Many people face important milestones in their 30s: getting married, buying a house, having children, and settling into a career. Financially, these milestones bring new challenges as mortgage payments, growing families, and demanding work schedules all take their toll. It's important for 30-somethings to examine their financial goals and make adjustments as needed. Cheapism has compiled 11 key moves people in their 30s should make.
As your income rises, pay off credit cards and student loans (in that order). Resist the temptation to spend more as you earn more. It's not uncommon for credit card debt to creep higher as unavoidable expenses pile up, especially when a family comes along. A frugal lifestyle lets you pay off old debts, avoid building new credit card debt, and take advantage of investment opportunities.
Establishing an emergency fund is a good idea at any age. If you don't have three to six months' worth of expenses put aside, it's time to get to it. Perhaps you had a fund but spent it, or you failed to put more money aside as your income and expenses increased. Once you have dependents, it's more important than ever to have a financial cushion.
In your 20s, you can take risks with your investments, but that begins to change in the following decades. Take the time to speak with an independent financial adviser to review your investments and create a retirement plan. You should still be taking risks, but make sure they're calculated and part of your plan.
If the talk of risk and asset allocation has you yawning, that's okay. It doesn't need to be interesting, but it's time to learn the basics of budgeting and investing. Read a few books and look into online and in-person classes. There are also many free personal finance apps and tools.
If you have a spouse or long-term partner, it's time to have "the talk." That is, it's time to discuss your shared goals and how your finances can support them. Establishing a shared budget and setting regular financial check-in meetings are good starting places.
If you're planning on staying put for at least five to seven years, then buying a house or apartment can make financial sense. However, saving a 10 to 20 percent down payment is hard, so it's best to start putting some money aside now.
Having excellent credit can save you tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home loan. If you have questions, non-profit credit counseling services can help you free of charge with one-on-one counseling as well as online and offline courses. Find your local affiliate by visiting the National Foundation of Credit Counseling's website.
You're still decades away from retirement, but if you haven't been contributing to a retirement account, it's definitely time to start. If you've been funding an account, keep it up and consider increasing your contribution amount. Compound interest has years to work in your favor, and if you can manage to put aside 15 to 20 percent of your income, you'll be in a good place come retirement time.
If you're having trouble setting aside as much money for retirement as you'd like, consider moving to a different company in your industry. Even if your salary doesn't increase, a benefits package that includes a generous company match for retirement contributions and health coverage can make a big difference in your finances.
Saving for retirement comes first, but if you have a family it's time to consider your children's college education. Even with financial aid it's hard to afford tuition, books, room and board, and other college-related expenses. Look into tax-advantaged 529 plans and make the most out of your savings. There are many different plans to choose from. You may need to do some homework before determining the best one for your family.