Money

You should have the equivalent of your salary saved by 30—here’s how to get there

According to experts, a good rule of thumb is to have the equivalent of your annual salary in savings by age 30. That means, if you earn $50,000 a year, you could aim to have $50,000 in savings by the time you hit 30.

That amount includes any retirement account contributions, matching funds from your company, cash savings or money you have invested elsewhere, in index funds or robo-advisors.

"While this can sound super daunting today, if you're putting that money to work starting in your 20s, it's not as difficult as it sounds," says Kimmie Greene, money expert at Intuit and spokeswoman for Mint.com.

Here are six strategies to start in your 20s that will help you reach that goal by 30.

Automate everything

If you automate your savings — meaning, you have a portion of your paycheck or money from your checking account sent directly to a retirement account, investment account or any other savings account — you'll never even see the money you're setting aside and will learn to live without it.

As self-made millionaire David Bach writes in "The Automatic Millionaire," automating your finances is "the one step that virtually guarantees that you won't fail financially. … You'll never be tempted to skimp on savings because you won't even see the money going directly from your paycheck to your savings accounts."

Focus on cutting the 'big three expenses'

The majority of your paycheck likely goes to housing, transportation and food. Keeping those costs as low as possible can help you save big.

It worked for early retirees Justin and Kaisorn McCurry, who saved up to 70 percent of their income by cutting back on the "big three."

They stayed in the starter home they bought out of grad school, and they paid off their mortgage in 2015. On a monthly basis, they only cover utilities and maintenance.

In terms of transportation, "we kept the cars that we bought brand new in college for 16 years and just replaced them last year," McCurry tells CNBC Make It. And they keep their monthly grocery bill under $500 for a family of five.

Take full advantage of your company 401(k) match

If your company offers a 401(k) plan and a match program, contribute at least enough to get the full match. It's essentially free money.

The way it works is, your company will match whatever contribution you put toward your 401(k) up to a certain amount. For example, if you choose to put 4 percent of your salary into your account, your employer will put that same amount in as well, in effect doubling your contribution.

Even better, automate the process, so that your contributions are sent directly from your paycheck to your 401(k) account.

Bank any surplus money

Whenever you come across any extra cash — a bonus, birthday check or small windfall — rather than blowing it on a new pair of shoes or vacation, send at least a chunk of it straight to savings.

To resist the temptation to spend any surplus money, deposit it right away, so you never even see it.

Avoid the comparison trap

Just because your friends or neighbors bought the latest iPhone or took an all-inclusive trip to the Caribbean doesn't mean you have to do the same.

Rather than trying to keep up with the Joneses, figure out what really makes you happy and only spend what you need to. Don't waste money on things that aren't important to you.

Generate two sources of income and save the bigger one

If you want to save more, a simple solution is to earn more, which could mean picking up a part-time job or starting a side hustle.

Start by thinking about how you can generate more money. Then employ a popular strategy used by self-made millionaires and early retirees: Save the larger form of income and spend the smaller one.

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