19 Smart Money Moves That Will Help You Rock Your 34th Year

Group of friends having fun while toasting at a Birthday party.
skynesher/ Getty Images
Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We provide you with accurate, reliable information. Learn more about how we make money and select our advertising partners.

Turning 34 may not feel like a big deal, but it might be the most important year of your thirties.

Why? Well, it’s your last year to get your life truly in order before you are officially in your mid- or *gulp* late-thirties.

The signs are all around you: Your best friend can’t hit up the brewery for happy hour because they can’t find a babysitter. It’s impossible to find a reliable bassist for your adult punk band. And your significant other just asked about having kids of your own.

Well, you should tell them that this is going to be the year you get all your finances in order so you’ll be ready for anything — even a baby. Turning 34 is going to be the best thing that happened to your bank account if you get started on some easy financial goals before your next birthday.

19 Important Money Moves to Make Before Turning 34

To help you get ready for whatever the next phase of life brings, here are some important money moves to make before you turn 34.

1. Don’t Just Wish for Better Car Insurance

Two women drive down the highway in a top-down convertible.
valentinrussanov/Getty Images

You have car insurance. Good job. It’s a part of adulting you’ve become accustomed to. But don’t you wish you could pay less for the same coverage?

Before you blow out those candles and waste that wish, there’s a better way.

One way you could save money is by shopping around and comparing rates at least once a year. Less than 50% of us do that, according to this survey from The Zebra, though 81% of us report wanting lower rates.

So, just like you compare the prices of flights, shoes and laptops before purchasing, why not compare car insurance?

And if you look through a digital marketplace called SmartFinancial, you could be getting rates as low as $22 a month — and saving yourself more than $700 a year.

It takes one minute to get quotes from multiple insurers, so you can see all the best rates side-by-side. Yep — in just one minute you could save yourself $715 this year. That’s some major cash back in your pocket.

So if you haven’t checked car insurance rates in a while, see how much you can save with a new policy.

2. Get a 100X the Normal Interest Rate

An Aspiration bank card sticking out of a wallet.
Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Operating everything out of one account can make your finances muddy and contribute undue stress to your money management.

To simplify, open an account dedicated to saving, and put your money to work. One of our favorites is Aspiration — you’ll pay no monthly fees, and you’ll earn up to 2.00% APY on your savings.

You’ll get access to two online-only accounts: one for spending and one for saving. The spending account comes with a debit card that earns 0.5% cash back on all your purchases, plus free ATMs, so you can easily access your money when you need it.

After you open your Aspiration account, use it to split your income:

  • Automatically deposit a portion of your income into your spending account, and use that to cover basic expenses like rent and bills, plus fun stuff; like eating out, shopping or going on vacation.
  • Deposit what’s left into your Aspiration savings to keep it out of sight and let it grow. You’ll earn 2.00% APY as long you deposit just $1 a month. We recommend squirreling more when you can, but we like that you won’t lose the perk when you can’t.

3. You’ve Built a Great Life, Now Protect It

Portrait of a young family with two little boys, and third one on the way, being surprised by snow, early in the morning
AleksandarNakic/Getty Images

Chances are, by the time you reach 34, you’ve established a life. That could mean you own your dream business. Or it could mean that house on a few acres with the big porch you always wanted.

You’re building your dream life. If that includes a family, the last thing you want is to leave them without any financial support once you’re gone.

Maybe it’s time to think about life insurance. It doesn’t have to be the uncomfortable experience you might expect. Some newcomers in the industry are updating the old model.

Ethos, for example, can get you term life insurance in less than 10 minutes — with no medical exam — for coverage up to $1 million. Ethos offers a digital application, and customer service is available if you have questions.

It partners with a major life insurance carrier to quickly offer policies as low as $6 a month. It’s helped thousands of folks access term life insurance, including independent contractors who use Uber, Postmates, TaskRabbit and other gig apps.

Don’t think about a life insurance policy as preparing for death; think about it as a birthday gift you’re giving yourself. Peace of mind.

4. Finally Tackle That Debt — With a Lower Interest Rate

If you have debt, you definitely aren’t in the mood for criticism.

But you’ll need to open up, just a little bit, if you want to consider some options — like refinancing or consolidating — to help you pay that sum down faster.

Don’t worry. Find the right personal loan to meet your needs with Fiona.

To sign up for this consumer financial technology platform, complete three simple steps. Then Fiona searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer. If your credit score is at least 620, Fiona’s platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

5. Get a Lower Interest Rate on Your Student Loans

Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

For some, a lower interest rate could be one of the best steps to paying off student loans.

Try getting a lower interest rate on your federal and private loans by refinancing with a company like Credible. Other companies offer similar services, but we like that the average Credible user saves about two interest points on their current federal loans.

