This article was published on moneyaftergraduation.com by Bridget, and I keep a copy here.
30 Financial Milestones You Should Meet Before Age 30
1. Financially independent of your parents. Parents always want to help but eventually their doting will become a hinderance when it comes to establishing yourself as a self-sufficient adult. I’m a firm advocate that you should establish complete financial independence of your parents in your early twenties, but if an unexpected emergency or crippling debt threw you back in the nest for a few years, make sure you claw your way out by 30.
2. Debt free. There’s no excuses to carry the spending mistakes of your youth into your 30′s, so your consumer debt should be long gone. Depending on what and how long you studied in university, your student loans should also be vanquished by age 30.
3. Out of overdraft. Sometimes your chequing account runs dry when you’re trying to make ends meet, but by age 30 you’ve had a bank account long enough to know how to stay out of the red. If overdraft is a habit for you, it’s one you need to break by 30.
4. Established good credit history. Maybe you missed some payments and even had a debt go to collections when you were young and foolish, but by 30 you should have redeemed yourself from these mistakes. A solid credit history will help you with big purchases like a home, but also shows you pay your bills on time and don’t live at the limit of your cards.
5. Have $25,000+ saved for retirement. If that number made your eyes bulge out, you better get saving. As a general rule, I think you should aim to have one-year’s worth of your salary banked for retirement by age 30, but if your spent a long time in university or had a slow start to your career, this may not be possible. $25,000 is a good amount to aim for if you need to set a target. Even if you don’t start saving until age 25, you’ll only need to put $5,000/yr away to meet this goal.
6. Started an investment portfolio. Whether it’s something simple like mutual funds or more advanced like common stocks, by age 30 you have to have your money diversified in something beyond a basic savings account.
7. Established an emergency fund. There are mixed opinions about just how much you should have set aside in case trouble comes your way, but the general rule is enough to cover 3-6 months of essential expenses.
8. Properly insured. Part of being a responsible adult is protecting yourself, and that includes small things like tenant insurance for your apartment right up to disability insurance. If you don’t have coverage through an employer, you should also look for health/dental insurance to manage those costs.
9. Maximizing employer benefits. If you’re lucky enough to work somewhere that provides you with perks, you should know what they are and be using them — it’s free money! Make sure you opt in to things like employer retirement plans and utilize spending accounts for learning & development. Don’t let these things go to waste!
10. In the habit of tracking your spending. It’s a tedious chore but the only way you’re ever going to manage your money is if you know where it’s going. By 30 you should be in the habit of tracking purchases and making sure you’re spending less than you earn.
11. Done with impulse purchases. The sooner you give up the habit of shopping when bored or grabbing goodies while you wait in the grocery store checkout, the better. Going into your 30′s, you understand your money can only work for you when you have it, so you’ve gotta stop spending it on things you didn’t originally want or need.
12. Willing to spend where it counts. As you near 30, your dorm-room living days are probably long over and you’re ready to invest in some nice furniture or pots and pans that aren’t coming second-secondhand (thirdhand?). Whether its your wardrobe, your home, or even items like a gym membership, you understand that sometimes quality costs and you’re willing to spend where it matters.
13. In the habit of regularly checking your credit report. You can do this once a year and for FREE, and it’s one of the simplest ways to protect yourself against identity theft while maintaining good financial health. You have no excuses not to!
14. On top or ahead of all your monthly bills. In your disorganized youth, you probably forgot to pay a bill or missed a deadline, but by 30 you should be well into the habit of meeting all your deadlines. Set up an auto-pay from your chequing account to ensure you never miss a due date!
15. At least one big splurge you saved up for and paid in full with cash. Whether it’s an extensive backpacking adventure or a new car, you should have at least one “fun” financial triumph behind you by the time you hit 30. Save up and spend! You have to enjoy your money as you take care of it!
16. An understanding of personal income taxes and how to minimize what you pay. Understanding what tax bracket you fall into and what credits are available to you means more money in your pocket every year. Make sure you’re contributing to your RRSP and claiming all other available deductions in a way that ensures you pay the least amount of taxes possible!
17. Diligently saving for a big purchase. Whether it’s a wedding or a down-payment on your home, there might be something very expensive coming up that takes a few years of planning. By 30 you should not only have a plan, but actively making headway towards your goal.
