When you turn 30 years old, you begin to notice a few things.
Heartburn and indigestion become a frequent annoyance. Carrying Tums or other poppable antacids replaces carrying gum and they sit adjacent to the lip balm and eye drops in your pocket or purse.
30 is when you’ll begin to assume the bouncers at bars and clubs must no longer check IDs because everyone inside looks under age.
At 30, canceled plans are an aphrodisiac.
30 is also when you can no longer chalk poor decision-making to being young. Your mistakes typically have a resounding impact and it becomes harder to recover from missteps. Like rapper Drake’s continued missteps with strippers, top athletes and chart-topping female songstresses, poor financial planning begins to accumulate and present long-term challenges if you don’t get on it now.
Here are 8 money mistakes to avoid through your 30s:
1. Kill the “birthday dinner” phenomenon
FYI, I’m standing on a soapbox as I write this. Ladies. Would you please stop hosting birthday dinners at expensive restaurants? At 30, we are well acquainted with the Russian roulette game that is attending expensive birthday dinners with other people’s close friends, who may or may not be cool with splitting the check evenly. If it’s your birthday, make it a happy hour where everyone can control their costs. If you’ve been invited, it’s okay to decline the invite or just “stop by” to wish your happy birthday and hit the dollar menu on the way home.
2. Stop swiping on apps, start dating and get married
Listening to Drake’s catalog of music will have you believing getting married is tantamount to putting on a chastity belt for the duration of your sexual lifetime. Fellas. It’s not that bad and probably benefits you more than it will benefit her (or him). Two incomes is better than one. You do the math.
3. Get serious about life
Ever wonder how 50-year-olds look up and wonder how they’re still broke? It’s because they never considered how they could become more serious and intentional about managing their money. Simply making a commitment to getting better can mean all the difference in having some financial wiggle room and being that broke aunty or uncle staying at Nana’s house.
4. Get aggressive with your career
At 30, you should be creeping into the senior spaces of your industry. Meet people. Go for coffee. Network. Take advantage of your role and commit to making on-the-job progress, using raises and new employment opportunities to raise your profile and your income.
5. Automate your monthly expenses and savings
Now more than ever, your 30s is your adult prime. With the greatest potential for jumps in income and a few gray hairs to suggest you know what you’re talking about at work, make sure you’re making monthly financial plans and automating their execution so you don’t have to think about it. Automatic debits, auto bill pays, auto savings, auto investing should all be your best friend at this stage of your career and life.
6. Max out retirement account contributions
You should be taking your 401K and Roth IRA contributions to the max. Traditional and Roth IRAs allow a max contribution of $5,500 a year. 401K limits are much higher depending on the type of 401K you have. (Be sure to check with a tax professional or HR department if you’re not sure how to make the most of your retirement accounts).
7. Get to zero debt
This is an especially difficult challenge for those of us holding a portion of the trillion-dollar student loan debt burdening the Millennial generation. But getting to low or no debt is truly the first step in making sure your money is completely dedicated to you and not the continued success of your debt holders.
8. Determine if home ownership is necessary
We all know home ownership has functioned as the holy grail of adulthood in America. Home ownership is also what caused The Great Recession #SubPrimeLoans. I urge everyone I know to deeply consider whether homeownership truly makes sense. There is no “right” answer on this. Some use homes as a dwelling. Some use them as investments. Whatever you do, recognize the full cost of owning is typically equal to if not more than renting. Check your values. Check what you absolutely need and make a decision for the long-term.