It’s time to talk to you 30-somethings. At 37, I’m in the thick of this decade myself and can attest to the fact that life is much different now than it was 10 years ago. After spending our 20s getting acclimated to adulthood, we finally have our sea legs. Or at least, many of us do.
You may be married. You may have kids. You may have a house. You may be making more money than ever.
Regardless of the particulars of your current life, here are 10 money moves we should all be making during this decade of our lives:
1. Revisit your retirement savings
By this point, you should have a retirement fund, whether that be a 401(k) or an IRA. If you don’t, getting one set up should be priority No. 1 in your life this week.
For everyone else, it’s time to pull out your most recent statement and take a look at where your money is invested. Over time, our retirement account can fall out of balance. We may have too much risk or — more likely for those of us in our 30s — we may have too little risk. Remember, you likely have 30+ years left in the workforce, so you can afford to have money in more aggressive funds that carry the potential of bigger returns.
2. Increase your emergency fund
In theory, creating an emergency fund is another money move you took in your 20s. If you don’t have one, putting money aside for a rainy day is priority No. 2 for you, right after you set up that retirement account.
However, let’s assume you did create an emergency fund in your 20s. It’s probably time to up the balance now. You’ve probably moved out of the studio apartment. You may have a family to feed. You possibly financed a couple of purchases along the way.
Your emergency fund should have enough money to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses. Add up all your current must-spend monthly expenses and see if your fund falls short on covering them. If so, it’s time to beef up the account.
3. Rebalance the budget
How long have you been living on the same budget?
Ideally, you should revisit your budget at least once a year or every time you have a major life change. If it’s been a while since you crunched the numbers, sit down with your significant other, if you have one, and do a thorough review.
Here are a couple of questions to help guide the discussion.
- Does your current budget support your life goals?
- When is the last time you shopped for better prices on expenses such as internet and insurance?
- Are you spending money each month on items that don’t fit any of the current budget categories?
- Can you eliminate any categories at this stage in your life?
4. Track your spending for a month
Oh, you don’t have a budget, you say?
Well, that’s a shame. Let’s work on correcting that.
The best way to create a workable budget is to track your spending for an entire month. Keep tabs on every penny. That sounds like a lot of work, but if you use your debit card or a credit card (that you pay off at the end of the month) for everything, it’s not so bad.
Actually, let’s all make this money move, regardless of whether we have a current budget or not. We tend to idealize where our money goes (“Oh, I never eat out!”), but once you start tracking, there’s no denying that you hit the drive-thru once a week or go on a spending spree at the mall once a month.
So keep track of your money in May and then compare your actual spending to your budgeted amounts. Depending on where the numbers land, you’re going to either need to rework the budget or rethink your spending.