Refinancing will generally mean replacing your laundry list of loans with one (or a few) loans that bring all of your student debt under one umbrella.

This could simplify your life with one monthly payment, instead of several. It may also lower your monthly payment, improve your interest rate and/or give you more time to pay.

It might seem like a small difference, but a lower interest rate can mean a lot of savings over time. It’s helping grad Ashley Williams save more than $18,000 in interest over the life of her loan!

6. Start Investing for the Price of a Cup of a Coffee

Black Crow Coffee in St. Petersburg, Florida on July 5, 2018.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

In your 20s, you didn’t even really think about investing. You were too busy trying to establish yourself.

Don’t let your 30s slide by the same way. Here’s the key: You don’t need a big chunk of cash to get started.

You can start small with Acorns and stack up change over time with its “round-up” feature. That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account.

Then, the app does the whole investing thing for you.

The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. For example, we reviewed how Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to save at a rate of $420 a year!

The app is $1 a month for balances under $1 million, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.

7. Get a Better Credit Card

At your age, you know enough to know that credit cards aren’t necessarily evil. You just have to be smart about how you use them. Oh, and isn’t it time you got one that gives you something back?

If you’re not using a rewards credit card for everyday purchases, you’re missing out on free money.

You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.

Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited card**. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, groceries), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.

There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire. Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.

8. Get a Piece of the Real Estate Action

Modern residential buildings, new apartment houses with green outdoor facilities in the city
ah_fotobox/Getty Images

What did your dad always tell you about real estate? “It’s the way to go. They’re not making any more land!”

Want a cool way to celebrate nearly hitting the middle of your third decade? Invest in real estate.

At just 35 and 29, Christopher and Meghan Miller are semi-retired because of this kind of investment.

In addition to four rental properties, the couple has invested in a diversified portfolio of real estate projects across the country — from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles — through an automated investment experience.

“I don’t have to manage them; I don’t have to do the work to improve the properties; I don’t have to find tenants, evict tenants,” Christopher says.

Unlike traditional real estate investments, the Millers back these national building projects through an online platform called Fundrise*. Since 2016, Fundrise has paid dividends each quarter. (Note: As with any investment, past performance isn’t indicative of future results.)

How much fun will you have over the next decade or two keeping an eye on your investment properties? Finally, something to talk about at neighborhood cookouts.

9. Negotiate Everything — Especially Your Bills

female college student working on a laptop on some stairs on campus preparing for an exam
UberImages/Getty Images

When you bought your car, did you settle for the sticker price? How about your house? At your age, you’ve seen enough to know that everything is negotiable.

That doesn’t mean that you want to go through the hassle of negotiating it all yourself. That’s why it’s time to call in a robot.

The negotiation bot Trim will negotiate your cable or internet bills down for you.

It works with Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and other major providers.

You can sign up simply with Facebook or your email address. Then, upload a PDF of your most recent bill, and Trim’s AI-powered system gets to work. If at first it doesn’t succeed, it’ll keep negotiating until it can save you some money.

Also, if you have any outages, Trim believes you deserve a credit, and it’ll handle that for you.

Trim takes 33% of the savings tab, and you get the rest.

Your 24-year-old self would never believe this is possible. Being 34 rocks!

10. Give Your Retirement Fund a Boost

Remember when retirement seemed like some concept set for the far, far distant future?

Yeah, that future’s coming up kinda fast, isn’t it?

You have a 401(k) — kudos for that, but is it doing what you need it to?

If you’re like most people, you have no idea whether your 401(k) is on pace for your retirement or just sputtering along.

Chances are, it could be doing a lot better. Take control with help from Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm that can optimize and monitor your retirement account for you and keep it speeding toward retirement.

It just takes a few minutes to get a free 401(k) analysis that will show you whether your investments are allocated properly and whether you’re losing money paying hidden investment fees. It’ll even tell you just how much more money your account could earn by the time you want to retire.

After that, if you sign up, it’s just $10 per month to have Blooom monitor and maximize your 401(k). Bonus: Penny Hoarders get the first month free with the code PNNYHRD.

It’s like giving yourself a birthday present for a future birthday.

11. Get Smart About Shopping

Closeup shot of an unidentifiable man using a cellphone while shopping in a grocery store
Tassii/Getty Images

By 34, you’re probably a shopping pro — no denying that. But what if you could go from a shopping pro to a shopping expert?

By simply saving your receipts, you can start earning cash back when you shop. And if earning money every time you walk into Target doesn’t scream, “I just leveled up in adulthood,” I don’t know what does.

If you’re not earning cash back when you shop, you’re basically missing out on free money.

We know it sounds strange, but Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts.

Here’s how it works: Before heading to the store, search for items on your shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.

Plus, you’ll get a $5 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.

