If you’re in your early 30s, you may be starting to think more about your financial situation, especially as it relates to your future retirement.
However, thinking about your future goals is quite different from actually taking action toward achieving future financial independence. In fact, a 2018 Retirement Savings survey revealed that about 37% of those aged 35 to 54 have $10,000 or less in retirement savings, with about 12% having no retirement savings at all. If this rings true to you, it’s probably time you start putting a plan in place to to save money so you can afford your goals.
But before you get started, you may be thinking: How much money do I need to save by the time I’m 35? The answer: There is no one answer. This amount can vary based on your individual circumstances, like how much you have saved to date, what your goals are, how much money you earn, what type of lifestyle you lead and where you live. For example, if you live in an expensive city like New York, it may be tough to save as much money as someone with a similar income living in Kansas City.
Tips for saving for retirement by age 35
Reshell Smith, a certified financial planner and founder of AMES Financial Solutions, said she recommends her clients “save as much as they can, as often as they can.”
Her biggest suggestion to those in their 30s is to sock money away into your employer-sponsored 401(k) retirement plan. In fact, save at least the minimum amount necessary to get the full employer match. What if you don’t have a 401(k) at work? In this case, Smith said you should still be saving for retirement on your own.
In general, you should save at least 10% of your income into an individual retirement account (IRA) and other investments. Better yet, if you can afford it, and have a 401(k), Smith said you should invest on your own in addition to participating in your employer-sponsored retirement plan.
What else should you save for at 35?
Besides saving for retirement and future goals, Smith said her clients in their mid-30s are still looking at crossing things off their bucket lists, like taking trips or purchasing big ticket items. Affording these things generally requires saving money first.
“These bucket list items cost money and they have to be planned for, too,” said Smith, adding that her clients often set up separate fun accounts or travel accounts to save for these things.
Yet, there are times when Smith’s clients don’t quite reach their savings goals for their bucket list items. She said this is OK and it may mean it’s time to pivot.
For example, one of her clients wanted to go on a trip abroad last summer. But when the trip wasn’t attainable, it was time for the client to make a smart swap and go somewhere cheaper. To this end, Smith said it’s not about giving up on goals you don't reach, but instead doing something else so you can still enjoy life while sticking to your financial goals.
How to get caught up
What should you do if you’re in your mid-30s but you’re way behind on your savings goals for retirement and other life events? Indeed, this happens and when it does, Smith encourages her clients to get caught up — which is possible.
“This is the time when you have to hustle," Smith said. "Whatever that may mean for you, you have to do it."
So, if you feel you’ve got a long way to go to meet your savings goals, perhaps you can take on a part-time job, start a business of some kind or find a side hustle to provide you with extra income. After this, you should work on changing your habits and becoming more disciplined.
“You have to change your behavior and become disciplined with your money," Smith said. "If you don’t have a plan, you’re planning to fail."
For example, if you often go out with your girlfriends, why not make girls’ night out a girls’ night in to save money?
“You can still have fun and spend less money,” she says.
Automate your savings
If you haven’t already started automating your savings by the time you’re 35, now’s the time to do this. This will help you get caught up on your savings and sock away more money for your goals – without thinking about it.
An easy way to start is to pay yourself first. This means that a portion of your paycheck will be automatically deposited into your savings account. By doing this, you save money before you spend it on other things, including bills, going out to dinner and blowing it on unnecessary stuff.
Ready, set, save
As you approach age 35, it’s important to create a savings plan to either start saving or beef up what you’ve already saved. Using the tips above, you will set yourself on a path toward achieving your money goals – starting right now. All it takes is discipline, focus, motivation and commitment. You’ve got this!
What other money milestones should you aim for in your 30s? Here are 8 personal finances moves to make when turning 35.
This story originally appeared on Chime.