A lot is going to happen in your 30s. You may buy a house, get married, and grow your family. Your 30s have emotional and financial milestones. We’re here to help with the latter.
Here’s our list of 43 money moves to make in your 30s.
1. Establish credit
Having an established credit history is going to help you out when you apply for a loan to buy a car or home.
One way to establish credit is using and making payments with a credit card. How much and often you make those payments is recorded to show your history of managing debt. When you apply for financial products like a mortgage, lenders will pull your credit report to assess your risk.
Your credit report will also be used to calculate your credit score — the higher the number the better. Having good credit will show lenders you are a safe investment and can even lower your interest rates. More on that later.
2. Improve your credit
Once you’ve established credit you’re going to want to maintain it and aim for a high score. The best way to do this is paying off your credit card and other loans on time.
It’s important to remember your score won’t peak overnight. Your credit history is called a history for a reason: The longer you show good behavior the higher your score will become. Your credit score also considers your credit card limits and how much of it you use, known as your credit utilization rate. The less money you spend compared to your credit limit the better. For example, if you have a $10,000 credit limit try not to charge more than $3,000
Make sure to check your credit report on a regular basis and make note of any errors. A mistake on your credit report, like a loan application you don’t recognize, can drag down your credit score. Mistakes could happen for a handful of reasons and it might not always be nefarious. If you see an error, be sure to report it right away.
3. Make a budget
Life looks a little different in your 30s, so if you haven’t updated your budget since your last pay increase or lifestyle upgrade, it’s likely time for a refresh.
Experts recommend setting a monthly budget that tracks where your money is coming from and where it goes. That includes bills, expenses, savings contributions, side hustle income, investments, etc. You don’t need to readjust your budget on a monthly basis if your income doesn’t change significantly. But if a big financial change happens, like buying a car, you’re going to want to refresh your budget.
4. Build an emergency fund
A common rule of thumb is saving three to six months worth of expenses in an emergency fund, but that may no longer be enough. Many experts now recommend having up to a year’s worth of expenses saved. Your expenses are going to change throughout your 30s as you grow your family or move homes. It’s important to re-evaluate and boost your contributions anytime your financial picture changes. Otherwise you may not have enough saved to cover all of your bills.
If an emergency happens and you use up your savings, don’t panic — that means the years of saving paid off. When you’re financially ready, you’ll want to start rebuilding your fund. Check out our guide to rebuilding a depleted emergency fund.
5. Start a side hustle
A side hustle can be a great way to earn money doing something you’re passionate about outside of work. The first thing you’ll need to do is find your niche and figure out how much time you’re willing to put into it. If you want to sell artwork, for example, remember it can take a lot of time to create before it ever hits the market, compared to renting out a car or second property.
Before jumping into a side gig, consider start-up and maintenance costs. Do you already have the tools you need or do you have to buy supplies? For example, if you’re interested in being a virtual assistant you’ll need a computer and Wi-Fi access. You’ll also need to find out if you need additional certifications or licensing.
6. Protect your identity
We share a lot of personal information on the internet. Data breaches and hacking scandals are becoming more widespread, but you can take an active role in protecting your information. For example, don’t save your credit card information on your devices or purchase items with social media apps. Taking pre-emptive measures like changing your passwords often or filing your taxes early can prevent online data exposure. If you believe your information was leaked in a data breach or hack, don’t panic. Here’s are some good first steps:
Confirm the hack or breach directly with the company
Determine what information was leaked
Find out what resources the company is offering to help
Change all of your passwords immediately
7. Find a financial adviser
It’s important to plan for your financial future as early as you can. It may be hard to save for a wedding, baby, house or retirement fund when you’re not at that stage in life. But planning for it now will help make paying for it in the future easier. Having someone to help you plan for those milestones can not only keep you accountable for hitting your goals, it can also show you paths to get there you may not have considered.
Look for a financial adviser, human or robot, that offers services you’re interested in, aligns with your morals and financially makes sense. A majority of financial advisers are certified financial planners and have gone through extensive training to make the best financial decisions for you. A robo-adviser will manage your money based on automatic algorithms, quantitative data and the objectives you set for it. They’re usually cheaper than human advisers, who can offer personalized advice.
Investing your money can help you achieve future financial goals. Investing can be risky, but the earning potential is far greater than a traditional savings account.
If you haven’t started investing, the process doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. Here are the main your options:
Stocks are a share of ownership in a company. They are bought and sold on the stock market, including the New York Stock Exchange. Prices can fluctuate based on a variety of social, political and economic factors. Here’s our guide to picking stocks.
