How Much Should You Save in Your 30s?

Wondering how much you should save in your 30s, or what you should be saving for? Then read this!This is an ongoing series about saving during different stages of your life:

Read about saving in your 40s

Read about saving in your 50s

Your 30s are an exciting time. It’s often a turning point for many people as they start to build stable careers, get married, have children, and buy a home.

Your 20s probably looked a little different if you were busy paying off debt, experimenting with your budget, job hunting, and moving from place to place.

As a result, you might feel a little lost when it comes to how much you should save in your 30s, or what you should be saving for.

While you might not feel like you’re old enough to think about retirement, you should’ve at least given some thought to your budget and making sure you have cash on reserve in case of emergencies.

With big ticket items such as a wedding and house on your financial goals list, savings definitely becomes more important in your 30s.

If you aren’t sure if your savings is up to par in your 30s, consider the following advice.

Retirement Savings in Your 30s

It may be many years away, but it’s important to think about retirement when you’re younger so you can take advantage of the market. Time is on your side at this point in your life.

In order to grow your wealth, it’s important to sack away whatever money you can when you’re young, even if you face debt or have to pay off student loans.

Plus, the principle of compounding interest shows that the earlier you save for retirement, the better. With compounding interest, the interest you earn on your investments also accrues interest over time, so your wealth grows even faster.

A variety of vehicles exist that you can use in order to build your retirement savings. If your employer offers a retirement plan, such as a 401(k), it’s advantageous to enroll, even at a young age. If the retirement plan offers a matching program, your employer will also add to your fund, which is even better. It’s free money for you, so why not take part?

However, make sure to read the terms of the plan. There may be a vesting period where you need to be at the company a certain amount of time for the contribution from your employer to be 100% yours.

For example, if a company has a tiered system where you receive 20% vesting if you have been at the company for under 3 years, and you decide to leave before the 3 years is up, only 20% of what the employer has contributed to your plan will roll over to a new one.

Unfortunately, pensions and retirement plans are increasingly becoming less common at companies, and the self-employed can’t take advantage of the matching contributions an employer would provide.

If you find yourself in a predicament where your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan, you can fund your own with a Roth or Traditional IRA. It’s important to know the difference between a Roth and Traditional IRA so you can weigh the pros and cons, determine if your income plays a role in which would be better to invest in, and the affect each has on your taxes.

There are many options available, but the real question remains: what should you have saved for retirement when you’re in your 30s?

Obviously, you still need to have enough after taxes to live on, but the general rule financial planners recommend you save for retirement is 10% or 15% of your income. For many people, this either may not be possible, or other concerns, like paying off debt, may be of more importance.

However, every little bit you can save towards retirement counts, and if you’re in a position where 10% to 15% of your income can easily go towards retirement, do what you can to get there.

Emergency Savings in Your 30s

Along with retirement savings, it’s important to think about what money you have on hand in case of emergencies. Building an emergency fund in your 30s provides you with a cushion for inevitable bumps in the road, such as car repairs or medical bills, which might otherwise put you in a financial crisis.

The most accessible savings accounts aren’t necessarily the best when it comes to emergency funds, though. The challenge with these accounts is temptation: you might be tempted to withdraw your savings, since you see the amount saved when you look at your bank account.

A solution to the tempting savings account is to have a savings account at a separate bank (if your checking and savings are at the same institution). That way, you can still access the funds when you need them, but you don’t have to look at the balance regularly.

You might also consider an online bank where you can set up automatic deposits. Depending on which option you prefer, you may have more success finding a savings account with higher interest rates, but it might also be more difficult to pull the funds. For example, opening a certificate of deposit (CD), which is often a higher interest savings account, may mean you pay a penalty if you withdraw early based on the terms of the account.

In your 30s, it’s important to have a cash reserve that can cover, at minimum, 3 to 6 months’ worth of your income. This amount is helpful in case of a job loss or a major crisis which might require a large sum of money. Keeping this amount on hand will help you avoid debt in the long run as well, because you can avoid taking out loans when the inevitable emergency happens.

Long-Term Savings in Your 30s

If you’re saving up enough for retirement, and have a good amount saved in case of emergencies, it’s time to consider long-term savings. The amount saved for long-term needs is different for everyone, but the vehicles used to save might look the same.

Some options available for long-term savings may include investment accounts, such as mutual funds, stocks, and bonds; traditional savings vehicles like savings accounts and CDs; and non-traditional savings plans, such as health savings accounts, or rental properties.

How much should you have in your long-term savings? That depends on your strategy. The money in this fund can be seen as “extra” and might be used for other goals you have, such as vacations, large purchases, or down payments for cars or vehicles.

Many financial experts agree that having more than one savings account is a good idea because they can help you plan your goals, prioritize what’s most important to you, and offset fees.

How to Get Your Savings on Track in Your 30s

Do you feel discouraged that your savings isn’t matching up to your age? There’s still plenty of time to make changes to your savings strategy and feel at ease in the future with your finances.

Use some of these tips to ramp up your savings and get on track with the amount you should have saved while in your 30s.

Retirement

  • Increase Your 401(k)/IRA Contributions: If you haven’t looked at the amount you’ve been contributing to your retirement fund since your 20s, it’s best to adjust your contribution now. As you receive raises and bonuses in your 30s, you may also want to increase your contribution or make a larger, one-time contribution in order to put more towards your retirement. If you are self-employed, increase your contributions as your income increases to avoid any shortfalls with your retirement in the future.
  • Diversify Funds: If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at your retirement savings options, you might want to look into moving your money into different types of savings accounts that you can also use for retirement. If you haven’t looked into CDs or mutual funds, it might be a good time to think of these options. Health savings accounts can also be a good way to build up a savings account, but you might incur penalties if you decide to withdraw the money for non-medical expenses before you retire.
  • Invest Aggressively: When is the last time you looked at your retirement fund closely? Do you know if it’s conservative, balanced, or aggressive? If you have too much of your money in bonds or lower-returning stocks or mutual funds, consider investing in more aggressive funds. Since you still have time on your side, an aggressive investment plan is advantageous as opposed to investing conservatively. You can afford to take the risks, so why not do so with some of your savings and see it grow?

Emergency Savings and Long-Term Savings

  • Set up Automatic Deposits: If you have trouble building your emergency savings, or can’t seem to focus on your long-term savings plans, just set it and forget it! Enrolling in automatic deposit helps you when you forget to manually move money from checking to savings. It also keeps you accountable to your budget and your plans for building up a slush fund.
  • Focus on Paying off Debt: Worried the money you’re putting toward an emergency fund or extra savings could have a better use? Instead of focusing on putting 3 or 6 months’ worth of income in savings, save just one month’s worth of income and use the rest of your money towards debt. Not only will this help you down the road when you begin to build your emergency savings, but you’ll make progress on improving your credit score, you’ll relieve stress from owing fewer lenders, and you’ll feel more comfortable when you return to ramping up your emergency savings.

It might seem daunting to make plans for saving in your 30s, but it’s important to start now and set yourself up for financial success. Creating an emergency savings fund and planning long-term goals is important to begin to build healthy financial habits that will last not only throughout your 30s, but beyond them.