Forget the "make-or-break" years of your 20s. Your 30s are where the real financial game begins.
It's a decade where the choices you make — about spending, saving, and investing — can lay the foundation for a secure and fulfilling future. But are you on the right track?
Read on for 10 signs that indicate you're building the financial habits to help you build wealth and financial security in the years to come.
You don’t overspend on credit cards
Consumer debt is one of the most insidious, damaging types of debt. Racking up a high credit card balance in your 30s could be a choice you’ll spend the next few decades paying for.
If you’re living within your means, taking advantage of the best credit card offers but always paying off your balance, you’ve probably got a healthy relationship with consumer credit.
Maintaining that low credit balance will serve you well throughout the rest of your life.
You’re receiving your company’s 401(k) match
Now that you’re in your 30s, you probably only have a few decades left to save for retirement. The earlier you get started, the better. Compounding interest means you’ll earn exponentially more if you start investing now rather than in your mid-40s.
Ideally, by your 30s, you aren’t just investing your own funds into a 401(k). You’re also taking advantage of any 401(k) match your company offers.
You really don’t want to leave what amounts to free money on the table. The earlier you invest and the more you invest, the greater your pay-off will be in retirement.
You have an emergency fund that could last you at least three months
Most financial experts recommend setting aside enough money in an emergency fund to cover at least three months’ expenses. You’ll need that cash if you suddenly lose your job or experience any other emergency.
If you have enough money in a savings account to cover three to six months of expenses while you continue to pay your bills and contribute to retirement accounts, you can consider yourself relatively financially stable.
If you’re over 50, take advantage of massive discounts and financial resources
Over 50? Join AARP today — because if you’re not a member you could be missing out on huge perks. When you start your membership today, you can get discounts on things like travel, meal deliveries, eyeglasses, prescriptions that aren’t covered by insurance and more.
How to become a member today:
- Go here, select your free gift, and click “Join Today”
- Create your account (important!) by answering a few simple questions
- Start enjoying your discounts and perks!
Important: Start your membership by creating an account here and filling in all of the information (Do not skip this step!) Doing so will allow you to take up 25% off your AARP membership, making it just $12 per year with auto-renewal.
You’re in a career you enjoy
Starting over with a new career in your 30s, 40s, or 50s is doable if stressful. It can also be expensive, especially if you have to quit your current job to return to school or pay for certification courses.
If you’ve been lucky enough to land a job in a career you like while you’re in your 30s, congratulations. Rather than worrying about pursuing your passions, you can focus on things like working with a company you genuinely love and leveraging your expertise for higher pay decade over decade.
Your parents don’t have to help you financially
Plenty of 20-somethings depend on their parents to stay afloat financially, whether by living at home while attending college or staying on their parents' insurance plans.
Transitioning from that state of semi-dependence into full financial independence can be tricky, and not everyone succeeds at making the switch.
As a 30-year-old, it’s a sign of financial success if you’re paying for everything yourself, from phone plans to groceries. (If you, your parents, and your siblings all split a Disney Plus account, though, we promise not to tell.)
You own your own home
Homeownership has been a long-time hallmark of middle-class American success, but it’s also been a hard dream to achieve since the 2008 housing market crash.
According to data from Statista, 39% of individuals aged 35 or younger owned their own home in 2022 (compared to 79% of individuals 65 and up).
Being able to afford property while you’re this young is a good indicator that you’re doing well financially. Plus, building equity now could pay major dividends down the road.
You drive a reliable car
Unlike land, which tends to increase in value over time, new cars lose value just about the moment you get behind the wheel for the first time.
So investing in a brand-new model isn’t the greatest indicator of financial health in your 30s — but driving a reliable car that you keep in good condition is.
A reliable used car costs less than a new car and typically loses value at a slower rate. It’s also cheaper to insure.
If you’ve managed to walk the fine line between buying a complete clunker that requires costly repairs and going all-in on a sleek new car, congratulations: You’ve figured out a financial balancing act that can take a lifetime to hone.
Your net worth is increasing each year
Your net worth is the sum of your assets minus your liabilities (debts). Over your lifetime, your goal is to increase your net worth by ensuring your liabilities never overtake your assets.
It’s a good idea to calculate your net worth and measure it throughout your lifetime to ensure you’re on the right financial track.
Not sure where to start? Use the FDIC’s free tool to calculate your net worth. If your net worth grows every year, that’s a fantastic sign you’re on a sound financial path.
Your student loans are paid off or almost paid off
Per data from 2023, the average American graduate spends two decades paying off their student loans.
Depending on your level of education, that number might be as high as 45 years — a staggering amount that can keep you from hitting savings goals and preparing for retirement.
If you’ve managed to pay off your student loans by your 30s, that’s a major accomplishment. You’re well ahead of the curve and can put your money toward paying other debts, saving for your future, and otherwise growing your net worth.
Earn cash back on everyday purchases with this rare account
Want to earn cash back on your everyday purchases without using a credit card? With the Discover®️ Cashback Debit Checking account (member FDIC), you can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month!1
With no credit check to apply and no monthly fees to worry about, you can earn nearly passive income on purchases you’re making anyway — up to an extra $360 a year!
This rare checking account has other great perks too, like access to your paycheck up to 2 days early with Early Pay, no minimum deposit or monthly balance requirements, over 60K fee-free ATMs, and the ability to add cash to your account at Walmart stores nationwide.
Don’t leave money on the table — it only takes minutes to apply and it won’t impact your credit score.
You aren’t surprised by bills
Staying on top of your bills pays off in a few ways. For one, you don’t have to deal with the nasty shock of opening your bank app to find a much lower balance than expected. For another, you’ll avoid wasting money paying late fees instead of paying the bills themselves.
If you’re aware of your monthly bills, comfortably pay them on time, and still have money left over for necessary expenses and even a few treats, you’re making consistently smart financial decisions — a great skill to establish in your 30s.
Whether you’ve just entered your 30s or you’re closer to 40 than you are to 35, it’s never too late to start incorporating healthy financial habits into your life.
And don’t forget: The earlier you start making smart financial choices, the better prepared you’ll be to manage money for the rest of your life.
If you’re worried about your financial health, start working toward any one of these key indicators of success so you can start your 40s off on the right foot.