Bonds are a loan to the government or corporation to be paid back with interest at a certain time.
Mutual funds are a mix of stocks and bonds handled by a professional investment manager.
Exchange traded funds are a bundle of securities that can be bought and sold on the stock exchange or with brokerage firms.
There are a few ways you can invest: with a professional, by yourself or investing apps. Investment professionals will invest on your behalf for a fee. Make sure you understand how someone makes money by investing for you. Doing this solo may be financially advantageous if you have the time and understanding of market behavior. Investing apps can meet you in the middle, but come with their own risks. First, even if an app says it’s free — it will likely charge you in other ways. Make sure you do your research on investing apps like Betterment, Acorns or Robinhood and beware of stocks that seem too good to be true.
9. Pay off debt
Paying off your debt should be one of your top priorities. Waiting to pay off large debts, like student loans or credit cards, can prevent you from accomplishing financial goals like buying a house. Student loans can be particularly hard to pay off when you start adding more expenses in your life, like children. Find time to independently, or with a financial adviser, review your overall financial picture and develop a plan for paying off your debt.
If you have a debt that lands in collections do not ignore it. But don’t let a call from collections send you into a panic — you have options. The good news is you don’t have to pay anything on the spot when a collector makes initial contact. If you can’t pay off the debt in full, try negotiating a lower amount or payment plan with the collector. Just remember that debt will show up on your credit report for up to seven years.
10. Save for retirement
The earlier you start saving for retirement the better. The amount of money you’ll need to retire will depend on where you live and your financial situation at the time. The most common ways to save for retirement are employer-sponsored 401(k)s, individual retirement accounts, Roth IRAs and annuities.
You’re going to want to take advantage of a 401(k) program if your employer offers it — especially if there’s a matching program.
Another option is saving money with a traditional IRA or Roth IRAs. Traditional IRAs typically have a wider selection of investment options and lower your taxes. Roth IRAs let you grow post-tax dollars and offer tax-free withdrawals when you retire.
Here’s our guide to estimating how much you’ll need to retire.
11. Fund long-term money goals
Your 30s can be full of a lot of firsts: your first car, home, wedding, baby, etc. Hitting significant milestones can show you how important it is to financially plan for the future.
Future-focused investments include buying a home, retirement plans, setting up a 529 college savings plan and purchasing insurance. Your first priority should be paying off debt, like student loans. That will help free up money down the road to fund your long-term savings goals. As you're developing your plan, don’t be afraid to include fun goals, like buying a vacation home or starting a rental empire.
12. Fund short-term money goals
If you’re gearing up for a short-term financial goal, like putting a down payment on a home or buying a car, you’re not going to want to risk your savings in the stock market. Short-term goals can be anywhere a few months to about two years, whereas long-term goals are decades away and can handle more risk. Keeping your money safe and accessible for a short-term goal should priority No. 1. Saving your money in a traditional savings account can keep your money safe and easy to access, but will barely earn you any interest. But there are a handful of options that can earn you interest and give you some access to your savings, like a high-yield savings account.
13. Prepare for a recession
The economy moves up and down all the time and you may face a recession or two at some point in your 30s. The market may react if the government changes monetary policy or Reddit bros hype up a stock online. If the market takes a downturn it’s important to keep your cool.
Pulling your money from the stock market or retirement accounts in a bear market could cost you more than keeping your money where it is. The average long-term return can be anywhere from 7% to 8%, but it won’t feel like that each year. The best way to protect yourself from major market dips is diversifying your investments. You’ll want a mixed portfolio to plan for short-term and long-term goals.
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14. Find a new job
You could be on hunt for a new job for a number of reasons, like switching career paths or looking for a pay boost. Workers are usually offered higher salaries to quit and join another company. Before you make your move, it’s important to check-in with yourself. Ask yourself what you want to work on, why you’re not doing that at your current workplace and what you want to get out of a new job. That could be getting a better job title, going after a bigger salary or switching career paths all together. Discuss your aspirations with your partner, if you have one, because your career move could also affect them. Be aware of how your income could change, if you’ll need to put in more time at the office or if there’s a potential for relocation. You’ll also want to consider rolling over your 401(k) to your new employer’s plan.
