3 money moves to make in your 30s to set yourself up for financial success

Apr 1, 2024 1:47 am | News

Your 30s are a decade often marked by big financial steps, from buying your first home to switching jobs to saving for future children.

With more working years under your belt, you’re likely making more money than you did in your 20s — but it can still be confusing to know exactly what you should be doing with it to set yourself up for financial success into your 40s and beyond. 

Here are three smart things to do with your cash as a thirtysomething, according to two certified financial planners.

1. Continue eliminating debt

While paying off debt should also be a focus for those in their 20s, you could be even better positioned in your 30s to focus on tackling outstanding payments, because you’re likely making more money, says Andrew Fincher, a CFP and financial advisor at VLP Financial Advisors. 

“When you’re in your 30s and you have the ability to pay down more, that’s a great time frame to really try to not have that debt extended into your 40s,” he says.

2. Consider opening a 529 account

If you have or plan on having children, your 30s are a good time to think about opening a 529 college savings account to fund their future education — especially given that the average cost of college in the U.S. is over $36,000 per year and growing.

A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings account sponsored and operated by all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Earnings and withdrawals from a 529 are tax-free if they are used for qualified education expenses.

If you open a 529 account when your child is born, you’ll have around 18 years to save and grow your investments, says Fincher. Doing so will make it less likely that your kid will have to worry about student debt when they’re older.

State tax deductions for 529 contributions also make these college savings plans appealing, though every state is different. Maximum contribution limits also vary by state, ranging from $235,000 to $529,000, according to NerdWallet.

3. Boost your retirement savings

Your 30s are a great time to make sure your retirement savings are on track, and to potentially boost them.

If your employer offers a 401(k) match, where it contributes money to the 401(k) based on how much you put in, make sure you’re maximizing it.

“Look at trying to improve [your company retirement plan],” says says Joe Conroy, CFP and author of “Decades & Decisions: Financial Planning At Any Age.”

“Maybe save 1% more every year for a couple of years to pump up your savings and get it to a better rate,” Conroy adds.

If you didn’t put a retirement plan in place in your 20s, it’s crucial to make up for lost time in your 30s. If your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k) or similar type of plan, you can open an individual retirement account on your own.

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