Emerging from your 20s, you might find yourself with a new perspective on your financial future. Perhaps you’ve settled down with your partner, gotten married, purchased your first piece of property and launched into the career that you’ve been pursuing, or any combination of these milestones. You may even have children in your life who rely on you to provide for them. Top all of that with college loan repayment and your 30s may be the first time in your life when much of your earned income plays a role in maintaining your lifestyle and your many responsibilities.
With all of these expenses on your plate, it can be easy to toss retirement planning to the side. But saving for retirement in your 30s and living your busy life to the fullest do not need to be mutually exclusive. There are simple strategies to help you balance everything going on in your life and preparing for the decades that lie ahead.
Start a savings plan. Forget about dramatic, end-of-list reveals – we’re putting this Big Kahuna right on top. If you have not already created a savings plan, your 30s is the time to do it. While it’s never too late (or too early) to start saving, the longer that you wait the harder it will be to create good savings habits. Like getting-a-toddler-to-stick-to-their-bedtime harder.
The easiest place to start is to map out what you owe. Even if you already have automatic payments and transfers set up (look at you, skipping ahead to Tip #3), you’ll still want to evaluate how much money is going toward your expenses every month. You may find that you have more room to save than you thought, or you may discover some opportunities to cut back. Once you’ve done this, you can follow the next 5 steps of Starting a Savings Plan.
Increase your 401k contribution. Last year, we posed the question of whether 2019 would be the right time to increase your 401k contribution (spoiler alert: the answer was yes). You won’t be surprised to hear that the same thing goes for 2020. And if your employer allows for multiple or even year-round adjustments, practically any time is the right time to increase to your 401k contribution. This is one of the simplest and most hands-off ways of saving for retirement in your 30s.
Aside from the tax advantages of contributing to a 401k, setting money aside before you have the chance to miss it is a surefire way to get you to your savings goals. Which brings us to Tip #3.
Set up automatic transfers to savings. At one time or another, you have probably felt the pangs of panic that come from discovering an unpaid bill lurking at the bottom of your kitchen drawer or the mild rage upon discovering those unused cans of paint you forgot to return for a refund (even though you knew lilac was never going to work in that room).
These heart-in-your-throat reactions can help you avoid making the same mistakes in the future. But when was the last time you broke out in a sweat because you forgot to save money, especially without a specific goal in mind? Missing a month of saving may not feel like an earth-shattering loss, but after a few months of missing those manual transfers from checking, your savings plan could go off the rails.
Prevent forgotten savings by setting up automatic transfers. Just as you automatically pay your mortgage and monthly internet bills, you can set up a hands-free savings routine that’ll put you several steps closer to the retirement of your (distant) future.
Uncover retirement’s best-kept secret. No, it’s not a treasure map with a fortune hidden under the X, though metaphorically, that’s not entirely off base. Retirement’s best-kept secret is the health savings account that you may be eligible for if you’re covered by an employer’s high deductible health insurance plan. An HSA is a triple tax-advantaged savings account, meaning that your contributions go in tax-free, they grow tax-free, and you can make eligible withdrawals, you guessed it, tax-free.
Between copays from regular visits to your doctor and related purchases like eyeglasses, you’ll likely find plenty of small uses for the funds in your HSA in your 30s. Hopefully, the coming decades bring you good health and your HSA contributions can continue to grow. If there does come a time when funds are needed for health costs, your HSA will be there to help you cover expenses, even well after retirement.
Consider opening an IRA. Like an HSA, an individual retirement account, or IRA, is a tax-advantaged savings account. How taxes affect your contributions and withdrawals differ between traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs (more on those differences here) but both accounts are geared toward building your retirement savings.
Last year, the IRS announced the first increase to maximum IRA contributions in 5 years, which got a lot of people talking about this often overlooked retirement savings tool. While the hype has quieted down a bit, an IRA is still an excellent vehicle for saving for retirement in your 30s. You can contribute to it on a regular basis or when your budget allows, but simply opening an IRA before the end of the year is a great way to set yourself up for positive savings habits.
Depending on where you are in your 30s, you may have double your lifespan standing between you and retirement. But it’s never too early (or too late) to start planning for your future, even if you don’t have a clear picture of what it will look like yet. Saving for retirement in your 30s can also give you the peace of mind to pursue opportunities in your career and personal life, knowing you have a savings plan in place for the future. Before year’s end, make sure you’re saving for retirement in your 30s, no matter what comes your way.