15. Negotiate a job offer
If a company has extended you a job offer, they want you to work for them. Don’t be afraid to ask for more, whether it’s compensation, remote work or benefits. It’s important to go into negotiations with a goal in mind. Jot down your ideal salary, benefits you must have and any perks you’d like to have. The worst thing that can happen is they say no. It’s unlikely for a company to rescind an offer just because you tried to negotiate. In fact, most employers expect potential employees to negotiate a job offer.
16. Negotiate a raise
Asking for more money at work can be intimidating, but you can take small steps to prepare yourself for the conversation. Expect to negotiate with your employers and never back down on your asks — it’s important to know your worth.
You’re going to want to approach the conversation with a well-thought-out course of attack. Highlight the work you’re doing that exceeds expectations. Having metrics that show the impact of your work will only help your case.
If you’re approved for the raise, take another look at your budget and look for areas of improvement. For example, boosting your savings, retirement and investment contributions or rebuilding a depleted emergency account. If you’re rejected for a monetary raise, negotiate other financial benefits like more vacation time, bonus eligibility or stock options (if applicable).
17. Pick employer benefits
It’s important to have a good understanding of the benefits your employer offers. Every company will offer something different, but the biggest parts that make up a benefit package are insurance options, retirement plans, parental leave options, paid time off, flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts.
18. Get health insurance
Getting health insurance can help pay for medical expenses on a daily basis, like paying for doctors appointments or emergency room visits. Health insurance can get costly, so it’s important to shop around and know your options.
19. Get disability insurance
Even with health insurance, your finances could suffer if you have to miss work for a long time. Disability insurance is an added layer of protection that can cover your regular paycheck if you can’t work due to illness or injury. There are two main types.
Long-term coverage will cover up to 60% of your gross income if you can no longer work from a disability.
Short-term coverage can cover your paycheck until long-term coverage kicks in. It lasts anywhere from three to six months and pays up to 80% of your gross monthly income.
Learn more about how disability insurance works
20. Deal with medical debt
Even with the best health insurance, you’ll likely face a large medical bill at some point. The biggest thing to remember is not to panic — you have options to reduce medical debt.
Don’t pay anything right away, but don’t ignore it. There is a 180-day grace period before medical debt is reported to credit bureaus.
Review your medical bill for mistakes and report any errors.
Check what your insurance does and does not cover.
Use your health savings account or flexible spending account for eligible medical expenses.
Negotiate your bill or hire a medical billing advocate.
21. Prepare for a job loss
You should always be prepared for the possibility of losing your job, even if things seem like they’re going well.
Losing a job can be emotionally and financially straining. You’re going to need to get your financial house in order while you search for new jobs.
You’re going to want to talk about financial benefits with your former employer when you leave a company. Some employers offer things like severance pay and COBRA insurance coverage. You’ll also want to file for unemployment benefits as soon as possible. It’s important to revisit your budget after losing a job. Make any necessary changes to help you stay afloat while you look for another job.
22. Get a prenup
A prenup is a written agreement that acts like insurance: it spells out how property (money, home, children, etc.) if the marriage ends. You can also add specific clauses to a prenup that would void a prenup, like if a partner is unfaithful. Just remember you will have to spend money to protect your money. The average cost for a prenup in 2021 is $780. Getting a prenup can be costly, but could save you money in the future.
Considering a prenuptial agreement doesn’t necessarily mean you’re planning for the worst — it’s a good way to discuss where your partner stands financially and their thoughts on having children.
You have options if you don’t have time to get a prenup before the wedding, or you’re considering one after exchanging rings. You can get a postnuptial agreement after your wedding outlining the division of assets, debt and other financial properties.
23. Get married
Weddings can cost thousands of dollars, so it’s important to have a plan for paying for it and not going broke. You also need to plan for what comes next because your finances are going to change after your wedding.
There are a handful of financial pros and cons to getting married. You have the option to file joint taxes and have access to (future) child tax credits. You’ll also have more retirement and insurance options from your you and your partner’s companies. On the flip side, your tax bracket may change and you might take on your partner’s debt.
Regular financial conversations shouldn’t stop after getting married — things will only get more complex over time. For example, you may tackle buying your first home together, having children, insurance and estate planning (just to name a few).
Before you walk down the aisle, talk to your partner about finances. You’re going to want a full picture of your partner’s finances so you know exactly what you may be walking into. Here are the three biggest questions you should ask your partner if you’re thinking about getting married.
