The Biggest Money Mistakes You'll Make in Your 30s and How to Avoid Them

January 5th 2017

You may think that once you've made it out of your 20s, you're on a steady financial path to glory.

Unfortunately, turning 30 doesn't guarantee any sort of financial wisdom. People still make money mistakes in their 30s, just different ones.

To help you avoid errors that could affect your financial future, ATTN: spoke with Sophia Bera, a certified financial planner and founder of Gen Y Planning, a Millennial-focused advisory firm. She pointed to three common mistakes people make when they leave their 20s behind.

1. The Retirement Money Mistake

"In your 20s, a common mistake I see is not signing up for your retirement account through work right away," Bera said in a phone interview.

Twentysomethings make this mistake because they don't know how long they're going to be at their first big job, Bera said. What they don't realize is that you can take it with you.

"You can actually roll it over into a new 401(k) or roll it over into an IRA [at your new job]," Bera said. "I think a lot of people don't bother signing up, because they don't realize that it's their money that they put into it. That's one big mistake people in their 20s make."

In your 30s, a common mistake is "not taking retirement seriously," Bera added. "Really increase those retirement plan contributions each year. Maybe the 3 percent you started contributing when you were 25, maybe that should be more like 10 or 15 percent [in your 30s]."

2. The Credit Card Debt Mistake

If you have credit card debt in your 20s, Bera advised doing whatever is humanly possible to rid yourself of it by the time you're in your 30s.

"Let's say you graduate from college, and you have the average amount of credit card debt, which I think is around $2,500," Bera said. (USA Today reported in October 2016 that the number was more like $3,600.)

"You're 23 — you can work your ass off one summer and pay that off," Bera added. "Theoretically, you could just be, like, 'I'm going to hunker down and live at home this summer or live with four roommates still, and just pay. This. Off. Do whatever I have to take to get rid of it.' And that's what I usually recommend. Because if you don't address it, that $2,500 when you're 23 can balloon to $20,000 by the time you're 33."

Take your credit card debt seriously.

3. The Emergency Savings Mistake

Even if you don't have much in your 20s, you should still set some of it aside for emergencies, Bera advised.

As you grow older, the cost of your emergencies increases. "Your $5,000 in emergency savings that you had when you were 26 might not cut it like it does when you're 36," Bera said. "You need to keep re-evaluating how much you need for emergencies."

Bera has a quick tip for how to figure this number out: "What I recommend, generally, is three months of net pay set aside for emergencies."

If you haven't been keeping up in your 20s, one unexpected hospital visit or car repair could throw your whole financial future out of whack in your 30s.

"Not taking emergency savings seriously and just kind of scraping by with $1,000 in your account, like you were able to do in your 20s: You can't do that when you have a house and a baby and a spouse, and you're going to grad school and have bigger responsibilities," Bera said.

Related: Why Financial Advice for Millennials Is Different From Earlier Generations

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