Personal Finance at Every Age: Rules for Your 30s

Recently, we introduced you to our four-part series on the dos and don’ts of personal finance in your 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. In part one, we gave you a roadmap to managing money in your 20s, covering everything from paying off college debt to starting retirement savings.

In this installment, Liz WestonMSN Money columnist and author of the book The 10 Commandments of Money – takes you through your 30s.


…continue to live beneath your means. Once again, your “must-have” expenses – rent or mortgage, utilities, food, minimum loan payments, insurance – should not equal more than half your take-home pay.

…boost your retirement savings, increasing your contributions by at least 1 percent a year.

…build up an emergency fund over time. Chances are you have more responsibilities now (like kids or a mortgage), and having enough money to cover your bills for a few months can help you sleep better at night.

…save at least something for your children’s college educations. (But don’t save at the expense of your own retirement.)

…increase your liability coverage on your auto and homeowners’ policies. Your coverage should at least equal your net worth.

…name a guardian for your kids, and have at least a simple will drawn up.


…overdose on debt. If a loan payment would push you over that 50 percent mark for “must-have” expenses (those you can’t avoid, such as mortgage, utilities and food), then you can’t afford it.

…prepay your mortgage, unless you’ve paid off every other debt.

…carry credit-card debt.

…skimp on life insurance if you have children or other dependents. And if you need insurance, make sure you have enough – term policies are typically much more affordable than “permanent” or cash-value policies.

…buy more house than you can afford. Your housing payments (mortgage, taxes, insurance) should total no more than 25 percent of your gross income.

…overspend on cars. Buying slightly used vehicles and keeping them for 10 years can save you a fortune over your lifetime.

What do you think is most important part of managing finances in your 30s? How do your personal-finance habits match up with those on this list?

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