21 Things to Check off Your Financial Bucket List Before You Turn 30
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If life is a journey, turning 30 is “The World’s Largest Ball of Yarn.”
It’s the marker everyone references when they give you directions, but the second half of those directions is usually just, “and then keep driving ’til you get where you’re going.”
It’s a pretty big deal, and you’ve been anticipating this mile marker — this awesome roadside attraction — for the entirety of your road trip thus far. But if you haven’t been preparing with snacks, a gas tank fill up and a bathroom break, this next stretch of road could be pretty rough.
OK, let’s drop the analogy and get real: Being 30 is a big deal, but it can often be a little scary and a lot confusing — especially if you’re not where you’d like to be financially.
Luckily, as you make your bucket list of things to do before you turn the big 3-0 (things like traveling or buying a home or starting a business), there are also some smart money goals you can add in there to get your finances in order. That way, you can head into the next stretch feeling confident and with a sense of financial security.
21 Important Money Moves to Make Before Turning 30
To help you get ready for whatever the next phase of life brings, here are some important money moves to make before you turn 30.
1. See How Your Finances Stack up to Your Peers’
Picture this: You’re sitting across from your longtime friend at the local diner. You catch up on life, then, because you’re curious, you ask your friend about her income, her student loan debt and her savings.
How many of you just cringed?
Most of us don’t have friends — or even family members — who are willing to talk explicitly about these numbers.
Status Money is an app that allows you to anonymously compare your financial situation with your peers without asking those awkward, prying questions. Link an account to tap into this database and you’ll be able to compare your income, debt, interest rates, credit score, spending… you name it.
By seeing how others are doing, you can see what you need to work on — or where you can sit back a little and just breathe easy.
2. Become a Real Estate Investor (Yeah, Before You’re Even 30)
What’s the most adult-over-30 thing you can think of?
Stumped? OK, here it is: Investing in real estate.
The cool news is you can start investing in real estate without having to play landlord, and we found a company that helps you do just that.
Oh, and you don’t have to have hundreds of thousands of dollars, either. You can get started with a minimum investment of just $500. A company called Fundrise does all the heavy lifting for you.
Katie Smith, who recently graduated from Georgetown University in Washington D.C., has always been a saver.
But after years of watching her carefully tucked away funds sit in a low-interest savings account, Smith decided it was time for her money to start making more money — so she decided to invest it in real estate through a company called Fundrise.
While she technically only needed $500 to get started, Smith decided to invest a little more than that. “It’s a pretty low barrier to entry in terms of the amount of money you need,” Smith said. “I invested a couple grand, and I’ve been really pleased with the results.”
Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.
“I can go into my Fundrise account and see what I actually own,” Smith said. “I own a piece of an apartment complex in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Property on the West Coast. Bits and pieces of apartment complexes in Texas and Denver, a construction loan, a mixed-use property.”
3. Don't Think You Can Afford to Invest? Start With $5
If you’re going to be a real adult who makes small talk at parties hosted by other 30-year-olds, investing is a good place to start. And sure, becoming an investor sounds intimidating — but it really doesn’t have to be.
If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself, consider starting an investment account through Acorns.
You can start small 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!
At that rate, you could set aside $1,000 in about two and a half years — without trying.
The app is $1 a month for balances under $1 million, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.
4. Find out Whether You’re Paying Too Much for Car Insurance
You’re probably overpaying for car insurance. And how would you know, really?
Have you shopped around lately? Have you compared rates from the 20 largest auto insurers that do business in your area? That sounds kind of difficult and time-consuming, doesn’t it?
Fortunately, a service called Gabi will do it for you, and you don’t even have to fill out any forms. Simply link your insurance account and provide your driver’s license number, and Gabi will go to work.
Once you link your insurance account to Gabi, it will:
- Scan your existing insurance plan.
- Analyze what coverage you have.
- Compare the major insurers’ rates for that same coverage.
- Help you switch on the spot if it finds you a better rate.
Gabi says it finds an average savings of $720 per year for its customers.
It is a true apples-to-apples comparison at the same coverage levels and deductibles you currently have. Once you sign up, you never have to shop again. Gabi's software has your policy on file and keeps on monitoring for savings as your life changes.
5. Get Smart About Shopping
By 30, 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 $10 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:
- Sign up for Ebates with your email or Facebook account.
- 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.
- Your account will be credited with rewards points you can cash in for your $10 Walmart gift card.
6. Build up Your Emergency Savings Account
One of the most adult things you can do is have an emergency savings fund to fall back on in case things like unexpected car repairs or hefty vet bills pop up.
