retirement savings in your 30s

There are many demands in the early stages of adult hood.  First, we start off with student loan debt. Our career choices might not start out like we had hoped. We get married (big expense), have kids (big expense) and buy a house (big expense). All of this before we leave our 30’s. I promise, there is a solution. There is a lot of noise out there on ways to catch up on retirement in your 30’s. In this article, we’ve come up with our three favorite ways to get back on track.

Prevent Your Next Set Back

First, there are a whole lot of risks in our lives. We can prevent some and minimize others. Many are out of our control. These can prevent us from not only retiring on our terms, but also reaching many other goals. So, why not give that risk to someone else? Who would possibly want to take on someone else’s risk? An insurance company, that’s who!

That’s exactly what insurance does. It’s a transfer of risk, for a price. More importantly, a price we can actually manage. We are required to carry some insurance, like auto if you drive a car, or homeowner’s if you have a mortgage. There are several others you should look into as well, like disability insurance. We discuss the importance of these different types in our article, 4 Ways to Protect Your Family and your Goals.

Second, build up your emergency fund. This is something that I just benefited from personally. Our refrigerator died, I spilled coffee on my brand new computer, broke the blinds in our home, my weed eater needs repaired and our sprinkler system isn’t working. While these, to some degree can be planned for, I hadn’t budgeted for some. Place 6 months of your “needs” in a savings account. Use it only for items (such as these) that you haven’t budgeted for. After you’ve tapped into it, stop everything and fill it back up.

Third, maintain your asset allocation. Taking on riskier investments is NOT the way to catch up for retirement. The Balance reinforces that your retirement savings investment allocation should reflect your age.

Lastly, keep your company stock at a minimum. For many of us, when we contribute to our 401K, our company matches our contribution with company stock. The market crash in 2008 exposed many retirees with too much company stock and crushed their retirement dreams. Without even knowing it, half of your savings could be concentrated in a single company. A good general rule is to keep it to 10%, at most. Set your account to re-balance every year so you don’t worry about forgetting.

Be the Millionaire Next Door

millionaire next door

This is my favorite of all. Get your mind right and be humble with how you spend your money. This will have the single biggest impact on how the rest of your life plays out, financially speaking. Getting a raise doesn’t mean you get to spend more, it means you get to save more. Don’t let your standard of living increase with every new dollar that comes in.

Strip down your budget and really take a look at what is a “need” and what is a “want”. For help, read our article on the easiest way to budget for your goals. Experiences, not possessions are what will bring more value to your life. If the cost of living in your current house is putting stress on your budget and not allowing ample room for savings, you may need to consider downsizing.

When you must spend, spend intelligently. There are literally a million articles on how to stretch your dollar. Consider these money savings tips from Clark Howard and others…

  1. Use the 48 Hour Rule to stave off impulse purchases. If you feel like you “just gotta have something, wait a day or two and see if it’s still important.
  2. Unsubscribe to old subscriptions you’re still paying for.
  3. Cut the cable. There are MANY ways to lower or eliminate your cable bill, you just need to do a little research first.
  4. Check your credit report each year using Credit Karma. Keeping a clean credit report can cost you hundreds when it comes time to buying a car or home.
  5. Plan for your groceries. Check your favorite store or coupon apps for the best deals and plan your week ahead of time.

Take Control and Grow Your Money

First, if you’re not taking advantage of your company’s 401(k) match, do it….now. Many companies provide a match to your retirement savings in some form or another. Ask your manager for the details and max it out ASAP! This is free money!

Not including the company match, you should be saving anywhere from 10-15% of your gross income (before taxes) each year. Where you fall between 10 and 15% depends on how far behind you are.

If you want to get more specific on what you need to save, NerdWallet has a great retirement savings calculator. Just plug in your details and out will come what you need to save for retirement.

There is a lot of importance placed on retirement in our society, and with good cause. We can’t work forever, and a lot of the time, it’s not really up to us when that happens. We live in a consumer economy. Marketing firms know exactly what to say and when to say it to get you to separate from your hard earned money, to buy something that you don’t need.

Take control of your money. Lower the risk of disastrous expenses through insurance and an emergency fund. Don’t take on more risk in your investments. Live modestly and save aggressively. These are our favorite ways to catch up for retirement in your 30’s.

Brad Ruttenberg

Brad Ruttenberg


Sports Fan, Movie Buff, and Anything Outdoors sums it up.  Brad loves spending time with his wife, Ashley, and their two boys.  He helps empower people to take control of their money, bringing them the confidence to build the life of their dreams.

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About Matt & Brad

They are identical twins and money experts.  Matt and Brad Ruttenberg have, combined, over 2 decades of experience as financial planners.  They are known for simplifying money and helping others go from living paycheck to paycheck to thriving financially.

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