We originally wrote this article for DailyFinance, but it’s a timely topic for us since Johnny will be turning the big 3-0 in just a month. We’d love to hear any thoughts/tips you’d add to our list.
Over the last decade, 30 has officially pronounced itself the new 20. The millennial generation is taking longer to finish schooling, decide on a career and leave mom and dad’s place. The average age of marriage is at an all-time high — 27 for women and 29 for men.
And while some of those delays may be beneficial — the higher age of marriage translates into a lower divorce rate — other delays could have detrimental, long-term financial consequences. Luckily, we have you covered with this list of seven financial musts-dos to make sure you’re prepared for the future.
You’re only in your 20s once, so squeeze every last drop out of them. But don’t let this decade pass you by without getting your financial ducks in a row. And if you’ve already passed the big 3-0, you know what they say: There’s no time like the present.
1. Learn the magic of compounding interest
However responsible you plan to be in your 30s, there’s one thing you simply can’t make up for — time. And when it comes to compounding interest, time is the secret ingredient. Here’s an example: If a 25-year-old saves $3,000 a year for 10 years in a retirement account, the $30,000 investment will grow to $472,000 by age 65. If a 35-year-old saves $3,000 a year for 30 years (a full 20 years longer), the $90,000 investment will only be worth $367,000 at age 65. The moral? Your money’s ability to make money babies increases exponentially if you let compounding interest start doing its thing while you’re still in your 20s.
2. Contribute to a retirement fund
Based on what you just read about compounding interest, it’s a no-brainer that now is the time to start saving for retirement. If your company offers a 401(k) match, there’s free money on the table, ready to be put toward your retirement each and every month. If your company doesn’t offer retirement options or if you haven’t yet settled into your career, another great retirement vehicle is a Roth individual retirement account. You can contribute up to $5,500 a year, and you can take the principal out at anytime with no penalty, if needed. The important thing is to put your money to work now so your 65-year-old self can retire comfortably later.
3. Check your credit report
If you don’t already know where your credit report stands, now is the time to make yourself aware. You can get a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year, and now is the time to make sure there are no mistakes on your report. If your score is lower than you realized or if you discover any inconsistencies or problems, you have a head start on sorting it all out.
4. Have an emergency fund
Saving for a rainy day is essential, even if you’re the luckiest person in town. As your responsibilities increase in your 30s, the possibility for unexpected costs goes up. And as your financial responsibilities increase, it could become more difficult to put away the money you’d need to get by for three to six months (a typical emergency fund amount). Preparing for a rainy day has to be done while the sun’s out, and your 20s is just that time.
5. Pay off student loans
If you’re one of the seven out of 10 college students who graduated with student loan debt, you might be approaching your 30s in the red. Student loans may have a low interest rate, but they cannot be forgiven in bankruptcy. And as you add a spouse, a mortgage and even children to your life, the ability to pay down your student loans may become more difficult or burdensome. If the extra money is there now, pay those loans down.
6. Consider getting life insurance
If, like us, you defied the marriage-age average and said “I do” before you hit 30, life insurance is something worth looking into. When you’re young and healthy, the costs are incredibly low. And should anything happen to you, your spouse will be grateful for the sure financial footing going forward. Make sure you get enough to cover any outstanding debt (including mortgages), funeral expenses and enough to help your spouse get back on his or her feet.
7. Contribute to a 529 college savings plan
While the average age of marriage is pushing 30, 44 percent of women have already had a baby by age 25. If you find yourself already in the throes of parenting, the time to start thinking about your baby’s education is now. By saving while he or she is still young, the amount you’ll have to contribute later will be significantly less. How? You guessed it — compounding interest via a 529 college savings plan.
Are you working to check any of these off right now? What else would you add to this list?