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Investing in your 30s: 8 wealth-building tips
Prepare to revamp your asset allocation and explore new investment classes.
The name of the game when investing in your 30s is flexibility. Those with established portfolios will want to sit down to consolidate old accounts and reassess fees. And newbies: it’s time to start building out some short- and long-term savings goals.
1. Establish debt and savings plans
Investments can help guide and support your financial goals but shouldn’t be taken on at the expense of existing financial responsibilities. Make time to regularly assess your finances to identify opportunities to build your savings and eliminate debt. High-interest debt, like credit card debt, should be prioritized over low-interest or tax-deductible debt, like your mortgage.
You don’t need to be debt-free to build your investments — but knowing how to allocate funds optically can empower your financial success. If you haven’t established a solid debt or savings plan yet, now’s the time.
2. Revisit existing investments
Already have a few investment accounts to your name? Consolidate what you have before you begin branching out into new investment classes.
For example, if you had a 401(k) with a past employer, explore your 401(k) conversion options. Or, if you’ve got some old mutual funds with your bank, consider cashing them out to pool your funds for a self-directed brokerage account. Consider whether you need a new account to meet your investing goals.
How much should you have saved by 30?
Some financial advisers suggest having the equivalent of your annual salary saved by the time you turn 30. Others argue that this estimate is too high and that even having scraped together half of your annual salary in savings puts you well on your way towards saving for retirement.
If you haven’t started budgeting for retirement yet — don’t panic: You have time to start. And if you’re looking for a solid jumping-off point, consider focusing on an emergency fund that covers three to six months of living expenses. Once you’ve established an emergency fund, look for opportunities in your budget to expand your margins and grow your savings goals.
3. Max out your retirement accounts
If you hold a 401(k) or IRA, consider maximizing your contributions to get the biggest tax-advantaged bang for your buck.
Employee-sponsored 401(k)s are a practical investment vehicle, as they help automate the investment process with contributions that are automatically deducted from each paycheck. Plus, if your employer matches employee contributions, you basically get free money.
Make the most of your 401(k) by contributing at least enough money to maximize your employer’s match. And if you can, bump up your contributions in tandem with any raises you receive. Annual 401(k) contribution limits are typically adjusted for inflation, so if you receive a cost-of-living salary increase, consider raising your account contributions.
If you don’t have access to a 401(k) — or want a second retirement account to complement your existing 401(k) — consider an individual retirement account (IRA). IRAs come in two flavors: traditional and Roth, although Roth IRAs tend to be the more advantageous avenue for younger investors. Why? They allow for tax-free distributions — an important distinction if you anticipate sitting in a higher tax bracket come retirement.
What if you haven’t started investing yet?
Know that it’s not too late to start, and there are plenty of options for 30- and 40-somethings exploring investments for the first time.
Take the first step and start investigating your retirement account options. The tax advantages of these accounts can’t be understated and can strongly affect your retirement distributions.
Outside retirement accounts, explore budgeting apps to identify opportunities to cut costs and ramp up your savings. Determine your investment goals and devise a plan for what you have to do to reach them. You may find that you need to save more aggressively to meet these goals, but avoid putting off investing and take action to get where you financially want to be.
4. Make sure your brokerage account still fits
Once you’re in your 30s, you may want to circle back to your existing brokerage account — if you have one. Trading fees and research offerings have changed drastically over the past five years as new brokers opened up shop and existing brokers scrambled to compete.
Revisit your existing investments and compare your platform’s fees and features with the top brokers on the market. Consider the following as you review competing brokers.
- Fees. In the wake of Robinhood’s commission-free pricing model, most platforms have shifted to commission-free trades. But be on the lookout for fees when trading derivatives and mutual funds.
- Available securities. Are you keen to add some fresh asset classes to your portfolio? Maybe you plan to branch out into more niche investments, like forex or cryptocurrency. If your current platform can’t cater to your trading goals, review what other platforms have on tap.
- Research tools. New traders will want to stick with beginner-friendly platforms, like SoFi, while those ready to perform their own research may want a more advanced platform, like Interactive Brokers or TD Ameritrade.
- Customer support. Customer support options vary widely by platform. So if you’re new to trading and anticipate needing assistance, opt for a platform with 24-hour support, like Fidelity.
The right platform for your portfolio depends on your long-term financial goals and how hands-on you’d like to be with your investments.