But it can be difficult to force yourself to save when you have a zillion other expenses on the brain. So what if you could do it in a way where you wouldn't even notice?
Digit makes that possible.
This innovative app automates saving for you. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.
Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months.
Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, one Penny Hoarder saved $4,300 without noticing — read his Digit review.
If you need that money sooner than expected, you’ll always have access to it within one business day.
Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward.
7. Negotiate Your Bills Down
Listen, at 30, you’ve probably made your mind up. You’re either all about those streaming services, or you couldn’t imagine a world without your favorite cable TV shows. But the price of internet and cable just seems to get higher every year.
You’ve probably heard that calling your cable or internet provider can result in having your bills lowered, but if you’ve ever actually acted on that info, you know how long you can sit on hold — and how incredibly frustrating it can be.
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 25% of the savings tab, and you get the rest.
8. Get Paid When You Swipe Your Credit Card
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. We checked Credible’s annual rewards calculator, and it estimates $417 in annual rewards based on our spending habits.* (You can enter your unique spending habits and see what you’d earn, too.)
Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.
*Annual Rewards amounts will change based on the amounts you enter. The monthly spending category names and definitions may vary among issuers, and categories may not align one-to-one.
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.
9. Protect Your Home and Belongings
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 Lemonade, through 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, 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!)
- Click “Check Our Prices.”
- Get to know Maya, Lemonade’s chatbot. She’s nice and will ask you a few questions.
- Once you complete the application, you’ll receive a quote within a minute or two.
It’s easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy. Plus, at the end of the day, you’ll feel better knowing your hard-earned belongings are insured. After all, when life hands you lemons… (OK, we’re done.)
10. Find Your Free Money
You’re not living paycheck to paycheck anymore. And that’s no accident.
You take charge of your money and have started to build your personal wealth. You have investments, savings accounts and credit cards. You enjoy monitoring your accounts and making the right moves. Retiring early just may be on your bucket list if you can stick to your budget.
It just gets… complicated.
You’re on the right track. Make staying there easy with the Empower app.
Empower helps you organize and track your financial goals. Simply link your accounts, and every time you log in, you’ll see a simple snapshot of where you stand on your monthly budget. Are you above or below the line? In one second you’ll know whether you’re on track or need to dial things back a bit.
Empower even has a cool “find free money” feature. It’ll do things like negotiate your cell phone bill, review your insurance coverage and cancel unwanted subscriptions.
11. Get Rewarded for Paying Your Bills on Time
Your mom probably gave you an allowance for washing the dishes and sweeping the floor when you were a kid. Now all you get for doing it is a kitchen that’s clean for, like, 15 minutes.
As an adult, you don’t typically get rewards for doing things that are expected of you… until now.
This app kind of rules them all: MoneyLion, a free all-in-one app for managing your personal finances.
MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits and will literally pay you for logging onto the app.
You can earn points in the rewards program by paying bills on time, connecting your bank account or downloading the mobile app.
You can redeem those points for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart.
If credit cards aren’t your thing, MoneyLion is like having a rewards credit card without the temptation to overspend.
The app also connects with all your bank, credit card, student loan and other financial accounts. Based on your income and spending patterns, it offers personalized advice to help you save money, reduce your debt and improve your credit.
12. Know Your Credit Score
Your credit reports are basically the Holy Grail of your finances — and your life.
Financially, they can influence many of your big life decisions, like buying a house or a car. These decisions can become a whole lot more difficult if your credit reports have an error.
This is easy to prevent, though, especially if you just check in on your credit reports (you’ve got three major ones) every so often.
One option is to use a free app like CreditWise® from Capital One®. There, you’ll get a free TransUnion® credit report, which you can review for signs of error, theft or fraud. It’ll even give you personalized suggestions to help you improve your credit score.
13. Consolidate Your Debt
Don’t go into the rest of adulthood with debt dragging you down.
When Cheryl Cavalli, a stay-at-home mom of two, decided to launch a business as a home-based travel agent, she knew she would need to secure a loan to give herself the best possible financial foundation.
Cavalli and her husband, Virge, used Even Financial to find a loan offer that would work for them.
“All of the major loan providers were presented in a very simple table — what their rates were, what the terms were,” Virge says. With a simple search, they found a loan that ticked all their boxes and had an interest rate of just 5.9%.
If you’re being crushed by credit card interest rates — especially if you’re one of the many dealing with interest rates north of 20% — a personal loan could help you consolidate and refinance to save money.
A good resource is consumer financial technology platform Even Financial, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.
Even searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. Its 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.
