For many people in their 30s, the decade can feel “lost” and unnerving in a variety of ways. Friends get married, people move away for better opportunities. It’s a time of great change.
It’s also the time when employers are tough and very selective. You end up putting in a lot of late-night hours, trying to learn more and prove yourself on the job. There seems to be no financial problem that can’t be fixed by taking on more hours, working weekends or a part-time second job.
Stop right there: Working more is not the answer. In fact, once you start a family that’s off the table completely, if you value your relationship.
Here are some financial planning targets to consider in your 30s:
1. If you’re not saving, you’re losing time
Compounding is the greatest force in the financial universe by far. A dollar you save today is $2 in 10 years, then that $2 becomes $4 and then it turns into $8. If you have managed to get to your 30s with a relatively paltry 401(k) balance, it’s time to step things up.
2. Two salaries = more taxes
Couples often fail to realize that they will be taxed as a single entity. While the so-called “marriage penalty” has been diminished by legislation in recent years, the really easy way to reduce your liability is for both earners to save more into tax-deferred accounts, such as an IRA or 401(k).
3. Who suffers financially if you die?
This is a biggie. If you live alone, chances are you don’t need life insurance. But if you are the breadwinner, have kids or both, could your surviving spouse continue comfortably in your absence? Buying term life insurance can bring you peace of mind.
4. Leaving a job? Roll over your retirement
People often job-hop in their 30s, looking for the right spot to grow and increase their value to a future employer. But that can result in a patchwork of 401(k) plans at several past employers. Better to roll them over into an IRA or into your next job’s 401(k), tax-free.
5. Plan for what’s next
Retirement might seem a long way off, but it really isn’t. You are likely to earn more with each passing year, so the key to building up a powerful retirement plan is to slowly increase your total savings as well. Avoid increasing your “lifestyle” charge and instead look for ways to live better while saving smarter.
A decade down the line, you’ll be amazed at how many zeroes there are in your retirement account. And that offers you unmatched peace of mind.