If you want to change brokers, let them know you intend to initiate an in-kind or automated customer account transfer service (ACATS) transfer of assets to a new brokerage. Your new broker should be able to guide you through the process with step-by-step instructions. Most brokers charge account transfer fees between $50 to $75.
5. Adjust your asset allocation
Think of your asset allocation strategy as a living, breathing entity. It should remain fluid and get reevaluated multiple times throughout your investing journey.
The longer your time horizon, the more risk you can generally afford to take. That said, the asset allocation strategy of a 30-year-old will look different than that of a 20-year-old. If you started investing in your 20s, now is the time to reassess your asset allocation.
Even if you didn’t invest in your 20s and are looking at getting started, the information we laid out in How to start investing in your 20s: 7 tips for beginners could be helpful.
Advisers encourage 30-somethings to split their funds between high-growth securities, like stocks, and safer, more consistent securities, like bonds. The right balance depends on your risk tolerance, but aim for something in the neighborhood of 75% to 80% high-growth assets and 20% to 25% conservative assets, according to some experts.
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6. Explore real estate investments
When it comes to investments, diversification is the name of the game. A handful of stocks, bonds and funds is pretty standard fare for most investors. But as you age, you may want to consider branching out into more unique asset classes, like real estate.
An investment in real estate can take many forms, and the right pick for your portfolio depends on how hands-on of an investor you want to be.
- Mutual funds. Real estate mutual funds are accessible, liquid and fairly low-commitment — at least as far as real estate investments go. They can be traded through a self-directed brokerage account.
- REITs. Real estate investment trusts allow investors to back companies that buy and operate income properties, like office buildings, hotels and apartment complexes. REITs trade on major exchanges and are also accessible through a self-directed brokerage account.
- Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding platforms connect investors with real estate development projects. You can invest in a real estate project through debt or equity and typically receive monthly or quarterly distributions for the investment term. Popular platforms include Fundrise and CrowdStreet.
- RELPs. Real estate limited partnerships help investors finance real estate projects that real estate development firms or property managers oversee. To invest, you must find a real estate development firm accepting investors. If accepted, you become a limited partner with a partial ownership stake in the property.
- REIGs. Real estate investment groups open the door for investors to purchase one or more property units across a set of buildings — usually apartment complexes. The REIG operates the units on your behalf and is responsible for managing tenants, but your name is on the lease. You pay a portion of your owed rent to the REIG to cover maintenance costs.
- Rental properties. If you want full control over your investment, consider purchasing physical property and becoming a landlord. You’ll be responsible for the mortgage, property taxes, building maintenance and any dilemmas that arise with tenants. But you’ll generate rental income, and many properties appreciate over time.
7. Revamp your financial goals
A lot can happen in a year, let alone a decade.
Your life at 30 can be drastically different than at 35 or 39 — so too can your financial goals and your progress toward reaching them. So wherever you are in your thirties, periodically review your finances and financial goals to make sure you’re on track. This is especially important before and after major life events, like buying a home or having a kiddo, as these can set your investment objectives on a new trajectory.
If your finances or investment plans are complex or you simply want help from a pro, bringing a financial advisor into the fold is key. This doesn’t have to be an ongoing expense — many financial advisors provide one-time services, such as an initial consultation to create a comprehensive financial plan. Otherwise, you can have an advisor on retainer for regular check-ins.
8. Monitor your investments
Stay on top of your portfolio’s performance by regularly reviewing your investments. The frequency with which you revisit your portfolio depends on your trading strategy.
Active investors who execute frequent trades may want to check in once per week — or even once daily if monitoring volatile stocks.
Passive investors that rely on managed accounts, whether they be robo-advisors or human portfolio managers, may not need to maintain the same level of vigilance. Even checking in once per quarter should suffice.
A managed account is an investment portfolio that a money manager or financial adviser manages on behalf of the investor. Numerous banks and trading platforms offer this service for a fee: typically 1% to 2% of the assets under management.
But be warned: Over-monitoring your accounts can be problematic. Financial experts suggest that too-frequent checking can lead to loss-inducing impulse trades.
Whether you’re new to investing or have an existing portfolio, there are numerous opportunities to streamline your financial goals and strengthen your returns. Review your investment options to keep your portfolio fresh, flexible and resilient.
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