Money

The 5 smartest things to do with your money in your 30s

Jake Johnson and Zooey Deschanel as Nick and Jess in "New Girl"
FOX | Getty Images
Jake Johnson and Zooey Deschanel as Nick and Jess in "New Girl"

Everyone's allowed a few mishaps in their 20s but, by the time you're in your 30s, it's helpful to have a solid grasp on your finances. Plus, you're nearing your peak earning years and you want to make sure you're putting your money to work effectively.

To get and stay on track financially, consider these five important money moves to make before you hit 40.

1. Increase your 401(k) contributions

You should already be contributing to your 401(k) plan if your company offers one. The more you can set aside, the better, but at minimum contribute enough to get the full employer match if your company offers one. It's essentially free money.

Next, you'll want to get in the habit of increasing your contributions consistently, either every six months, at the end of the year or when you get a bonus or a raise.

Check online to see if you can set up "auto-increase," which allows you to choose the percentage you want to increase your contributions by and how often. This way, you won't forget to up your contributions, or talk yourself out of setting aside a larger chunk.

2. Open more than one retirement account

Enrolling in your employer's 401(k) plan is a good start, but experts say that it may not provide enough to fund your future. It's smart to consider alternate retirement savings accounts too, such as a Roth IRA, traditional IRA and/or health savings account.

Keep in mind that to be financially ready to retire by 67, you should aim to have three times your salary saved by age 40. Review your retirement accounts and make sure you're on track to hit that number.

3. Open an investment account

Investing is one of the most effective ways to build wealth and, contrary to popular belief, you don't need a lot of money to get started.

In fact, thanks to micro-investing apps such as Acorns, you can start by investing your "spare change." The app will round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and automatically put your coins to work.

Other apps also aim to make investing simple and accessible, and automated investing services known as robo-advisors can help you out no matter how much you have in the bank. Another good option is to invest in a low-cost index fund, which investing legend Warren Buffett recommends.

4. Set savings goals for future purchases

You can't get to where you're going if you don't know what you want. Think about how you'd like your future to look and then come up with precise savings goals. Do you want to be able to afford a home? Grad school? Trips abroad?

Next, calculate how much you need to save for these future expenditures and for how long, and start setting aside a certain amount each week or month.

5. Build up a rainy day fund

Life doesn't always go as planned: You could lose your job, have a medical emergency or deal with a car breaking down. It's important to have a sufficient financial cushion.

Everyone's situation is different but many experts agree that it's smart to have three-to-six months' worth of savings tucked away. As for where to stash it, consider a high-yield savings account, certificates of deposit (CD) or a portfolio of stocks and bonds.

This is an update of a previously published story.

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