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Life-Changing Money Lessons You Learn in Your 30s

Ashley Eneriz
·8 min read

Now that you’re in your 30s, you’ve probably learned a lot from all of the past money mistakes you’ve made. But the lessons don’t stop there. Your 30s will bring a host of new money challenges and reality checks when it comes to your finances.

Read: 17 Biggest Budgeting Mistakes You’re Making

Click through to see the top money lessons you’ll learn in your 30s, from investing to saving for retirement.

Last updated: Feb. 12, 2021

emergency fund
emergency fund

1. You Really Do Need an Emergency Fund

Sometimes, it seems that the older you become, the more expensive your problems are. While creating an emergency fund with $1,000 is a great start, now that you are in your 30s, you shouldn’t stop there. Plan for the worst-case scenarios, like a job loss or unexpected medical expenses, and put more money into your emergency fund.

job application
job application

2. You Should Keep Applying For Jobs

According to Business Insider, you should be interviewing two to three times a year — even if you love your current position. This allows you to stay on top of what is available in your career field, as well as how much you are worth. If you end up being offered a higher-paying position, you can always take that offer to your current company to see if it will match the salary.

Find Your Next Job: 25 Surprising Jobs With the Best Career Opportunities

Young smiling black businesswoman at the wall with stickers communicating with her colleagues.
Young smiling black businesswoman at the wall with stickers communicating with her colleagues.

3. It’s Okay To Take a Career Risk

Once you get into your 40s and 50s, changing your career or going back to school comes with a lot more risks that you might not be able to bounce back from. Your 30s are the prime time to take those career risks so you can achieve your professional goals or boost your resume.

pay raise
pay raise

4. The Bigger Salary Will Come

You spent your 20s going to school and developing skills in your career field. Your 30s are the time when you should expect to make more money.

According to Payscale, both men and women experience a nearly 60 percent wage growth at the age of 30. If you don’t revamp your budget to match your new salary, however, you will likely spend it frivolously. Increase the amount of money you save, and invest when your salary increases.

invest in yourself
invest in yourself

5. It’s Important To Invest In Yourself

In his book, “The 21 Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires,” success expert Brian Tracy said, “Here is a rule that will guarantee your success — and possibly make you rich: Invest 3% of your income back into yourself.” Tracy wrote that if you continually invest in advancing your career, skills, knowledge and more, then you will “virtually guarantee your success.”

insurance coverage
insurance coverage

6. Insurance Coverage Is Really Important

Getting the most affordable insurance available when you are 20-something is not unusual. But as your assets grow, you want your insurance coverage to actually protect your finances, car and estate in case anything happens.

So, say goodbye to the days of paying for minimum insurance just because it was mandatory, and research which insurance coverage options you need. Insurance is expensive, but it is worth the price, especially when the unexpected occurs.

saving for retirement
saving for retirement

7. Retirement Is a Reality — and So Is the Need To Save

It’s hard to focus on retirement savings in your 20s when there are so many other expenses to worry about. Now that you’re in your 30s, however, it’s time to increase the percentage of your income that’s set aside for your retirement accounts. Start by putting 3% of your income into retirement savings, and work your way up to 15%.

Save Up: Americans’ Savings Drop to Lowest Point in Years

when to buy a home
when to buy a home

8. You Probably Want To Own a Home

Are you still dealing with a landlord? Owning a home can be less stressful and more affordable. You will also have the chance to build home equity and cash in on tax advantages.

If you plan on working and living in your current area for several years, start saving up for a down payment on a mortgage and researching what kind of home loans you qualify for.

cash vs. credit
cash vs. credit

9. Cash Can Take You Further Than Credit

In your 20s, you might have been made to believe that you could afford anything — as long as you had the right credit card. Now is the time to realize that cash still has great negotiating value.

Some companies would rather get paid right away than deal with the fees and hassles of credit cards. So the next time you are shopping for furniture, a car or another big purchase, ask what type of discounts are available when you pay in cash.

get out of debt
get out of debt

10. Being In Debt Is Dangerous

Many financial resources will say that your total debt — not including your mortgage — should not exceed 20% of your take-home pay. However, your amount of debt could still be too much for you due to other budgeting factors.

