In honor of my birthday this year, I am sharing with you 5 Financial Decisions to Make by 30 (written by myself, 10 years experience in finance, and proofread by my husband – a CFA, who manages money for a living).
Contribute to your retirement fund:
I know, you have student loans, maybe a house payment and bills out the wazoo. You think it’s impossible to not contribute to your retirement fund, BUT it really isn’t! Saving happens automatically from your paycheck and some companies will actually match a certain percentage of the contribution you make to your to a 401K! Free money, who doesn’t like that?!?! If you do it from the getgo, you won’t even notice it coming out of your paycheck. Also, since most 401ks are managed by an external financial advisory firm you have someone to talk to about investing your money so it works best for you. For those of you who are independent contractors and aren’t eligible for a 401K, look into setting up an IRA. It’s similar to a 401K since it helps your save tax-deferred for your retirement and is open to everyone. Basically, there are lots of options out there and the earlier you contribute the better off you will be.
Build an emergency fund:
What if you lose your job? What if you have to replace your furnace? What if you total your car and your insurance won’t cover the entire cost? An emergency fund, with three -six months of living expenses is the best idea. Keep it in a savings account; usually you can keep it alongside your checking account, and just move the money as you see fit.
Build a budget and stick to it:
You should have a pretty good idea of your finances by this point as well as a steady income each month. If you know how much you are bringing in plus your expenses (rent or mortgage, student loans payments, credit card debts, utilities, insurance, etc.) then you are able to properly allocate your spending. You will not believe the amount of people who don’t understand their budget! Luckily, there are so many tools out there (good old google sheets, apps like mint, or even you checking account may provide this information) so you have no excuse not to track it.
Pay off credit card debt:
I get it. You opened a credit card in college, racked up a bunch of charges, and now you are stuck with 20% interest payment on the rolling balance. DO YOUR BEST to pay it down. Credit card interest is usually obscenely high, so its essential to get rid of it as quickly as you can. It may make sense to roll the balance to a 0% APR credit card and try to pay as much off in that year where there is no interest.
Understand your financial documents and keep them safe:
Now is the time to find your official birth certificate, passport, social security card, mortgage documents, loan documents, etc., and keep them in a safe place. Also, consider monitoring your credit report. Its not too early to set up a will either(especially if you have assets or children). Lastly, make sure you name beneficiaries on your retirement accounts to make sure it goes to the person you want in case of an emergency!