Living through your 30s with a solid financial plan
Now that you’re in your 30s, it’s time to get a little more serious about your financial health. Just as you might find yourself needing to run an extra mile or watch the snacks more carefully lest you grow into a new pants or dress size, so too do your finances benefit from increased focus and, even, vigilance.
There’s no shortage of advice out there. Just ask Alexa or Siri for financial health tips and you’ll get an earful. So, we did the digging for you and came back with three checklists that can get you started thinking about steps to take as you settle into the beginning of your prime earning years.
First up: A financial planner lays down the law at Business Insider
- Live well below your means
- Focus on percentage of income saved, not the dollar amount
- Spend time tracking and reviewing your money
- Don’t just diversify your portfolio — diversify where you invest
- Don’t spend more, spend better
- Know when you need a financial planner (and when you don’t)
- The way to financial success is simple (so don’t complicate it)
Boy did we get #1 wrong in our early 30s! This is the mistake many people make as they acquire more stuff and more obligations. Before you know it, you’re spending everything and saving very little or none at all:
If you earn $5,000 per month and spend $4,999 of it, technically, you are living below your means. You’re not overspending in the sense that you’re not spending more than you earn. As a result, you’re probably not racking up debt and you’re doing okay.
But “doing okay” and “being wealthy” are two very, very different things. If you’re after the latter, then you need to live as far below your means as possible.
The bigger you can make the gap between what you earn and what you spend — meaning, your actual spending is far below the amount of money you take home each month — the faster you’ll reach your financial goals (if you save and invest the surplus from your cash flow).
If you do nothing but pay attention to #1, you just might turn out okay as you head into your 40s. But follow the link and read the whole annotated list for even more good advice.
The 10 Financial Commandments, revisited for your 30s, at Kiplinger
In our roundup of financial advice for people in their 20s, we cited a list of “10 Commandments” from Kiplinger. Not surprisingly, they revised their list for people in their 30s. It starts with the same topic as earlier, but ten years further down the road:
- Advance your career
- Rethink your budget
- Adjust your insurance coverage
- Pay off nonmortgage debt
- Increase your emergency fund balance
- Save at least 15% of your income for retirement
- Diversify and rebalance your investments
- Monitor and improve your credit
- Write your will
- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s stuff
Your career is almost always going to drive your financial health. And this is the decade where your career can really take off.
“In your twenties, you developed a marketable skill. Now it’s time to apply that skill to increase your earnings.
“Research potential career paths for workers with your skill. Identify the types of jobs and companies where you might fit. Consider whether you should go back to school for an advanced degree (or if some free online courses can help boost your career). You might even consider moving to a city where you can find more opportunities in your field.”
#4 is short and sweet: “In your twenties, you came up with a debt-repayment plan. Stick with it throughout your thirties, so you’ll enter your forties focused on building your nest egg for the future—not paying off bills from your past.”
#5 and #6 are hard, we won’t lie. But establishing these habits now will set you up well for the coming decades.
And #9? Nothing says “I’m not immortal” like writing a will.
As Kiplinger puts it: “Try waking up in your thirties after a night of heavy partying—trust me, the hangover alone will convince you that you are old and going to die soon. So it’s time to write a will. Without one, complete strangers will decide how to split up your estate and raise your children.”
That’s not an exaggeration. Complete. Strangers.
Finally: Think different with these off-the-beaten-path tips
The more you research these lists, the more you’ll come to the same realization we did: They all cover the same territory. This makes sense, of course, because good financial advice is good financial advice.
But we did find one list that marches to the beat of its own drummer: “20 tips for people in their 30s to better manage their money”from Lifehack.
Sure, they touch on Personal Finance’s Greatest Hits: Save! Budget! Build an Emergency Fund! But there are some real gems here that may make you think differently about money in your 30s. Here are three that made us stop and pay attention:
Your house is not an asset
Most people have been conditioned to the belief that buying a house and owning real estate is the secret to financial success. This is really only half the truth. If your home is taking money out of your pocket, (i.e. in the form of a mortgage), instead of putting money in your pocket, (i.e. in the form of rentals or home businesses), it is a liability, not an asset. As you turn 30, be sure to understand the difference between assets and liabilities before making large purchases.
Learn to cook
You don’t have to be a gourmet chef by any means, but if you are serious about managing money, you must at least know how to prepare some basic staples and simple meals that will cut back on how often you have to eat out. It can also be very helpful to plan out your meals for the week ahead of time.
You don’t have to be content simply being an employee
Whole generations are told to get a secure job with good benefits and work hard. If you find yourself feeling smarter than your job title, you probably are. As you turn 30, start thinking of ways to accumulate the knowledge that inspires you to create something of societal value.
- So that last one can be risky. Don’t just quit your job without a plan. But also remember that every wildly successful business was started by someone who was unhappy with the way things were. The internet has opened more paths to entrepreneurship than were available to previous generations and there’s a chance you will thrive in a startup business. Just step carefully.
Wrapping up – You’re older than you ever were. And now you’re even older.
Time marches on. And so do you. Even if you’re a financial fitness late bloomer and just getting started in your 30s, there’s still plenty time left to set yourself up for a comfortable middle age and retirement.
That’s right. We said “middle age.” And “retirement.”
They’re closer than you think. You really need to focus on your financial health.
See you in your 40s!