Turning 30 has a lot of weight to it. Now that your 20s are almost over, suddenly it’s time to become an adult and start getting serious. But serious about what? Well, for one thing, money.
Having a good financial strategy for your thirties ahead of time will help you immensely both now and in the future. So, where should you get started? Here are five of the most crucial steps you should take now to have financial security when you hit that big 3-0.
1. Pay off your debt
Many of us make impulsive purchases in our 20s that will haunt our credit statements for years. Before hitting 30, make it a priority to pay these off so you can move on. There are a few different ways to attack credit card debt, but we find the snowball method really effective.
Whichever method you choose, make sure it’s a path you’ll stick to. The quicker you get rid of lingering debt from past bad choices, the better off your thirties will be.
2. Establish (and stick to) a budget
“Make a budget!” It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? The truth is creating a budget and sticking to it requires discipline that takes years to develop. The goal of a budget is to ensure you come out ahead at the end of every month instead of scrambling to pay off bills.
Budgeting doesn’t mean sacrificing your daily Starbucks; it just means factoring that into your monthly spending. Don’t create a budget that removes the things you love because you’ll never follow it. Instead, list everything you expect to spend money on each month, including the responsible things, such as utility bills, and add it up. Once you know how much money you’ll spend, figure out how to earn enough money to meet your costs and keep you from creating more debt.
3. Move retirement up the priority list
Retirement planning can be difficult for people in their 20s. It’s so far away, and you need money now, so you put off adding to your 401(k) or IRA. Unfortunately, not contributing towards your retirement today will affect the way future-you can live.
If you can only allot $50 every month, then that’s fine. If your employer offers a retirement contribution match, try to contribute up to the max of the match because it’s free money. Don’t feel like you need to max out your IRA contributions every year if that’s not feasible. The point is to get into the habit of making your retirement a higher priority than it was in your 20s. The sooner you can start setting aside retirement money, the sooner it can start accumulating compound interest. Compound interest is essentially free money since it’s the accumulation of interest on top of the money you’ve already made from past interest payments. And the more time your money is invested, the more compound interest you can accumulate.
4. Set up autopay if you can
If you have a steady income and can predict the amount of money that comes in every month, do yourself a favor by setting up autopay for all of your bills. With autopay enabled, you’ll avoid missing payment deadlines, which can severely affect your credit score.
Some people are wary of autopay because they’re worried there won’t be enough in the bank account to cover payments. There’s an easy way to solve this: by setting a budget. Your budget will help ensure you’re never in the red when it’s time to pay the bills.
5. Create different savings buckets
Setting aside money for savings accounts “just because” isn’t really motivational, is it? You know you should save for later, but aren’t sure why that is more important than having fun now. However, if you’re able to gamify it and set aside money for specific goals, you’ll have more motivation to save, and you’ll get a reward at the end!
The most important savings to have is an emergency fund to cover unexpected bills, which should be at least $1,000. If you’re able to save six months’ worth of your spending, you’ll be secure if something, such as a job loss or a medical emergency occurs.
Once you have that emergency fund set up, the rest of the savings goals are entirely up to you. Whether it’s saving for a house, wedding, expensive purse, vacation, or whatever, pick something that will motivate you and create a separate savings account just for that. Some banks are now offering the ability to create savings “buckets” directly in your account because they see how effective it can be.
Turning 30 is a significant milestone and one that should be celebrated. Treat yourself better in your next decade than you did in your 20s by committing to having a better financial plan. You can use any of the tips above, but start slowly and add on as you go. That way, you won’t be overwhelmed with all these new tasks and can set yourself up for success.