Money moves in your 30s: Dos and don'ts

Smart financial decisions in your 30s can have a powerfully positive impact on your future.

Tags: Goals, Planning, Savings
Published: January 12, 2021

When you’re young, it’s easy to live in the now and not think about how today’s choices can affect your financial future. But financial planning in your 30s can help set you up for success in the long run. Here are eight money saving tips to navigate your 30s wisely and stay focused on saving.


1. Do pay off credit card debt

It’s no secret — many Americans struggle to pay off credit card debt. If you're struggling to make your monthly payments in full, reach out to your credit issuers to see what remedies are available to you. If you are able to make payments, strategies like debt consolidation can help. A 2016 Harvard Business Review report supports the approach advocated by many financial experts: pay off the smallest debt first.1 You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that can have a powerful effect on your sense of progress. Plus, small wins will keep you motivated to continue paying down debt.


2. Do be careful about your social media use

A recent study found about 60 percent of millennials reported feeling “inadequate” about their own lives and possessions after seeing the lifestyles of their peers on social media.2 As a result, 57 percent said they parted with money they weren’t planning on spending. Be mindful when you use social media and remember that what you’re seeing is a highlight reel — the person on that fancy vacation in Bali may have gone into unnecessary debt to be there!


3. Don’t go it alone

Unless you’re in the personal finance industry or your favorite hobby is tracking your investments, the wisdom of a professional can help you through the opportunities and pitfalls that exist in your 30s. A financial advisor or financial planner can help you tackle tax changes, retirement plans and more.


4. Do save at least 15 percent of your gross income for retirement

That may sound high, but remember your employer’s 401(k) contribution or match counts toward that 15 percent. If your budget doesn’t allow you to save 15 percent, start by saving as much as you can and see where you can cut back to bring that number up. 


5. Do increase your savings when you increase your income

Approach saving as a percentage of your income, not as a fixed dollar amount that stays stagnant over time. In other words, look at salary increases as an opportunity to save more – not spend more.


6. Do apply tax returns, work bonuses and cash gifts from relatives toward your savings goals

It’s tempting to spend your tax return, holiday bonus or birthday money on something fun. But you’ll cheat yourself of the financial security that comes with paying down loans or adding to existing savings accounts. If “surprise” money lands in your lap and you’re not sure where to allocate it, your banker can help you determine the best place to save it. 


7. Don’t underestimate the importance of an emergency fund

An emergency fund that can cover up 3-6 months of expenses gives you a nice cushion in case you hit a roadblock.


Looking for even more tips for financial planning in your 30s?  These nine strategies will help you take your savings to the next level.


1. “Research: The Best Strategy for Paying Off Credit Card Debt.” Harvard Business Review. 2016.
2. “Generations Ahead Study.” Allianz. 2018.