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8 Crucial Financial Moves To Make In Your 30’s

8 Crucial Financial Moves To Make In Your 30’s

Your 20’s were fun, maybe too fun.  Now that the dust has settled and you’re part of the real world, here are eight crucial financial moves you must make this decade:

1.  Invest in Yourself

This is the time to separate from the pack.  Spend some of that hard earned money wisely to gain the advanced education, industry certification or specialized job skills necessary to make yourself more qualified, more marketable and ultimately indispensible.

Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce 2011 study found workers with Graduate Degrees make as much as $35,000 more in the same field as their counterparts with only Bachelor’s Degrees (http://cew.georgetown.edu/whatsitworth).

Just because that diploma hangs on your office wall doesn’t mean you’re done learning.  Do what your colleagues won’t do and spend the extra money and time to collect more arrows in your quiver.

2.  Establish an Emergency Fund

Human nature seeks immediate gratification.  True financial security and success comes from training yourself to delay that gratification until a future date.  Having an emergency account for those unexpected expenses keeps you from borrowing and gives you invaluable peace of mind.

This can be a daunting task so start your emergency fund with small amounts at a time.  Make your morning coffee at home four days a week and splurge only on Friday.  Nix all those cable channels you never watch.  Skip the lunches out every day and bring food from home.

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Now put these savings into a new account labeled “Emergency Savings.”  You’re less likely to pull funds from this account frivolously when you’re constantly reminded that it’s for emergencies only.

3.  Stick to a Budget

It’s not sexy but a little self-control and discipline will make your 40’s and 50’s much more enjoyable.  Add kids, school costs, summer camps, etc. and the cushy lifestyle of your 20’s will be a distant memory.  Prepare for this in advance by understanding where your money goes and what you can do to keep more of it.

Setting a budget is more an exercise in discipline more so than tracking every single penny.  There are tons of budget software programs and expense tracking sites out there.  My personal favorite is Mint (www.mint.com). An old saying that rings true to this day says “First we make our habits, then our habits make us.”

4.  Maximize Retirement Savings

If your workplace offers a matching 401k or similar program, you’re a fool to give up free money.  Take advantage of this gift.

Once you’ve contributed enough to get the match and you have an Emergency Fund established, you should consider diverting more towards your retirement accounts.  In traditional 401k, IRA and similar retirement accounts, your investments grow tax deferred until you take income during retirement.  Ask your investment professional about where your money is being invested and pay attention to fees.  You don’t need to be an expert but you need to take responsibility and understand what’s going on — this is your retirement after all.

There are hundreds of calculators you can test but suffice it to say that waiting until you’re 40 to start these retirement savings will leave you at a terrible disadvantage.  Albert Einstein was spot on when he pegged Compound Interest as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

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5.  Manage Financial Risks

Forget about that fancy car you’re driving, the purse collection and your “priceless” vinyl collection.  Your single most valuable asset is your future earnings potential – your ability to make money.

You insure that car, those records and you’d have a conniption if something happened to your handbag.  So why not protect yourself in the same way?

Review your disability and life insurance protection for the sake of your current or future family.  Often times the coverage offered through employee benefits may not be sufficient.  Take a few minutes to complete a disability or life insurance needs analysis and see for yourself (http://www.lifehappens.org/insurance-overview/life-insurance/calculate-your-needs/).

6.  Take Control of Your Credit Cards

This one is simple.  Not easy, but simple.

Carrying credit card balances forces you to pay high interest rates, which, in turn, creates even higher credit card balances.  Break this vicious cycle and use credit cards only when absolutely necessary.

Don’t misunderstand me.  Credit cards serve a very useful purpose but they should be treated as a tool, not the tool.  I speak from experience in saying it’s easy to swipe the card and not think about the consequences.  Do that enough in your 30’s and you can kiss retirement goodbye.

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7.  Understand Good Debt and Bad Debt

In your 30’s, assume debt with extreme caution.  If you’re like most of us 30 somethings, you still have some cleanup from your 20’s to address — don’t make the problem any worse.

Taking on Debt for a quality home purchase, higher education or similar future-focused asset may be wise.  Borrowing money at high interest rates for a new car, those designer shades or for your dream vacation almost never makes financial sense.  The real danger is that these short-term decisions are often the more fun and offer instant gratification but leave you reeling afterwards (see #7 above).

General Rule:

Good Debt = used as leverage towards improved value long term

Bad Debt = used in lieu of cash savings you don’t have to buy something you can’t afford whose value will never be greater than at the time of purchase

8.  Give Back

This may seem crazy or even impossible given the constraints of your everyday life.  Trust me when I say you’ll get more in return than you can ever imagine by giving to those in need.

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Make a regular donation to your favorite local charity.  Don’t have one?  Use a resource like Charity Navigator (http://www.charitynavigator.org) to find a cause near and dear.

If money is tight, consider volunteering your time or your expertise to and organization in need.  Public Relations?  Graphic Designer?  Appliance Technician?  All charities, nonprofits and organizations for the greater good need these services just like any other business.

Arthur Ashe famously said “From what we get we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.”

 

Everyone lives a different life and should take their own personal circumstances, careers and families into consideration before making any significant financial decisions — in your 30’s or at any other time.  Consider meeting with a financial professional who may be able to help shape good money habits in this crucial decade.

Featured photo credit: Gratisography via gratisography.com

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Published on May 7, 2019

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • Will you spend more time with your family?
  • What does retirement mean to you?
  • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

2. Figure out When to Invest

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

Why?

Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

  1. Vanguard
  2. TD Ameritrade
  3. Charles Schwab

5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

Robo Advisors

Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

Bonds

Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

  1. Treasury bonds
  2. Government bonds
  3. Corporate bonds
  4. Foreign bonds
  5. Mortgage-backed bonds
  6. Municipal bonds

Mutual Funds

Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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Real Estate

Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

Savings Accounts

Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

So how can you master delayed gratification?

By building your discipline.

Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

But, how can you invest yourself?

Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

Retire Happy with Excess Money

The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

Reference

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