18. A clear direction of your career. Your job is your major financial asset, and the one that generates the most income for you. By 30, not only should you know what industry you work in, you should have logged a few years of professional experience in your field. If you were in school pursuing a graduate or professional degree, this might not be many years, but the most important thing is that you’ve started establishing yourself to reap the rewards of hard work in your 30′s and 40′s.
19. A profitable side income. However small, having a second (or third, or fourth) revenue stream is important. This can be a small part-time endeavour or something as simple as dividend payments from stocks you own. In any case, you should have an alternative source of income beyond your main employment.
20. A positive, growing net worth. By 30, it should be true that your assets – liabilities = positive number. This might be a challenge depending on how much debt you took on for school or how foolish you were in your early 20′s, but ultimately your net worth should be growing at a quick clip as you enter your 30′s. I suggest increasing your net worth by at least $25,000 per year.
21. A BHAG for your finances. BHAG stands for “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”. This can be something like retiring with $2 million or purchasing a vacation property by age 40 or earning a salary of $100,000 per year. Whatever it is you want, make sure it’s BIG and challenging so you can work towards it a little bit every year. When you meet your goal, make another.
22. An understanding and a plan of how your money will deliver the lifestyle you want. Following point #21, to their credit millennials dream big — sometimes a little TOO big! If you’re planning to pay off all your debts, get married, buy a home, have a child, get a promotion, buy a new car, and save $50,000 for retirement by age 30, you might need a reality check. Take a critical and realistic look at your stupid goals and determine if they really are feasible. Maybe make adjustments by lowering the target or extending the deadline. Remember, you’re not in a race! You will still be working and saving money at 31, so go ahead and delay some things until they’re really financially feasible.
23. So over measuring your finances against that of your friends. By age 30, some of your peers will have enjoyed tremendous success in their careers, and others will be struggling. At 21 there was little predict who would end up where, but by now the cards have been dealt and maybe you didn’t end up a millionaire by 25. While it can be hard to quell jealousy when someone is enjoying more financial success than you, your situation is yours and you have to manage it best you can. It’s time to get over this, bury the green-eyed monster, and move on. (This also goes for feeling superior to friends who are not managing their finances as well as you. Be an example, not an arrogant ass).
24. Less consumption-oriented. It’s easy to be dazzled by bright & shiny things in your 20′s, but heading into your thirties you understand that a new car or a big home are just things and ultimately don’t matter — and certainly are no testament to your financial health or success! By age 30 you should no longer be using material things to measure progress.
25. A healthy relationship with credit cards. By age 30 you should only be using credit cards for the conveniences and reward perks. You should always pay the bill in full and never miss a due date. You understand that creditors want to make money off of you, not provide you with benefits, so you pursue all rewards cards with caution.
26. A regular contribution to charity. Whether you drop $10-$20 monthly or a few hundred dollars a year to one or many charities, giving is an integral part of personal finance. Find a cause you believe in and do your part to help it succeed. This necessitates not only budgeting, but also serves as a reminder that many are not as fortunate as you and we have a moral obligation to help our communities by sharing our wealth.
27. If you’re part of a couple, a healthy way of sharing money with your partner. Whether it’s splitting bills 50/50 or one paying certain bills and the other person paying the rest, by your 30′s you should have figured out a system that works for both of you. Disagreements about finances are a leading cause of divorce, so getting over this early ensures a healthy wallet and a happy relationship.
28. A commitment to putting free or cheap before convenient. Whether it’s brewing coffee at home or looking for furniture secondhand, it will always be easier to buy new, but it’s in the best interest of your wallet (and the environment!) to seek out alternative ways to get what you want or need without spending much or anything at all. Make use of sites like eBay, Craigslist, and Kijiji or develop your own resources (ie. clothing swaps) and check out used bookstores, consignment shops, and thrift stores.
29. Done paying unnecessary fees. In your 20′s it seems insignificant to withdraw cash from an ATM that is not from your bank and it’s a hassle to call your cable or cellphone provider for a cheaper plan, but if you do these things and are strapped for cash, it’s completely your fault. It may have been forgivable to be careless in your 20′s, but going forward you never want to be paying more than you have to!
30. An understanding and appreciation for the reality that money is only a tool of exchange, and not worth obsessing over. It’s cool to be financially savvy, but don’t let it take over your life. By getting your ducks in a row in you’re 20′s, you’ll be all set to enjoy the financial fruits of your labor in your 30′s and beyond.