment makes this simple. After completing a simple questionnaire and setting up your goals, this program automates the investing process for you. Just be sure that you’re saving at least 15% of your income across all retirement accounts.
Consider Some Cheap Life insurance
As a former funeral director, I can’t tell you how important having life insurance is. If you have a family, own any assets, or have debt, getting a term life insurance policy is really a must. It won’t just help them pay for your funeral, it will be there to help replace your income – which is actually much more important!
In my opinion, it makes sense to skip whole life and buy term life insurance instead. It is super cheap and you can get thousands (often hundreds of thousands) more in coverage for a lot cheaper price.
For example, we recently added an additional $500,000 on me for about $25 a month using Policy Genius. I don’t smoke and I’m in good health, but that is ridiculously cheap for the amount of coverage I’m getting.
Of course, life insurance rates are based on the individual applicant so you may not get the same rate as me. Remember, too, that life insurance gets more expensive as you age; so, it’s best to get going on this ASAP.
Pay Off All Your Debt (Minus the House)
One of the best money moves you can make in your thirties is to pay off all of your debt (minus the house).
Chances are good that you racked up some debt in your twenties. Now, those student loans, credit cards, and car payments are really eating into your disposable income. Use a debt snowball to pay them off and get rid of them for good. The additional cash flow can help you do more of the things you really enjoy, rather than buying junk you don’t need.
If you’re suffering under a high interest rate, refinancing may also be something to consider… but only if you’re going to do it right. Credible can match you up with a rate that could help lower your payments and save you money on interest. And since they aren’t a traditional bank, you may even qualify if your credit is less than stellar.
Improve Your Credit
Speaking of credit, your thirties is definitely the time to improve any credit issues you might have. Start by getting a free credit score from Credit Sesame to form your baseline. You’ll receive monthly updates and daily alerts if anything on your credit report changes.
After that, be sure to look over your free credit reports. By law, you’re entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. Search for any mistakes or marks against your credit, then take action to fix them. Before long, you’ll see your credit score start to improve.
Start Saving for College
Paying for college isn’t the same as it was when we were kids. In fact, tuition increases continue to outpace increases in aid. If you’re in your thirties and you have your own finances under control, it’s important to start a college savings fund for your kids.
We started a 529 plan for both our kids when they were quite young. Since our state offers some excellent tax benefits, this was the best fit for us. Although we now max out our state benefit, at first, we saved just $25 a month for each of them. If your state provides decent tax incentives, this may be the way to go.
In some instances, an Educational Savings Account could be a better fit. Others may find that a simple mutual or index fund works even better for them. If you’ve got your own finances under control, find the right vehicle and start saving for college ASAP.
Create a Last Will
We totally procrastinated this until we were in our mid thirties, and maybe you have too. However, having a last will is an important piece of anybody’s financial puzzle, especially if you have kids.
If you die without a will, the government gets to decide what happens with your assets. Worse, they also decide who takes care of your children.
Rather than put our families through a knock-down drag out fight, Holly and I created a simple will through LegalZoom that defines what we want to happen in the event that we both die. Our children will be looked after, there are instructions on what to do with our assets, and we can rest easy knowing that it’s all going to be handled properly.
Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck
Last but not least, make it a point to stop living paycheck to paycheck in your thirties. Seize control of your money and make it do what you want!
Start by creating a simple budget. We like to use a zero-sum budget because it provides the clearest picture and gives us the most control over our money.
Once you have a budget in place, start tracking your expenses. This ensures that you are following your plan, and it can be a real eye opener if you’ve never done it before. Honestly, this is what changed our money mindset for good!
Tiller is a tool that can help you do both automatically. It’s easy to use, and a great way to get started for beginners.
What financial goals are you focusing on in your thirties? Have we missed any biggies that others should consider? Let us know in the comments below!