Six financial things you should master by 30

So you’ve hit your thirties. You probably still feel young and invincible. The reality is that you’re halfway to retirement. Luckily you’ve probably started building a good credit rating, feel an inexplicable kick of joy from cleaning your home and make wise (or at least wiser) financial choices. If not, it’s time to put the money foolhardiness of your twenties behind you and master some strong financial habits. Learning to take control of your finances is a process that takes time and diligence. So let’s get to it.

Ye old savings account

Only one in three millennials has enough money saved for an emergency hospital visit or car repair. Sure, it can be tough saving in your twenties, especially if you’re carrying debt from student loans or such. But there are going to be emergencies and it’s important that you’re prepared for them.

One easy way to start saving money is to divert a small percentage of your salary into a savings account. The percentage you choose will reflect how much and how fast you want to save. And it’s important to make this happen BEFORE you spend your money. Most of your stalwart South African banks offer savings accounts with better interest rates than current accounts and, while it’s not going to make you massive profits, the money will at least be accumulating.

Get your debt out of the way

Most of us will be rather complacent about our debt once we hit our thirties. Having paid off student loans credit card debt or small mortgages, people quickly come to accept debt as normal. The truth is that debt is certainly surmountable. While it’s common for people in their 20s to be in debt, you need to assess your situation and understand what needs to be done to make you debt-free. Stringent budgeting really helps over the long term. Remember, though, that this budget should also include the percentage part of your income that’s going towards savings.

Be realistic about your financial goals

No plan has ever come to fruition through just talking about it. What are your financial goals? Sit down, think them through and then write them down. This will help you put together a tangible plan, further allowing you to put that plan into practice. For example. If your dream is to walk through vineyards under the Tuscan sun, then you need to stop daydreaming about it and establish a gameplan. Do your research. Find out how much it’ll cost you and from there work backwards. How much are you going to need to save every month to reach that goal? Boom. Two years later you’re sipping wine, lost in a vineyard somewhere in Tuscany.

The same is true for any of your larger goals. A mortgage or large chunk of debt. Thinking about how you’re going to tackle it, isn’t going to get things done. Write it down and figure out a gameplan.

Think longer term than instant gratification

Millennials especially have the tendency to spend to bring immediate gratification. But slow down. Rather sacrifice now, and enjoy luxury later. Ask yourself if you can live without the things that you’re spending money on. If the answer is yes, then rather save that money. The same is true for a pay raise or cash windfall. Rather than see it as an opportunity to buy that new dress or latest tech toy, see it as an opportunity to save more. This level of discipline will eventually pay dividends.

Come to terms with budgeting

Most twenty-somethings have toyed with the idea of a budget, used a budgeting app or read an article or two on the importance of budgeting. Very few twenty-somethings actually budget and even fewer stick to created budgets. Well, once 30 hits, all that needs to change. It’s time to ditch your flakey understanding of budgeting and get serious with yourself. Start allocating every Rand you earn. If it means cutting back a little, then so be it. If you only want to spend R40 a week on coffee, then you’re going to have to sit it out after your third latte.

The whole point of budgeting is to keep you in the loop about where your money is going so that you can make informed financial decisions. It’s not about making life any less fun or boring. You can still spend money on shopping or socialising, but if that’s done within a budget, then it won’t affect your savings or longer term financial goals.

Don’t forget about retirement

It’s an indictment of people in their 20s and even early-30s that they don’t plan towards their retirement. If don’t want to have to be working at 60+, then you need to start planning now. Don’t wait for that promotion or for more wiggle room in your budget. Now’s as good a time as any. In your 30s, you still have time on your side, so don’t waste it.

It takes just twenty-one days to form a new habit. Be encouraged, it’s not that long for you to implement and stick to a money management system for yourself. It’s time to stop asking questions like: How much money can I get away with spending on X? And start asking real questions: What is corporate finance? How can I streamline my budget even further? And how am I going to achieve my financial goals?

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