While there are a lot of things you can do with your money, the right move at the wrong time is still the wrong move. In this piece, I unpack the key things you should be focused on in your thirties to be smart with your money.
Build your saving muscle
Your 30s is a decade where getting good at saving is more than half the battle. If you’re like most people, in your 20s you probably either weren’t earning enough or weren’t focused enough to save lots of money.
In your 30s that needs to change.
You should be hitting a point in your career that you’re earning a solid income, but it’s so easy to end up earning more but not having much extra savings to show for it. Don’t let this happen to you.
Take the time to lay out the money you have coming in and what’s going out, and make sure you’re happy with what you have leftover. This will require you to critically think about what spending is the highest priority, and which can be de-prioritised so you can save more.
Once you have a savings plan you’re happy with, you need to build your savings system. I’m a big fan of having multiple bank accounts for your different buckets of money, where you can automate your saving success and get yourself out of the way.
Being good at saving in your 30s has two other big benefits.
First, you’ll know exactly how much money you have available to invest – something that goes a long way to making good investment choices. And secondly, getting good at saving in your 30s is a habit that will benefit you in your 40s and beyond.
Build your investing foundation
The biggest benefit you get from any investment is in the last year you own it, which means that the sooner you get started the more you’ll have at the end.
But for most people the fear of making a mistake leads them to delay getting started investing.
If you take the opportunity you have to build a solid foundation of investments in your 30s, you’ll create the platform for serious success in future years.
To overcome the fear of making a mistake, educate yourself about the risks that come with investing. Some risks won’t be for you and that’s totally OK. But for others, once you understand how you can manage and reduce risk, you’ll feel comfortable to get cracking.
I’ve spoken to a lot of people about their money, ranging in positions from really good to not so good. You might be surprised to hear that the factor that makes the biggest difference between those that are successful and those that aren’t isn’t their income.
The people that are the most successful with their money are the ones that put themselves in a position to take action sooner.
And with property being one of the biggest drivers of wealth, I’ll go a step further to say that the most successful people are the ones that get into the property market soonest – with one caveat I’ll unpack here.
I totally understand that over the last couple of decades property has gone ballistic in Australia, and many younger people feel they’re priced out of the property market. And is true for some areas, but buying property is absolutely achievable for most people in their 30s, it’s often just a matter of which levers we pull to get there.
Buying your dream home is something that’s extremely appealing, but for most people in their 30s it’s pretty unrealistic. When you spend big on your own home, large mortgage payments can cripple your cashflow and you can end up without much money leftover to direct to your real wealth building outside your home.
Buying an investment property costs a fraction of the price of buying a property as your own home. It also opens up the ability for you to buy a property in a location you don’t want to live in, so you can buy at a price point that fits with your financial position.
When you buy a property, especially your first property, it’s critical you choose a good one.
There are a lot of different ways to be right when it comes to property, but my view is to buy a property where there’s strong demand and limited supply. Avoid big high-rise apartment blocks, and choose an area with low rental vacancies to reduce cashflow risk.
Get on the front foot with property in your 30s and the decades to come will be much easier.
Your retirement savings shouldn’t need a lot of work or attention in your 30s, but a little bit of effort and focus will go a long way. At this point, you should have your retirement consolidated, and the bulk of your super money in good quality investments.
You’ll want to make sure your retirement fund is good value for money, the lowest fee option isn’t necessarily best, but you don’t want to pay more than you need to.
Your 30s is a good time to start making small additional contributions to your retirement through salary sacrifice, which can seriously accelerate how quickly your super grows.
The money will come out of your pre-tax income which means you feel these contributions less, and if you increase your contributions when you get a pay increase you can do it in a way your take-home pay never goes backward.
What you do with your money in your 30s will dictate the possibilities for you in future years, so making some smart moves here will go a long way. To avoid having to play catch up later on, put some time aside to focus on your money and take action.
As you progress, check in on your successes and celebrate them – too often we’re focused only on what we haven’t done or what’s next. Measuring backwards will highlight your wins and keep you motivated to put in the work.
Also, take the time to learn from any missteps – mistakes are natural (and unavoidable). The important part is that you’re learning, and know what to avoid next time.