Don’t feel like leaving home? No worries. You can earn cash back online when you shop through Ebates, a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you buy something online.

We love it around here, because it’s an instant way to save on everything you buy. For example, Ebates gives you 10% cash-back on online purchases at Walmart.

Plus you’ll get a free $10 gift card to Walmart for giving the site a try.

To earn your gift card:

  1. Sign up for Ebates with your email or Facebook account.
  2. Use the Ebates portal the next time you need to buy something. It’s connected to thousands of stores, including Walmart, Amazon and Target. You’ll need to make your first purchase through the site within 90 days and spend at least $25.
  3. Your account will be credited with rewards points you can cash in for your $10 Walmart gift card.

12. Protect Your Home and Cool Stuff

young woman in casual wear touching her head with hand while lying on the floor at home
g-stockstudio/Getty Images

You’ve worked hard and for a long time to create your home. The stuff you’ve accumulated, whether you rent or own a home, is worth protecting.

If you have homeowners or renters insurance, you might be paying too much for it. Try shopping around.

If you’ve never looked into it, start by getting a free quote.We recommend the online insurance company Lemonadethrough which renters insurance starts at $5 a month and homeowners insurance starts at $25 a month.

Beyond affordable rates, Lemonade adds a layer of transparency you don’t often see in the insurance world. Instead of profiting extra when it doesn’t have to pay out claims, the company keeps a set 20% of your premium for itself, and 80% goes into a pool for paying claims. Money left over after paying claims each year goes to a cause of your choice.

That also means Lemonade isn’t going to be super stingy about granting customers the claims they deserve — ’cause the money isn’t going into its pockets.

Lemonade is available in Arizona, California, Connecticut Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.

OK, so now that you know Lemonade has your back, here’s how to get a free quote. It’s easy — and you can do it all online. (Nope, it won’t hurt your credit score!)

  1. Click “Check Our Prices.”
  2. Get to know Maya, Lemonade’s chatbot. She’s nice and will ask you a few questions.
  3. Once you complete the application, you’ll receive a quote within a minute or two.

Plus, at the end of the day, you’ll feel better knowing your hard-earned belongings are insured. Now that you’re turning 34, it’s time to squeeze the most out of life and your finances!

13. Start a Budget. All the Cool Kids Are Doing It

TPH photo editor, Alexa Vincent, uses various budget apps in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

Budget. There. We said it, and it wasn’t so bad, was it? Budgeting can be a little scary, but it doesn’t have to be. And… we all need it.

The first step is to find out how you’re doing now. Luckily, you can have a financial assistant right in your pocket to help you out.

The Empower app is a powerful budgeting tool that can help you figure out how you’re spending your money and develop a budgeting plan to keep you on track.

Link the app to your bank accounts, and it will track your spending. It will also categorize your spending so you can see exactly where you are overdoing it. That’s right: It will show you just how many times you went out for dinner because you didn’t want to do the dishes.

Set a monthly spending limit and the app will show you a graph that can tell you in one snapshot just how you’re doing for the month. Are you over the line or under it? It’s that simple to see how you’re doing so you can adjust your spending accordingly.

How can your 30s not be great with all of this cool technology?

14. Get a Grip on Your Credit Score

Jerry and Vivienne Morgan spend the morning showing off their beautiful home in New Port Richey. New Port Richey, Fla.,
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

File this next to “run a half-marathon.” You’ve been meaning to get around to it, but it just never quite made the top of your “to-do” list.

Put it there now.

Your credit score is important. The better your score, the better deal you’ll get on a mortgage, car loan or credit card. We’re talking big money here.

Even if you’re not buying a house anytime soon, a lousy credit score means you’ll get hit with a high security deposit whenever you rent a car or struggle to get a better credit card.

But did you know your credit score could be inaccurate? One out of five credit reports have an error, according to a study by the Federal Trade Commission.

To keep a closer eye on your credit, get your credit score and a “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. It breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and how to address it.

Because it simplifies everything, you should be able to spot any errors. For instance, if you find an “unpaid” credit card that you know you paid, or a bill in collections you know never existed, you can dispute the incorrect information and raise your credit score.

Who knows? There may be some incorrect charges to your Montgomery Ward card on there that you need to clear up. Yikes.

15. Get Some Help Paying Your Credit Card Bills

A man and his young daughter sit together as he works on financial management.
Anchiy/Getty Images

Carrying more than one credit card balance can feel a bit like herding cats. Just when you think you have one under control, you realize you’ve let a different one slip away.

High interest rates and late fees can make it feel like you’ll never get those bills under control.

That’s where Tally comes in. It’s a simple app that lets you store and manage your credit card payments in one place, optimizing the amounts and times.