Kiplinger reports that if you rely heavily on overtime or side income, or can’t seem to save even small amounts of money, you might have too much debt for your personal budget. While 20% is the common rule, you should aim to have as little debt as possible.

Learn More: 30 Ways To Dig Yourself Out of Debt

talk about money with partner
talk about money with partner

11. You Have To Talk About Money With Your Partner

Whether you are tying the knot or have been married for several years, get on the same page financially. There is nothing embarrassing about getting marital counseling for financial issues. And knowing your partner’s financial personality and coming to an agreement on your budget is one way to strengthen your marriage and bank account.

You don’t want to let small financial problems or blunders cause irreparable marital or financial damage later down the road.

make a will
make a will

12. You Need a Will

You might feel like you have plenty of time left on Earth, but there is no guarantee. Meet with a lawyer and create a will so that your assets and loved ones will be financially safe and secure. Also, make sure to update your will occasionally or when a major life event happens.

do I need life insurance
do I need life insurance

13. You Need Life Insurance, Too

Thinking about mortality is kind of depressing, but if you have anyone who depends on your income, then you need to plan for what will happen if you pass away. Life insurance is usually offered through your employment benefits and costs very little per paycheck.

Find Out: Biden Wants to Shut Down Credit Bureaus – What Would That Mean for You?

invest in stock market
invest in stock market

14. Investing In the Stock Market Can Lead to Great Returns.

Once you have your emergency fund and retirement savings settled, you can start growing your investments. Invest a majority in mutual funds and stocks, and take advantage of discounted pricing on your company’s stock — just don’t invest too heavily in your company. Instead, diversify your investments to include paid and free stocks from large, midsize and small companies.

day traders
day traders

15. But You’re Not a Day Trader

You might be encouraged to take more investment risks when you are in your 30s since you will have time to bounce back. Know that it’s wiser to invest for the long term instead of investing in businesses or stocks that promise to help you get rich quickly.

saving for kids college
saving for kids college

16. Someone Has To Pay for Your Kids To Go to College.

Your children might not even be old enough to talk yet, but starting their college savings funds now is essential. Setting aside money while your children are young could result in that money earning interest for more than a decade.

Too many college students are relying on large student loans to get through school, and this puts them at a huge financial disadvantage when they graduate. Do you child — or future child — a favor, and start saving now.

Find Out: Do You Make Enough to Put Your Kid Through College?

set a good example
set a good example

17. It’s Important To Set a Good Example

Not only can you start saving for your child’s college expenses, but you can also teach him or her how to be financially wise. Your children can learn how to manage their money just by watching how you manage yours — both the good and bad habits. Make it a goal to teach them the good ones, like how to budget, save and plan. There are just a few things today’s kids really need to know about money.

learn about finances
learn about finances

18. You Have the Power To Control Your Financial Knowledge

There are a lot of personal finance gurus out there with their own sets of finance tips and rules. Take control of your finances by increasing your knowledge of investments, savings and retirement. The more you know, the better you will be able to make wise financial decisions.

how to budget
how to budget

19. Frivolous Expenses Aren’t Worth the Long-Term Cost

Your paycheck might be bigger now that you’re in your 30s, but that doesn’t mean you should be rewarding yourself with unnecessary luxuries. Who cares if your friends or neighbors have nicer houses or cars? They might also have a higher level of debt. Live within your financial means, or pay for it when you are close to retirement.

how to splurge
how to splurge

20. You’re Never Too Old To Treat Yourself

It might seem like you have a lot of financial responsibilities on your shoulders at this age. While you do have to think about retirement, investments, mortgage payments and the cost of children, you should also allow room for fun in your budget. After all, you don’t want to spend your 30s working hard and making money, only to enter your 40s exhausted and drained.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Life-Changing Money Lessons You Learn in Your 30s