Your 30s will likely be another eventful decade. Your finances absolutely are intertwined with your family plans, your career track, and your retirement.
Congratulations! You've survived your 20s — an exciting decade when you think you're finally starting to figure out life, and you're getting ready to settle into the adulthood you've created for yourself.
Or so you think.
The truth is, your 30s will likely be another eventful decade of life changes and experiences. As you navigate your way through the next ten years, you're going to get to enjoy a whole new world of adventures.
Finding ways to build a financial plan for this decade (and all the ones ahead of you) requires your full attention now to get you satisfyingly to your 40s — even if you're not ready to think that far ahead just yet. In your 30s finances absolutely are intertwined with your family plans, your career track, and yes, your retirement.
Take a few minutes to check in on your financial goals at your current age. Evaluate your financial situation to determine if you want to make changes. See if your personal finance plans are taking shape for the future ahead of you. Let's get started.
Welcome to your 30s
Raise your hand if focusing on a retirement plan is too far away to even think about. You're not alone if you haven't started planning for your post-career life, but this is the decade to form a plan. In addition to your future, there are plenty of current choices facing you. But we’ll come back to retirement in a bit...
This decade may mark the end of your student loan payments if you've got them and may also be when you buy your first house. This could be the decade you see all those years of grunt work transition into promotions and salary increases. You might decide to settle down and start a family, or maybe realize you're perfectly happy raising just your pups.
In your 30s, a metric ton of important decisions will come your way. Get ready to hone in on your financial responsibility to yourself and your family. As you might expect, there are a lot of financial choices this decade to consider:
- Car payments
- Joint checking accounts
- Credit card debt
- Life insurance
- 529 college accounts for the kids
- 401k contributions
Keep in mind that these are only a few of the typical financial choices many Americans come across during this stage of life, and you may not even face all these decisions. Your 30s are the perfect time to set your own course and if it doesn't look like everyone else's, that's perfectly normal for your generation too.
Become a homeowner
You may not plan to buy a house this year, or maybe even this decade, but if the thought has already crossed your mind, this is the time to begin the necessary financial planning to execute those plans.
The secret to getting the best possible mortgage, and the best available interest rate, is to build good credit beginning now. If you already jumpstarted that plan in your 20s, great. But if you're seriously planning on becoming a homeowner, now is when it gets real.
Your good friend, the internet, can offer you plenty of information on all the necessary steps to move towards home ownership, so use this time ahead of your home purchase to do your homework (yes, there's always adult homework).
Seek professional financial advice from your community banker as they will have specific insights into your location. They can also help you get your finances organized for whatever comes next in your life.
Making big purchases
What may come next are other big purchases. If you're already paying on an auto loan, you can be assured it won't be your last. The same advice for home buying also helps with other big purchases: save for down payments and establish good credit.
Your own big expense may include relocating for a new job. You might be buying real estate for a future home you want to build. It's not out of the question that big financial expenditures could relate to caring for an elderly parent. In this decade, a million changes can occur in life. Your best financial plan for these years is to prepare yourself as much as you can for whatever comes next.
If you haven't already built up your emergency fund, prioritize that task. That way, if you do find yourself faced with a major purchase or expense, you'll be better prepared to manage it without dinging your credit.
Coupling your finances
If you couple (or yes, uncouple) in your 30s, your finances will absolutely be impacted. You may still be trying to get a handle on your own money and then suddenly have to co-mingle your money with someone else's money?! Where do you start?
Begin with a joint savings account. It's a good way to adjust to watching money movement between both of you. What's great is that most personal checking accounts can interact through your mobile banking app to transfer money to your joint savings account. (So, chipping in can be a breeze.)
Some couples also choose to open a shared checking account which they use solely to cover regular, shared expenses. With it, each contributes a set amount each month (tip: split direct deposit rocks!) that between them will cover bills like rent, utilities, and auto insurance. This method offers a nice way to ease yourself into the pool of sharing financial responsibilities instead of cannonballing directly into the deep end. It’s a suggestion that may provide you both with the financial independence, and interdependence, you need to get the job done smoothly.
You have debt. Your partner has debt. Now you may be considering shared debt. If you need to tackle your current debt before adding more, debt consolidation as a couple may be worth considering.
Another big aspect of joining finances is that your personal capital becomes shared capital. If you do plan to buy a house, or make investing decisions, you now have the buying power of two. Then again, that could mean adversely absorbing the bad credit of your partner, too. Be open with each other about the state of your finances to avoid ugly surprises once you really dig in to establishing good credit for your long-term plans together.
Similarly, your net worth could change as you make decisions with a new partner, or without a partner, should you become single again in your 30s. Your net worth is an excellent gauge of your finances that gives you a wide lens based on your specific assets and debts. Make time to be aware of yours. It can help you bring all those loose financial resources into one clear picture.