If you’re planning a second (or third, etc.) wedding, then you’re no stranger to the trials and tribulations of marriage. It’s important to get on the same financial page as your future spouse before walking down the aisle. Make sure your short-term and long-term goals align. If children are involved, you’ll want to get on the same page about financial support. You’ll also want to make sure your emergency contacts and estate plan are updated accordingly.
24. Merge your accounts
Many experts say couples don’t need to merge bank accounts to be happy. But it could make it easier to track major expenses.
Policygenius’ annual Couples and Money survey found one in five couples manage money separately. Having separate accounts can give you a sense of independence and ownership over your financial life, but it could make you less prepared as a couple for emergencies.
25. Learn how to to deal with divorce
Sometimes even the best marriages break up. Getting a divorce can be emotionally and financially draining. The best way to prevent divorce proceedings from going off the rails is getting a prenup. Don’t feel bad if you didn't — you can still protect your money. Big-ticket items, like a house or children, will probably be handled by your lawyers. This can make it easier to forget about smaller things, like streaming accounts or safety deposit boxes. Make sure you get a copy of your personal and joint financial statements and highlight any bills you pay together, like a cell phone plan or gym membership. If you don’t have any joint accounts, you could still be on the hook if your ex is authorized to use your credit card.
26. Buy a home
Buying a house can take months of planning and involves a lot of moving parts. There are a handful of pros (mortgage interest deductions) and cons (property taxes). It’s important to enter the homebuying process with realistic expectations of what you can afford. That will help you figure out how much you’ll need to save for a down payment. Once you find your potential new home you’ll need to apply for a mortgage, a loan from a bank or credit union to buy a house with the expectation you’ll pay it back over time with interest. Before you close on your home, make sure to personally read over your mortgage paperwork.
Depending on interest rates, you may have a chance to refinance your mortgage. Refinancing your home could get you lower interest rates and a shorter mortgage, but the process can get pricey.
Use our mortgage calculator to see how much you can afford.
27. Get home insurance
Protecting your home in case of an accident, emergency or disaster can save you thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Options will vary depending on where you live, what you own and coverage needed. Homeowners insurance will cover your home and everything in it. Policies typically cover a home break-in or property damage, and reimburses you for temporary housing if you need to evacuate your home. You can also be covered if someone is injured on your property and sues you.
28. Renovate your home
When you’re considering remodeling your home it’s important to crunch the numbers and be sure the money you’re putting into it is worth it. You’ll need to create a realistic plan and budget for how you plan to pay for the renovations. Factor in some emergency cash for unexpected snags like mold or permitting issues. There are a handful of loan options for home renovations.
29. Sell a home
Selling your home can be just as stressful as buying one. The value of your property will depend on where you live, the state of your home and the housing market. You can increase the value of your home by doing renovations and upgrades. The way your home is staged for potential buyers can also make a difference on potential offers. When you sell your house can also affect its value.
Moving to a new house can be overwhelming, especially if it’s to a new city or kids are involved. The actual process of selling and buying a new home can be draining, so it’s important to financially prepare for the actual move.
Create a budget for moving costs, like hiring movers and a cleaning service after everything is gone. If you're moving for work purposes, your employer could cover some moving costs. Try and purge any unwanted items and consider donating anything that’s been sitting untouched for years. Don’t forget to budget in time to unpack and adjust to your new home.
31. Buy a car
If you need to get around for your daily tasks you may want to buy a car. You’ll want to take a look at your monthly budget to see what kind of car and down payment you can afford. You’ll want to consider overall price, monthly payments, insurance, maintenance and upkeep (like gas). It’s important to note that cars do lose their value once you drive it off the lot and you’ll have to pay for repairs and upkeep. It’s also possible for your credit score to even go down after paying off the car.
Here’s our guide to negotiating at the car dealership.
32. Get car insurance
Driving a car comes with its own risks and there’s always a possibility you could be involved in a car crash. Car insurance will give you financial protection if your car is damaged, involved in an accident or gets stolen. You’re going to want to consider what kind of coverage you want and how much you’ll actually need. It’s important to shop around for the best rate. You can switch providers if you think you can get a better rate or you’re unsatisfied with the claim filing process.
33. Start a family
Having a baby will change your life forever, emotionally and financially. It can cost almost a quarter million dollars to raise a child until they’re 17. You’re going to want to prep your finances for your growing family. Here’s what to include on a financial baby checklist:
Add your newborn to your health insurance policy
Create a baby budget that includes delivery costs, diapers, breast pumps, clothes, nutrition etc.
