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9 financial moves to make in your 30s

Hopefully, you spent some of your 20s establishing good credit and healthy financial habits, like budgeting, setting aside emergency funds, and beginning your retirement savings. As you transition into your 30s, now is the time to build on that solid financial foundation.

9 Financial To-Dos for your 30s

With more working years under your belt, you may have a higher income. At the same time, your expenses may also be higher. Houses, vacations, and kids, anyone? With so much to prioritize and a future to consider, take a look at the checklist below to decide what you should focus on now.

1. Supercharge your retirement fund.

If you're now enjoying a higher income, try to earmark 15% of it for your post-working years. Set up automatic contributions to your retirement accounts if possible. Doing so will not only grow your retirement savings but also protect you from the sneaky beginnings of lifestyle creep (continually living larger and spending more as your income grows).

2. Set up 529s for college savings.

If you have kids, open and divert money each month into 529 accounts. The average cost of attendance at a 4-year university is just over $25k. If you start from birth, you’ll need to save about $115 per month per child. One thing to note: If you need to prioritize, your children's college savings should play second fiddle to saving for retirement. Their savings plans present a rare time when parents should be a bit selfish.

3. Continue paying down debt.

Once your non-mortgage debt is paid off, you can amplify your savings and have comfortable room for some fun spending money in your budget. So, keep prioritizing your debt payments, especially high-interest credit card balances and student loans.

4. Check the balance on your emergency fund.

If you've had to dip into your emergency savings, then prioritize a refill until it's built back up. If you've been fortunate enough not to use any money from your emergency fund, now is still a good time to reevaluate how much you should keep aside. After all, your living expenses are likely higher than when you first set your emergency savings goal. Aim to save enough money to cover three to six months of expenses.

5. Rethink your budget.

Hopefully, you regularly adjust your budget as your needs and financial goals shift. If you haven't looked at it for a while, though, give it a refresh. Consider your saving goals—whether for retirement, college, big purchases, etc.—and appropriately prioritize them. Decide whether to adjust any regular contributions toward those goals before looking at your expenses and spending habits. Decide whether anything should change based on your shifting priorities.

6. Reevaluate your insurance needs.

While the basic health insurance plans offered by your employer used to be enough, you may want to strengthen your safety net. Consider your current responsibilities, including your dependents. Then consider supplemental plans like life insurance and disability insurance. The latter offers additional coverage like protecting a portion of your income should you become sick or injured.

7. Avoid lifestyle inflation.

As income increases, people's wants and needs tend to do the same. So, treat your savings goals like an expense you simply cannot avoid. Automating savings can help you stick to a budget and avoiding the temptation to spend “extra” cash on expensive purchases you don't need. In short, try not to worry about keeping up with others around you. Try to only spend money when you plan and need to, not to keep up appearances.  

8. Create an estate plan.

This may seem like an ominous and unnecessary step at this point in your life, but any financial advisor will tell you it's essential. Why? It protects your loved ones, giving you peace of mind while also providing focus to your financial plan. Most estate plans include a will, powers of attorney, and life insurance.

9. Start investing.

If you've done all of the above and want some extra credit, then pat yourself on the back and start investing. If all goes well, you'll grow your money (something your retirement accounts should be doing for you too). Just keep in mind that investing versus saving includes more risk, but it also carries the possibility of generating a higher reward.

As you move forward with your financial goals, consider working with a financial advisor. Their professional guidance can help you reach important milestones and reevaluate your priorities as things change. 

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