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How to Build Wealth in Your 30s


When you hit your 30s, it’s time to start building wealth and getting serious about money, which may have been an afterthought last decade. Getting your finances in order can include everything from ramping up your retirement savings to grappling with your debt and credit issues. We’ve compiled the best tips to help you get on track with your finances and build wealth in your 30s and beyond. Additionally, you may want to consult with a financial advisor in order to find a plan that works for your personal goals.

1. Revamp Your Budget

Are you still using the same budget you made when you were twenty-something and eating ramen while living in a tiny apartment? Then it’s probably time to consider giving it another look. Your income and expenses have both likely gone up, and you’re hopefully getting even more serious about saving money. All of these changes will likely mean adjustments to your budget.

Perhaps you’ve moved into a much nicer apartment, with a full kitchen, and you’ve figured out you can actually cook. Not only will that apartment take more out of your budget, but so could the money needed for groceries or cookware. These increased expenses may mean you have to cut costs elsewhere.

Of course, you’re hopefully also making more money in your 20s. In that case, you’ll still need to adjust your budget, but you might not have to drastically cut costs across the board. Instead, you’ll want to determine where you can save and how with your extra disposable income. Focus on making a responsible and realistic budget for yourself to follow.

2. Increase Your Retirement Savings

Let’s face it, no one stays 30 forever. It’s time to start thinking seriously about your retirement, especially if you haven’t already. Think about how much money you expect to live on each year in retirement, and how much you’ll need to hit the retirement income goal. (Hint: Using a retirement calculator can make this process a little easier.) Starting your retirement planning now can help you feel less pressure once you hit your 40s.

One step you can take immediately is to boost your retirement savings to at least 15% of your income. Of course, not everyone in their 30s will have the financial means to set aside that much. But if you’re able to do so, definitely consider increasing your 401(k) contributions. You may also want to adjust your contribution amount every time you get a raise. Since these contributions are pre-tax – and thus lower your taxable income – an increase to your contribution amount won’t cut into your take-home pay as much as you might expect.

Your 401(k) isn’t the only opportunity for tax-advantaged retirement savings. Opening an IRA – or increasing your contributions to an existing one – will also help charge up your retirement savings. A traditional IRA will get you a nice tax deduction, but forward-thinking savers might opt for the tax-free growth of a Roth IRA. Just be mindful of yearly IRA contribution limits and 401(k) contribution limits.

3. Boost Your Emergency Fund

How to Build Wealth in Your 30s

In addition to looking ahead to retirement, you must also be more prepared for the unexpected. Open an emergency fund account if you don’t already have one. That way, you won’t find yourself completely broke in the event of an accident or job loss. You’ll want to keep at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in the account. Again, as your income increases, you may want to also consider increasing your contributions to this account.

You can stash your emergency savings in any account of your choice. It’s probably best, though, to choose a liquid account like a savings account or money market account. While your money won’t grow as quickly as it would in an investment account or a CD, it’s best not to keep your rainy-day fund in an account that’s exposed to market risk or that carries penalties for early withdrawal.

4. Make Smarter Investment Choices

If you haven’t started investing yet, there’s still time. In your 30s, you’re still young and (relatively) far enough from retirement where you can still take on some risk in your portfolio. This might mean investing heavily in stocks. Mutual funds and ETFs are great investments if you’re not a market wizard because they’re ready-made, diversified baskets of professionally managed securities.

You can even start investing in a more passive way with a robo-advisor, which will pick investments and funds for you. And you can also invest in index funds, which have lower costs and tend to beat managed funds over the long haul. But whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been investing for years now, you need to make sure your investment portfolio reflects where you’re at in life.

In your early 30s, it’s fine to stay heavily in stocks, but you might consider mixing in some bonds and other safer investments as you get older and closer to retirement. It should be noted that if you’re invested in a target-date fund, that rebalancing will happen automatically as you get older.

5. Get Rid of Existing Debt

The sooner you pay off your debts, like those pesky student loans, the better you can focus on saving for your future. Stick to any debt-repayment plans you might have made. Even better, ramp up your repayment in any way you can if you’re able to. For example, you can put that big end-of-year bonus toward your student loans to pay down the principal and decrease what you owe in interest.

If it’s credit card debt you’ve got looming over your head, it may help to start by making extra payments towards those with the highest interest rates. You might also consider a balance transfer card, some of which have an introductory zero-interest offer that effectively puts a pause on your interest payments.

As you pay off debt, be mindful of your current credit card spending. It won’t do you any good to pay off those debts if you’re racking up more charges. With credit-card interest rates often falling into the mid-20% APY range, it’s best to pay off your bill in full every month. Also, keep in mind that it looks best to potential lenders if you use less than 30% of your available credit limit.

6. Take Advantage of Your Employer’s Benefit Offerings

Something that many people don’t do, or don’t qualify for, in their 20s is to take advantage of the numerous programs and benefits that your employer offers. This is a great way to save money on things you’re probably going to buy anyway, but your employer has either offered to pay for some of it for you or has found discounts to help you. Here are a few things to look out for that you can take advantage of:

  • Matching Contributions for the Company 401(k): This is a big one that younger people don’t always take advantage of. Start saving for retirement early to maximize your retirement potential and spending power later. Sometimes your employer will offer to match what you put into the plan, up to a certain amount, which is free money for you.
  • Commuter Benefits: Your employer might be paying you to commute to work, or offering a stipend every month. A lot of times you have to ask for it in order to receive it. 
  • Discounts at Stores: Many employers offer discounts for their employees because they belong to networks or are offered savings through their benefits vendor. You can save a small amount, or earn a reward, every time you purchase something with these discounts so you should take advantage.
  • Flexible Savings Account or Health Savings Account: Through these accounts, you can get pre-tax dollars to spend on medical expenses that you’re going to be purchasing anyway. It’s a great way to save some tax money to pay for your health.
  • Legal Insurance: Sometimes this is a free option for employees and it provides you protection against unforeseen legal expenses.

Bottom LineHow to Build Wealth in Your 30s

Being smart about your budget, your savings, your investments, and your credit can go a long way toward growing wealth in your 30s and beyond. There are plenty of steps you can take right now to ensure your financial security for later in life. From setting up an estate plan to making your budget work better for your long-term finances, you can take the right steps now to hit your short- and long-term financial goals.

Tips on Saving for Retirement

  • Need some extra help adjusting your budget and rebalancing your portfolio? A financial advisor can offer professional and personalized help in all aspects of your finances. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • By your early 30s you should already have some savings stashed away for retirement. It’s not too late to get started if you don’t. While everyone’s situation is different, it may help to see what average retirement savings look like to see where you stand.
  • Of course, what’s truly important is making sure your savings are on pace to meet your eventual retirement income needs. Use SmartAsset’s retirement calculator to get a sense for what sort of income you’ll need in retirement, and how much you need to increase your savings to get there.

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