Emergency fund for unexpected medical costs
Review parental leave policies
34. Get life insurance
Life insurance will provide financial support to your family when you die. The cost of your insurance will depend on how much coverage you get, the length of your policy and your level of risk. There are several types of life insurance, but the simplest is term, which pays out if you die while the policy is active, usually for a 30-year period.
35. Budget for childcare
If you’re a working parent, you’re going to need a plan for child care. There are a number of options that can help you budget and plan for family costs.
Dependent care flexible spending accounts: FSAs are offered by some employers and let you save tax-free dollars for eligible child care expenses.
Child and dependent care tax credit: You can get a tax credit on childcare costs for kids under 13, up to $8,000 for one child and $16,000 for two under President Biden’s 2021 stimulus law.
36. Start a college fund for your child
If you have the financial means to save for your child’s education, you have a few options. The most common way to save for higher education is a 529 plan. Plan options vary by state. Some plans let you save on tuition by paying ahead of time and others let you open a tax-advantaged investment account to earn money for education expenses. Once your child is older, involve them in the conversation about college. They may be interested in contributing to their own college savings or have an alternative plan in mind.
37. Teach your child about money
You’ve probably realized your kids are like a sponge. They absorb all of the information around them, including interactions with money. The younger you introduce money concepts to your kids, the more it will help them digest larger financial concepts in the future. You can look into money-themed board games or books. It’s also important to involve your kids in money discussions that affect the family, like moving homes or losing a job.
38. Figure out allowance
Giving your child an allowance can give them freedom to make their own financial decisions and incentive to do their chores or get good grades. There is some debate about an appropriate amount to give your child. Policygenius’ Parents & Money survey found 40% of parents give their kids $20 per week. Some experts suggest paying extra for things like acing an exam. But don’t over-promise anything. It’s important to use an allowance as a pathway to discussing good money habits with your child.
39. Do taxes
Your taxes are going to start changing when you make financial moves like investing or donating to charity. They will also change for milestones like moving, getting a raise, adding side income, getting married and having children. It’s important to get the right advice when filing taxes. There are a number of free resources and tax professionals that can help you file taxes.
40. Make an estate plan
Creating an estate plan is one of the best financial decisions you can make. An estate plan spells out how you want your health care, assets and estate handled if you can no longer take care of yourself. You can create an estate plan with a few simple documents:
A will is the most basic document of the estate planning process. It appoints an executor who will manage your estate, determines guardianship of your children and your burial wishes. It’s important to remember that wills are loose guidelines and your estate will still have to go through the probate process. People can also challenge your will in court, potentially altering its contents.
A trust has the same legal standing as a will but has specific benefits. There are a lot of different kinds of trusts, but they’re designed for the same purpose: to provide something for a trustee. A trust can have several conditions to it detailing how assets are divided and who gets what. Trusts may seem like they have more options than a will, but trusts have limitations. For example, only a will allows you to name a guardian for your child or an executor for your estate. Wills also let you outline how your taxes and debts are dealt with.
41. Donate to charity
Before giving away your money, make sure you research the organization to make sure it’s legitimate and your money will be allocated appropriately. It’s important to remember that a small contribution can have a huge impact. You can maximize your impact by taking an investor’s approach and diversifying your donations.
You can claim charitable contributions on your taxes for a deduction. Deductions lower your taxable income, ultimately lowering the amount you owe in taxes for the year. Meaning if you paid too much to charities, you may be eligible for a tax refund.
42. Plan long-term care for your parents
There may come a time when your parents need additional care to perform daily tasks. It may be a hard conversation to have with your siblings or family, but the sooner it happens, the more you can save for your parents’ long-term care.
Deciding the right kind of care for your parents will take time. You’ll want to consider your budget and your parent’s needs. Here's how to financially prepare to care for your parents.
43. Prepare for your parents’ death
When your parents die, the last thing you’re going to want to worry about is the financial aftermath. The average funeral can cost between $8,000 and $10,000. Even if your parents had financial protections in place to cover funeral costs, you could face other financial strains. For example, settling outstanding debts and making sure your parent’s final income tax return is filed.
Your parents’ identity could be at risk after they die. Some fraudsters actively look at obituaries to steal dead people’s identities. The two biggest things you can do to protect their identity is guarding their information and letting people know when they die.
You could also inherit property, investments or money from your parents after they die. Be mindful that you may have to pay taxes on the estate and inheritance taxes. It’s important to handle the windfall mindfully, so you don’t spend it all in one place.
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