Whether your goals have to do with paying off debt or financing a new business venture, Even’s marketplace makes it easy to find the right loan for your situation.
14. Get Some Help Paying Your Credit Card Bills
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, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, 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.
15. Make the Most of Your 401(k)
OK, so you have a 401(k). And if you’ve been paying into it diligently since you landed your first entry-level gig so many years ago, you’ve probably amassed a nice little retirement fund.
Now, you just need to make sure it’s doing what you need it to. But tapping into that account and deciphering the information — or lack thereof — can be hard.
Luckily, there’s a robo-adviser for that.
Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.
In 2016, at age 26, Kelsey Buxton opened a 401(k) account for the first time, and soon learned that her projected retirement age was 70 (ouch).
She knew if she wanted to bring that number down, she’d have to get smart about investing and managing her 401(k) — but she quickly realized she didn’t have the time or knowledge required to manage it herself.
“All of the funds and stuff can get overwhelming, so I like the idea of having someone manage it for me,” Buxton said.
Blooom gives you an initial 401(k) checkup for free, and you’ll get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many hidden fees, have the appropriate amount invested in stocks versus bonds, that kind of fun stuff.
After that, the tool is $10 a month to use to continue to monitor your retirement account. Let Blooom know your target retirement age, and it can help you get there by investing more and less aggressively.
16. Look Into Life Insurance
No, this isn’t a subtle dig about getting older — it’s an important step for anyone who has people who rely on them financially.
Even though life insurance is something every 30(ish)-year-old should consider, you don’t have to run out and purchase the first life insurance policy someone pitches you.
“The biggest mistake I see millennials making is being duped by insurance salesmen,” says Andy Yadro, a financial planner with Googins Advisors in Madison, Wisconsin. “Everyone needs insurance, but a very small subset of young people need the insurance that is sold by most ‘financial advisers.’”
You might consider a basic life insurance policy, which can be useful if you have loved ones who rely on your income — a significant other, a child or even a relative you help out financially.
A company like Policygenius offers you an easy way for anyone to compare and buy life insurance. The search engine allows you to compare policies and get instant quotes. Once you find the right fit, you can apply right online.
If you’re young and mostly healthy, consider purchasing term life insurance online from Ethos. It partners with a major A-rated life insurance carrier to provide policies for a low price. For example, $30 a month could get your family $1 million of coverage.
Anyone, including independent contractors, can secure term life insurance through Ethos without a medical exam or extensive paperwork; just fill out a digital application.
17. 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.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
18. Refinance Your Mortgage for a Better Interest Rate
If you’re about to hit 30, you’re probably at a point in life where you’re hearing your friends talk about refinancing their homes and thinking, “Wait, is that something I should do?”
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.
19. Set up a Passive Income Stream
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.”
To make the most of your down time — like that big trip you’ll take to celebrate turning 30 — 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.
20. Start Saving for Kids
Cue the mild panic attack.
If you don’t have kids yet, the thought of adding everything from diapers to daycare to your budget is enough to send you into a tailspin of financial worry.
If you already have kids, you know just how expensive they can be. And you might also be in a tailspin of financial worry. Totally fair.
Whatever your situation, it’s time to start thinking about saving for your kids’ futures.
(And if you’re just trying to give your dog the best possible life, we feel you. You can just keep moving.)
Let’s get real for a second: Kids are incredibly expensive. No, like, reaaaally expensive.
And surveys show that most parents underestimate exactly how much they’ll spend once those little humans start populating those once-quiet homes.
While saving up a general nest egg isn’t a bad idea if you’re thinking about having kids, it’s also important to think about all the different ways you can save for your child’s future, such as a low-risk savings bond or a 529 plan to cover college expenses.
21. Build Healthy Habits for Life
Sure, you’ve made it to 30 without paying much attention to what you eat or how often you work out. But sooner or later, you’re going to have to get some healthy habits in place.
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 recalled.
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.
Here’s how it works:
- Read our full HealthyWage review, and sign up.
- Define a goal weight and the amount of time you’ll give yourself to achieve it.
- Place a bet on yourself ranging from $20 to $500 a month.
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!
30, Financially Savvy and Thriving
As you turn 30, you’re probably just hoping to keep money surprises at a minimum, boost cash flow to a maximum, and get through the next family dinner without being asked when you and your significant other are popping out a grandkid or five.
Working your way through this financial bucket list can help you with exactly two of those.
You’re completely on your own for the last one, though.
This content is not provided by the bank advertiser. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the bank advertiser. This site may be compensated through the bank advertiser Affiliate Pro.
Grace Schweizer is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
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