Use this decade to move towards financial freedom. If you're moving forward with another person, set clear goals so you work together toward financial freedom for two.
Tackling debt (for now)
You've heard it before — you know it's true. Knock out that debt. Now, this may not be the decade you eliminate debt, in fact, you may take on more debt. But whether it’s a second car or a mortgage that comes along, you should keep chipping away at the debt from your 20s.
If you enjoyed a little too much of the have-fun-now, pay-for-it-later credit card debt in your 20s, push to wipe out what you owe. Sometimes it's easier said than done when new surprises pop up, but always try to put extra money towards your emergency fund. It will keep you from relying on your credit card and increasing that debt.
Structure your debt into a more organized, focused repayment plan. Consider a personal loan for debt consolidation. There are implications if you have federal student loans, but it might be the best option if you want to purge your credit card debt, and/or the last of your old car payments and move forward with a clear credit history.
If money is still tight and being debt-free sounds like a fantasy, just move the goal posts and change your financial goal. Take baby steps. Plan to move from “bad” credit to “fair” credit, make on-time payments, and consider applying the snowball or avalanche methods to move forward.
Family plans and changes
If kids are a part of your 30s, your decade is absolutely going to be different than your 20s (amIright?). Everything — increased living expenses, insurance, saving for college (part two) — is getting added to your budget categories. This would be an ideal time to find a financial advisor to help pull all your financial resources together.
Infants, toddlers, teenagers — they all have different medical needs that are different from your own. Take time to carefully consider your health coverage each year.
First, if you are single, don't skip over this section. There are reasons to have life insurance even if you are a party of one. Plus, you never know what can happen between now and 40.
As your family grows and changes, you absolutely need to have a plan for everyone to be well cared for in case you become unable to be the pillar of your family. Consider it an emergency fund for the people you care about most.
529 savings plans
You thought those student loans were part of your past and now you are imagining your youngsters going to your alma mater — and how you're going to pay for it. If you don't want student loans to be a part of your children's future, consider setting up a 529 college savings plan.
You can see how adding a family to your financial future makes the idea of hiring a financial advisor a worthwhile suggestion. Suddenly your long-term goal has become an even longer-term goal. Now you are planning beyond your own lifetime, much less to the end of your current decade.
Retirement saving and planning
If thinking about your children as adults was a big wake-up call, suddenly planning for your retirement may not seem so distant. But how can you with all these other aspects of your life you’re juggling? It's time to set it and forget it, (well, maybe not forget it entirely).
Your retirement account is not just any account — it’s a lifelong wellness plan that includes the future decades when you won’t be working nine-to-five. Maybe you’ll want to eventually turn a hobby into a little money-making opportunity here and there after you leave your day job for good. This is time to begin developing a plan to get to that point.
As soon as it is offered, jump on your 401k. If you already have a little one from an employer you had in your 20s, roll it over to make sure you are maximizing the compound interest benefits of your long-term investments. That may include opening a new individual retirement account (IRA).
Deciding whether to choose a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA (they have different tax implications now and when you retire) may feel like a decision for another day. A day in your 30s can be a great day for that. How's the search coming for that financial advisor btw?
It's completely realistic to NOT have a savings goal yet. Save anyway. If you get to 40 and still have yet to decide on a retirement age, so what? There are no rules about when you have to retire. There are requirements for withdrawing money from your retirement account, but let's save that for your 40s and 50s.
Embrace your values
In addition to adjusting to each new financial goal, you may also find your 30s are a decade to truly align the values you have been building since your teens. Now you can make financial decisions that match your personal priorities.
As you seek out financial advice, whether from a professional, or just your network of family and friends, spend your dollars with companies, especially local businesses, that support the community where you are putting down roots.
Local communities and economies lifted people up and back to strength after the Great Recession, after the pandemic, and they can continue to create strong economies in the future with our help. Local economies thrive on younger generations prioritizing the economic health of shopping, dining, and thinking local.
When you need to borrow money or open a new savings account for the little ones in your home, choose to bank locally. Keep your money circulating in your area, in the small businesses you care about, and in the economy you're trying to grow your family in.
It's the intangible, emotional benefits of being part of a vibrant community with lots of local character that makes home, well, home. It's the value of business owners knowing your name that brings greater significance beyond just the economics of it all.
You are building a home, a future, and a life for yourself and your family — so be proud of your choices! In addition to your own financial stability, spend your 30s building up the financial stability of your community for a better life for those around you as well. One great way is to support your community bank or credit union.
Your 30s are all about navigating your choices wisely. Your finances will shape those choices. And get excited — it's just getting good.