Some of the basic financial rules stay the same as you get older (i.e., pay off debt and keep saving), but there are some steps that are more important at some some stages than at others. For 30-somethings, it means paying off more debts as your income grows, reevaluating current spending habits, and diving head first into adulthood by updating your insurance coverage.
Taking care of these responsibilities is essential to making sure you're on stable financial footing. Below, you'll learn why each one of these steps is important to tackle before you move on to the next stage of life.
1. Increase retirement contributions
Here's what the median retirement savings amount is for all Americans (hint: it's not great) between 1989 and 2013, which is the latest data available from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI):
As you can see, 32- to 37-year-olds had a median savings amount of just $480 in their retirement savings in 2013 (yikes!), and that number was down from $1,123 in 2007. EPI notes that the median savings numbers are so low because nearly half of Americans don't have any retirement account savings at all. These numbers show just how important it is to not just start a retirement savings account, but to keep funding it as well.
If you already have a 401(k) at your current job and save a specific percentage of your income then great! But now is the time to slowly raise that percentage. Consider bumping up contributions by 1 percentage point as a first step. If you can handle more that's great, but the point is to start putting more money aside. If you can't swing an increase in contributions right now, then consider doing it the next time your employer gives you a raise.
Also, if you're not taking advantage of your employer's matching 401(k) contributions, then start with that first. Make sure you're contributing enough money to your 401(k) to get the full matching amount from your employer. Remember, in 2017 you can max out your retirement contributions at $18,000.
If you don't have a 401(k) through your employer, then make sure you've set up an individual retirement account (IRA) for yourself, and that you've automated your contributions.
2. If you're not investing, start now
Adding to your 401(k) and IRA is one thing, but 30-somethings shouldn't overlook investing their money in other ways as well. Investing in stocks can be a great choice, but if you're not into picking individual stocks then selecting a low-cost (and low maintenance) index fund is also a good choice.
This fund tries to match the returns of the S&P 500, and has historically achieved annual returns of about 10%. In short, you'll be well diversified right from the start, and the low expense ratio means that the vast majority of your gains can go straight back into reinvesting in the fund -- instead of a fund manager's pocket.
3. Evaluate your insurance needs
This one isn't all that exciting, but it's still very important. If you've gotten married, had kids, bought a house, or made any other major changes in your 30s, you should take a good look at your insurance needs and make sure you have the proper coverage.
For example, if you don't have any life insurance then buying a good, inexpensive, term life insurance policy is a smart way to ensure that your family receives money for a mortgage, your family's living expenses, etc. if you die. There are lots of different options for these based on what your payout amount would be and how long you want the term to last for. The most important part, however, is just making sure that you have a policy in place.
It's also smart to look into other types of insurance you may need as well, such as disability insurance, an umbrella policy to extend your renter's insurance or homeowner's policy, and health insurance. Just remember not to overspend on insurance you don't need.
4. Re-evaluate your budget and pay off debt
You may still be spending money in the same carefree way you did when you were in college, but your financial responsibilities are likely to grow in your 30s. That's why it's a good time to reevaluate your spending habits.
I occasionally go through my own finances to see if there are any services I'm paying for that I don't really use, or places I'm spending too much money and need to cut back on. The idea isn't just to trim the fat, but to also take that money you're spending and apply it to any existing debt, like student loans.
According to the latest data (from 2015), 30-somethings account for a larger amount of student loan debt than any other age demographic, with $408 billion owed. If that's you, or if you've racked up credit card debt, then it may be time to take a look at your budget and how you can reallocate some of your spending to paying off debt.
5. Add more to your emergency fund and savings account
And the last but certainly not the least money move you should make in your 30s is to make sure you're properly funding your savings account. According to a recent GoBankingRates survey, more than half of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, and this includes many people in their 30s.
A good goal to shoot for if you have little-to-no savings is get your account to $2,000. That's the amount the Federal Reserve Bank of New York says it will take to overcome an average-size financial emergency.
That is, of course, just a starting point. Ideally, you want to have enough in savings so that you can cover three to six months of living expenses in case you lose your job. But don't be overwhelmed with getting to that point. The best way to increase your savings without thinking about it is to set up automatic monthly withdrawals from your checking account to your savings account. This will help you jump start the savings process and keep it on autopilot as your build up your account.
Some final thoughts
Getting older usually comes with more responsibilities, and that includes setting personal financial goals. It's easy to feel overwhelmed about getting your finances in order, but just remember that any steps you can take to save more, spend less, and pay off debt will help you achieve your goals. If reading through all of these money moves make you nervous, then start tackling one of them and focus on that first and then move onto the next step. Any progress is better than none.