Simply download the iOS app, scan in your credit cards, and if you qualify (with a minimum credit score of around 675), Tally will give you a line of credit with an interest rate between 7.9% and 19.9%* and use the lower interest rate to make managing your payments easy.

No more missed payments. Lower interest rates. All in one place. And don’t worry, Tally uses bank-level security, so your information is safe.

Tally is currently available in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

*Your APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will depend on your credit history and varies with the market based on Prime Rate. Accurate as of July 2018.

16. See if You Can’t Cut Back on Your Monthly Bills

It’s important to make sure you’re getting a good deal on any product or service you use, and this is a lot easier than you might think.

Hop on Squeeze, a website that allows you to compare rates for mortgages, auto loans, student loans, renters insurance, and mobile and internet plans (among others) for free.

Say you want to compare internet prices. Based on your location, the site aggregates all your options and shows you companies alongside price points and download speeds.

17. Get a Better Mortgage

Tyler and Courtney Varnell checks the current interest rates on better.com on Tyler's iPhone.
Melissa Lyttle for The Penny Hoarder

If you’re still paying interest on your mortgage at an old rate, refinancing could help you take advantage of better interest rates and save thousands of dollars over time.

But getting a new mortgage can take months and can be a hassle — and it’s enough to make you throw your hands up in defeat and just go on living with the uncomfortably high interest rate from years ago.

And… you might find out in the end it’s not even worth it.

Before you take the leap, we found a company that wants to help you avoid a common mortgage mistake.

18. Get Some Passive Income

Young woman sits at dining room table with an tablet and notebook.
Alexandra Vincent/The Penny Hoarder

If there’s anything you know at nearly 34 years old, it’s that passive is OK. No, it’s better than OK. Passive is great. You know, like a nap.

Passive income is exactly what it sounds like: income that comes to you without you lifting a finger — at least, after the initial setup.

While you can’t expect free money to just appear in your bank account, you can take steps to set yourself up with a cash flow that comes in automatically with little to no upkeep.

Why is it important to have a source of passive income? Well, Brad Hines, who estimates 10 to 15% of his income is passive, puts it this way:

“When zero of your money is passive income, that inherently means every minute you’re not working, you’re not making money.”

Yikes.

To make the most of your down time — like that big trip you’ll take to celebrate turning 34 — set up a passive income stream of your own.

Passive income sources can range from really big (think: owning a business) to really tiny (think: owning a gumball machine).

If you don’t mind the initial work of setting up your passive income streams, the payoff and peace of mind can be sweet. Let’s face it, you don’t really want to work any harder than you need to anymore.

19. Start Saving to Send the Kids to College

Alexa Vincent poses for graduation photos in St. Petersburg Fla. on Sept 12, 2018.
Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

You may not have kids yet, but you’ve probably heard from friends about how expensive a new baby is. If you think that it’s bad now, just wait until tuition, rent and all of the other bills that come along with college start rolling in.

Whatever your situation, it’s time to start thinking about saving for your kids’ futures.

It’s important to think about all the ways you can save for your child’s future, such as a low-risk savings bond or a 529 plan to cover college expenses. Why?

Because if they don’t go to college they may still be living with you. Forever. For. Ever.

20. Get Your 24-Year-Old Body Back

What better gift can you give yourself than better health and fitness?

In 2016, Teresa Suarez was frustrated by the thought of a possible future in which she continued to ignore her health — and by her own lack of motivation.

“I knew I could be at 300 pounds within months,” she recalls.

So Suarez signed up for HealthyWage — a company that will literally pay you to lose weight.

She bet $125 per month that she would lose 60 pounds in six months. When she achieved that goal, she won a whopping $2,415.28 — more than tripling her initial investment in herself.

Betting on herself and knowing she would lose the money if she didn’t follow through was the kickstart Suarez needed to actually make lasting lifestyle changes.

Depending on how much you have to lose, how long you give yourself to do it and how much money you put on the table, you could win up to $10,000!

Be like Teresa, and give yourself an awesome birthday gift. Then go ahead and have a piece of cake. You’ve earned it.

34 Is the New 30

I’m sure you thought we’d say 24? But come on, you don’t want to be 24 again! You’ve accomplished too much and learned so much since then. You’re not getting older, you’re getting smarter. These smart money moves will prove it.

Just watch. Over the next 10 years, these moves will make your life easier and help set up your finances to be looking pretty when you reach that *gulp!* 44-year-old mark.

Just don’t go and spend your savings on a mid-life crisis guitar.

*Fundrise Disclosure: Redemptions are subject to certain restrictions. See Full Disclosures for more information.

The publicly filed offering circulars of the issuers sponsored by Rise Companies Corp. (parent company of Fundrise), not all of which may be currently qualified by the Securities and Exchange Commission, may be found at fundrise.com/oc.

**Chase Disclosure: The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.