Your twenties are the time to figure out the basics of being a fiscally responsible adult: making a budget, paying taxes, and starting to understand exactly what a 401(k) is. Your thirties are the time to get serious about your financial future and take bigger steps toward building wealth. By 30, you’re more likely to have a stable income and should be thinking about larger financial management decisions.
There are countless things you can do to fine-tune your finances in your thirties, whether that’s paying off your debt, saving for a down payment on a house, or amping up your investing strategy. To help you focus on the essentials, we’ve compiled a list of the six most important financial management decisions you can make in your thirties.
1. Pay Off Any Debt
Whether you have credit card debt, a car payment, or the remnants of student loans, your thirties are the time to focus on eliminating these debts once and for all. You may have chipped away at some of these in your twenties by making the minimum payments, but with some planning, you can now pay these off more aggressively.
To start intentionally paying off debt, make a budget that accounts for higher than the minimum payments on all of your debts. If you have multiple debts and can’t afford to simultaneously pay more on all of them, pay off the highest debts first and work your way down.
If your work schedule, family commitments, and health make it feasible, consider picking up a part-time job or developing a side hustle to make some extra cash. Put all of this toward paying down your debt. Once you are debt-free, you can keep up the side hustle and put the extra cash toward other savings or financial goals.
2. Establish an Emergency Fund
Setting up an emergency fund of three to six months’ worth of expenses is one of the most common and beneficial financial management decision for any age—and for good reason.
If you already have an emergency fund, revisit it to ensure it actually covers at least three months of your current expenses. Create an exhaustive list of your essential monthly expenses, including housing, utilities, insurance, groceries, and any debt payments. If your emergency fund doesn’t have enough cash to cover all current expenses, prioritize increasing it early in your thirties.
Another good reason for keeping an emergency fund for a rainy day is to keep your credit score in a good place. Keeping your credit score in a good place is important. With a good credit score, you can be in good standing to make bigger purchases.
3. Begin Estate Planning
Estate planning isn’t just for senior citizens. If you have any financial assets to speak of, an estate plan helps decide who has control of these assets in the event of your passing. Some parts of estate planning might feel morbid. But it’s certainly something that is better to have before you need it. This doesn’t have to be a lengthy and expensive legal process either. There are plenty of online services that will help you create a will quickly and for a low cost.
Estate planning also includes establishing a power of attorney for both your finances and your health care. This designates someone who can act as a legal, financial, and medical decision-maker on your behalf in the event you are unable to make decisions for yourself.
If you have children, now is also the time to make provisions for their care and decide on their inheritance in the event of your passing.
4. Obtain Disability Insurance and Life Insurance
Health insurance and car insurance are already given in your monthly expenses. But in your 30’s you should also consider disability insurance and life insurance if you haven’t already purchased them.
Disability insurance functions as a means of income protection in the event of a long-term or permanent injury or illness that prevents you from working. Your employer may cover this partially or totally, but it’s worth investing in a separate policy to maximize your benefits. With short-term disability insurance, you can receive up to 80% of your salary for up to a year. Mainly depending on your policy.
Life insurance is meant to provide for your loved ones in the event of your death. This could include covering their income loss, paying off your debts, or covering burial expenses. Buying life insurance is another financial move that can feel a little morbid in your thirties. But, it’s a smart investment for taking care of the people close to you.
5. Increase Retirement Savings
The earlier you start saving for retirement, the more it pays off later. If you haven’t started saving for retirement before 30, start as soon as you can.
The easiest way to save for retirement is through an employer 401(k) plan. 401(k)stake a percentage of each paycheck and invest it in a diverse portfolio that you can draw from upon retirement. If your employer matches your contribution up to a certain percent of your income, be sure to contribute the maximum amount. Otherwise, you’re literally giving up free money.
If you don’t have an employer 401(k) plan, there are other options for retirement savings: you can set up an IRA (individual retirement account), annuities, or invest in real estate. Whatever you choose, prioritize contributing to your retirement savings so you can ensure you’ll retire on time.
6. Set Up a Fund for College or Other Kid-Related Expenses
If you already have one or more children, it may be wise to set up a 529 college savings account. This can help you to begin saving for tuition and other college expenses. These work similarly to 401(k) plans in that contributions will be invested across a portfolio, and the value of the account changes with the performance of the investments.
If you’re planning to have kids in your thirties, consider setting aside additional savings to prepare for the associated expenses. This could mean increasing your emergency fund in anticipation of higher monthly expenses or setting up a separate fund devoted to your future children.
If you don’t plan to have children, you can skip this move! Put this money toward paying off your debt faster and moving toward your other financial management goals.
Your thirties are the perfect time to make key financial management decisions. Take the time to really assess your finances and prepare for not just your retirement. With some strategic planning at 30, you can be confident in your financial security well into retirement.