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Turning 30? See this personal finance checklist

April 28, 2016

By Richard Barrington | MoneyRates.com Senior Financial Analyst, CFA

Age milestones like age 30 tend to make a person stop and appreciate the changes in their lives. The past decade may have seen you go from student to established worker. Your lifestyle may have gotten a little tamer, and your waistline a little less youthful. Still, there are some compensations that come with getting older, and an improved financial situation might be one of them.

Turning the age odometer onto a new decade is a good cue to take stock of whether your finances have kept up with changes in your life.

Personal finance checklist when you reach 30

Here is a personal finance checklist you should look at as you turn 30:

Save for retirement

Somewhere along the line, you have probably heard the advice about how important it is to start saving for retirement. Unfortunately, most young people ignore that advice. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 60 percent of workers aged 25 to 34 have less than $10,000 in savings and investments. In other words, they have not yet really begun to save. That's a little more understandable when you are in your 20s - paychecks are tighter, and retirement seems a long way off. As you enter your 30s though, both your paychecks and the urgency to save should prompt you to get serious about retirement saving.

Look into long-term investments

The first step towards building savings for many people is to start accumulating money in a savings account. This is partly because a savings account is readily available in an emergency, and partly because it does not require much thought. However, once you've set aside enough of a reserve to cope with emergencies, it is time to shift to investments like stocks and long-term bonds that will provide you with more growth for the future.

Check credit score

When you first graduated college, you probably had little or no credit history. By age 30, you have probably accumulated one - for better or worse. This is a good time to check your credit report to see your score.

Fix credit report errors

After reviewing your score, determine if there are any errors and whether you might need to work on your finances to improve your credit standing. A better credit score will increase your access to credit and lower the cost of it in the future.

Make/revise a budget

Make a budget and include all your monthly expenses, including ones related to loan repayment, in order to keep track of your finances. If you already have a budget, continue to revise it as your income or household expenses change.

Build an emergency savings account

Emergencies like your car breaking down may come up before you know it. Be prepared by growing an emergency savings account to use for sudden expenses.

Revisit your student loan status

If you have been chipping away at your student loan for a few years, check how its interest rate compares with other rates at present. If it still represents a relatively low-cost loan, you may want to keep on schedule to pay it down gradually. However, if your student loan rate seems high relative interest rates now, you may want to look into paying it off faster, either by borrowing from lower-cost sources or by dipping into savings. 

Search for lower credit card interest rates

It can be tough to get a credit card when you are young, so you may have had to settle for a high interest rate, which may have resulted in debt accumulation. If you've built up a good credit record since then, you may qualify for a lower rate. See if your current credit card company will give you a lower rate, and shop around to see if there are cheaper alternatives out there. If lower interest rates, you could use that money to build an emergency savings account or pay down other debt, like student loans, faster.

Evaluate whether you need life insurance

If you are a bread-winner with a spouse and/or kids, this is a no-brainer - you need life insurance. Less obviously, if your parents are counting on you for financial support in their later years, you may want to get some insurance to protect them should something happen to you.

Explore potential career moves

With several years in the workplace you may have acquired some valuable skills, yet often employees who start their careers with a company can remain undervalued by that company relative to people from the outside. Age 30 is a good time to try to get on a faster-earning track if that is your desire.

Consider whether to rent or own a home

This is both a financial and a lifestyle question. By age 30, you should know enough about both situations to seriously consider this decision.

Don't expect to have it made financially by the time you turn 30. For many people, their 20s is a time of struggling to make a living and coming to grips with financial decisions for the first time. By 30 though, while you may not have completely arrived, you should at least have a better feel for what path you are on. That makes it a good time to see if you have the right financial tools for the journey.

Print the personal finance: age 30 checklist

Use the printable checklist below to see how well you've done on your financial journey. 

Personal Finance Checklist for Age 30

Comment: Did you reach these financial milestones by the time you were 30? What's your score?

More from MoneyRates.com:

Study: Saving before 30 greatly improves outlook for early retirement

Over 40 with no retirement savings? Take these 6 steps

Dos and don’ts for young workers planning an early retirement

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