Picture this: You’re in your 30s, brimming with energy, dreams, and aspirations. You’re building your career, possibly starting a family, and exploring the world like never before.
Amidst the excitement of this decade, managing your finances might not be at the forefront of your mind. However, avoiding certain money pitfalls during your 30s can set the stage for a secure and prosperous financial future.
The truth is that most of us are tempted to brush away the need to become more financially responsible in our 30s; however, that’s a big mistake that hunts most people.
My story is peculiar because I lost my father at the age of 16, and I had five siblings who looked up to me and a widowed mother. And by the age of 22, I had also had my first child. All these things forced me to become very responsible, academically, socially, and even financially.
And when I look around me, without sounding self-righteous, I feel that a good number of my peers are struggling because they perhaps didn’t have to deal with a tragedy that forced them into responsibility earlier, or they just didn’t have a mentor or access to the right information that would enlighten them on how to manage their money in their 30s.
The purpose of this article is to discuss 10 common money mistakes to avoid during this transformative decade and share a real-life story to help drive home the importance of financial prudence.
At the ripe age of 32, Alex was living life to the fullest. A successful marketing professional with an adventurous spirit, Alex loved to travel, dine out with friends, and enjoy the latest gadgets. However, the excitement of the present often blinded Alex to his future’s financial realities. He prioritised gratifying himself instantly instead of saving more for rainy days.
But then an unexpected twist came in the form of a sudden medical emergency. Alex became sick and was hospitalised for months, saddled with hefty medical bills, but he unfortunately did not have any emergency funds to rely on. And for the first time, the realisation dawned that his carefree life was now impacting his peace of mind in ways that he never imagined.
In order to pay his medical bills, Alex was forced to list his expensive gadget on Facebook Marketplace and eBay, and he also sought help from friends and family.
Alex’s story is just one example of how crucial it is to make sound financial decisions during this decade. Let’s dive into ten money mistakes that Alex and others like him should avoid:
Ten Money Mistakes to Avoid in your 30s
1. Neglecting an Emergency Fund
Life is full of surprises, and having an emergency fund equal to at least three to six months of living expenses can provide a financial safety net during tough times. Although I have been particularly careful about having money saved for rainy days, I have often found myself using it to resolve impromptu problems for relatives or friends. However, this is not the right thing to do. Your emergency fund should only be touched as a matter of life and death.
2. Ignoring Retirement Contributions.
Your 30s is the ideal time to supercharge your retirement savings due to the magic of compound interest. Maximise contributions to employer-sponsored retirement accounts like social security contributions (aka CNPS in Cameroon) and 401(k)s and consider opening an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). While working as a financial manager, I had a few colleagues advise me that they preferred to get all of their money paid to them, with very little contributed to their retirement accounts. Their reasoning was that they prefer not to save for a retirement that they are unsure of. And I always said to them that no one knows when they’ll die or for how long they’ll live; however, the worst mistake they could ever make is to not contribute as much as possible towards their golden years as early as possible and end up finding themselves in a position where they’ll be old, frail, and unable to work for an income, with very little money saved to spend.
3. Racking Up High-Interest Debt.
Accumulating credit card debt or personal loans with high interest rates can weigh you down financially. Prioritise paying off such debts to avoid being trapped in a vicious cycle. Some people live and breathe debt. There’s a popular saying in Cameroon: “Cut your clothes according to your size”. I hate debts, and I like to avoid them like the plague.
4. Overlooking Budgeting.
Creating and sticking to a budget might not sound exciting, but it can empower you to track expenses, cut unnecessary costs, and achieve your financial goals faster. I didn’t have a budget for a long time; however, I used an exercise book to capture all of my income and expenses on a monthly basis. And what I did with that information was to flag the bigger expenses and look for ways to reduce or avoid spending such amounts completely. Read more How to become a successful person
5. Failure to Invest Wisely
Don’t let your money sit idle. Explore investment opportunities that align with your risk tolerance and long-term goals. Inflation reduces the value of your money in the bank or under your mattress. Any money you have that isn’t in your emergency fund, make a conscious effort to put that money to work. Seek advice from a business coach like myself, and invest that money so that it can grow and stay at the same pace as the inflation rate. In 2020, I started a price arbitrage business with the $2500 I had saved from working as a team member at a hotel in London, and that money grew to $120,000 in two years. You might not experience the same amount of growth; however, the most important thing is for your money not to idle around. Read more If I only had a monthly income of $100 (XAF 50,000), here’s what I would do.
6. Housing Oversights.
Renting or buying a house that your income cannot afford or neglecting maintenance costs can strain your finances. Be prudent with housing decisions and plan for future repairs. I love a comfortable place to call home; however, I also know not to stretch my budget just because I want to live in the bougiest part of town or in the biggest flat or house. I always remind myself that I have to prove a point to no one. Again, I simply cut my clothes according to my size! And in regard to the repair, have you ever heard of the saying “a stitch in time saves nine?”, Well, the sooner you can address issues that need fixing in your house or get the landlord to fix them if they’re not your responsibility, the less you’ll likely spend.
7. Ignoring Insurance Needs
Having adequate health, life, and disability insurance ensures protection against unforeseen events that could otherwise be financially crippling. I learned about the importance of insurance from my dad. At the time of his death, he had life insurance. And after he passed, the insurance company paid us a tiny amount compared to the millions that were due for payout as per the insurance policy. Although dad thought it wise to insure his life against a tragedy, he forgot to pay his monthly premium for the two months leading up to his death. And that was at the heart of the policy. After I had my son at 22 in Cameroon, I took out two insurance policies. One for health, another for education. I wanted to make sure that he would go to school until the university level if anything happened to me. And I also wanted to endure that he was going to access the best medical care whenever
8. Not Building Multiple Income Streams
Diversifying your income can provide stability and open up avenues for financial growth. Consider side gigs, freelancing, or investing in assets that generate passive income. Read more 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐈 𝐦𝐚𝐝𝐞 𝟐𝟎𝟎% 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐟𝐢𝐭 𝐢𝐧 𝟐 𝐖𝐞𝐞𝐤𝐬 𝐅𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐀𝐧 𝐎𝐩𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐜 𝐁𝐮𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐈𝐝𝐞𝐚 as a side income
I recommend checking out my book for business ideas and how to go about living a balance life whilst working full time, parenting/love and running your own business.
9. FOMO Spending: Succumbing to the fear of missing out can lead to impulsive and unnecessary expenses. Differentiate between needs and wants to make mindful spending choices. I suffered from FOMO when I first started investing in the stock market. I fell into the trap of following YouTubers who encouraged newbie investors like myself to buy stocks like AMC, Gamestop, Bianano, and Evofem with the promise of big gains. However, the fear of missing out on cashing out big stopped me from taking a step back to do my own research about the stocks I was buying. It was only after losing over $10,000 that I realised I had been a victim of FOMO.
10. Failing to Seek Professional Advice: Money matters can be complex. Don’t hesitate to consult a financial advisor to chart a personalised path to financial success. If you don’t have immediate access to a mentor, coach, or expert, I recommend self-educating through books, podcasts, etc. Read about the 5 unorthodox friends I advise everyone to have if they want to succeed in life.
Your 30s can be a transformative decade filled with growth and excitement. However, it’s crucial not to lose sight of the future amidst the whirlwind of the present. By avoiding common money mistakes like neglecting savings, overspending, and lacking financial planning, you can pave the way for a secure and prosperous financial future. Take a cue from Alex’s story and embark on a journey of financial prudence and empowerment. Remember, it’s never too late to take control of your finances and secure a brighter tomorrow.