I’m 30! Am I where I should be with my finances?
“I can't believe I'm going to be 30!” I told my Dad at the beginning of the year. As I had said the same thing when I turned 20, I knew he would reassure me that 30 actually wasn't that old.
“Nope, 30's old,” he said.
Getting older doesn't bother me; I actually embrace it and all the experiences that come along with it.
That's also something I say just to make myself feel better.
But it's working. And as I enter into a new decade of adulthood, I've been thinking about my financial situation. How much savings should I have at 30? Financially speaking, am I where a 30-year-old should be? What financial goals should I have at this age?
Let's find out.
How's My Retirement Plan Going?
Ah, the age-old financial question — how much should you save for retirement? It's been covered pretty extensively, and ultimately, it's about what works for you, as there are so many variables to consider. Especially with my fluctuating income, it's hard to set standards based on how much I earn. For now, I am saving based on last year's income, even though this year's might not be as high. I'd rather err on the side of saving too much, unless the difference becomes drastic.
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But I should be saving even more for my retirement for two big reasons: 1) As I mentioned, my income may vary, so I should save a lot while I can. 2) I don't have an employer to match any of my contributions.
But before I decide how much more, how much savings should I have at 30?
Fidelity says you should have a year's salary saved in retirement by age 35. By age 45, you should have three times your income. Judging by that, I should probably have about half of my annual income saved today.
Our friends at Financial Samurai have this to say about where you should be with your retirement savings in your 30s:
“Whatever the case may be, by the time you are 31, you need to have at least one year's worth of living expenses covered.”
Going by Financial Samurai's standard, I'm good. My living expenses are relatively low, so I've already reached that milestone. But by Fidelity's standard — half a year's salary — I'm almost, but not quite, there.
If I put in about $200 extra a month, I should have roughly half a year's salary in my retirement by the end of the year. I need to increase my contributions, but I'm already maxing out my IRA. And I hate to admit it, but, based on last year's income, I'm not even hitting the old 10 percent standard.
And here I thought I was doing well.
To my credit, however, last year was a good year income-wise. I may be over-estimating my savings, as this year I might not earn the same amount. But again, I'd rather save too much than too little.
It's due time to consider additional retirement options; I should probably already have opened a self-employed 401(k). Thus, Financial resolution #1: Save additionally for my retirement and open a new account.
Where Should I Keep My Medium-Term Savings?
As my 30th birthday approaches, I also happen to be at a fork with my emergency fund. I have more than six months' worth of living expenses saved and still have enough to pay taxes at the end of the year, since I'm self-employed.
But as I get older, there are certain milestones I should start saving up for. A house? Children? Another cat? Who knows! I'm still not quite sure if I want any of those things within the next five years. But I'll probably make a decision within that time frame, and I'd like to be financially prepared either way. Now is the time to start saving for whatever the near future may hold.
My 20s were spent getting out of debt and building an emergency fund. I feel like 30 is an age at which I need to start being proactive with how I'm saving. As J.D. once wrote:
“If you hide your money under a rock, your investing skill isn't particularly good. Although you might think you're protecting what you've saved, you're actually losing money to inflation.”
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So I've been investing in my investment education. I've diversified my IRA, and my ROI is pretty average. As a novice, I'm OK with average for now. But while I continue my investment education and also decide what it is I want to save for, I plan on doing a couple of things.
Between three and five years is the time frame that I think I might need this money — maybe longer. While I'd like to open an index fund, I'm a little concerned about the risk, especially if I end up wanting the money in the semi-short term. Opening a CD is an appealing option, but the rates aren't that much better than my savings account.
I can open one or the other, or I can split my savings between both. It's a decision that I'm in the process of making, and I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, the point is, at 30, it's about time to start saving smartly. Financial resolution #2: Decide where I want to park my medium-term savings.
Preparing for and Safeguarding the Future
It's time to make a risk-management checklist. Oh, that's right. Robert Brokamp already did this for me! He's great like that.
It's time to visit some items on this list. That's my third financial resolution: Prepare for and safeguard the future.
I won't rehash Brokamp's entire list. Some items won't apply to me for a while; some I've already got covered. But there are a few things that I'll need to work on as the future nears.
While I already have renter's and auto insurance, taking an inventory of possessions is a great idea, and umbrella insurance is something to consider, too, although I don't have that many assets.
“Your personal tragedy will be less tragic if you can prove to the insurance company what you owned,” Brokamp writes.
Indeed. Years ago, I worked at a small engineering company. Our building caught on fire one morning and burned to the ground. I spent the next six months interviewing everyone at the company and taking an inventory of every single asset. Amid so many other frustrations, my boss told me that we'd likely have to prove much of what we were claiming.
Thus, part of my third resolution is to follow Brokamp's advice by taking an inventory of my possessions and looking into risk-management checkpoints for the near future.
Preparing a Will
I hate to admit it, but this is something I haven't thought about much, despite its importance. Preparing a will, along with other important documents Brokamp mentions, is another financial goal as I turn 30.
I got out of debt and saved some money in my 20s, and maybe that deserved a pat on the back. But as I enter the next decade, it's time to enter the next era of my finances. I've only listed a few major financial resolutions here, but some of them already seem challenging, and there are probably more I'll discover along the way.
On the bright side, not only will my finances be in better shape, but some of these goals might make for decent GRS topics. Personally, I'm interested to learn more about self-employed 401(k)s and where to put my medium-term savings.
Are there topics you'd like to see fleshed out? Do you have any additional input on what a 30-year-old's financial goals should be?
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