Getting older comes with all sorts of perks, like knowing exactly how to wear leggings without looking lazy and serving as a mentor for aspiring female execs. But the road to major #adulting is also paved with a ton of decisions that sometimes (okay, most of the time) aren’t always the easiest to make. Luckily, we have Jennifer Barrett, Chief Education Officer at Acorns, a financial investment company, to help us navigate important financial decisions that we all should make by the time we turn 35. Read on to learn how to make bank at the bank.
1. Take control of your finances. First things first — you have to commit to getting on top of your money situation and making it work for you. According to Barrett, this means knowing exactly where your money goes so you can direct more of it where you *actually* want it to go. This will help you reach your financial goals sooner.
2. Fund an emergency savings account. Since an estimated 63 percent of Americans don’t have enough money saved to cover an unexpected $1,000 expense, we’re not surprised if you happen to be one of them. But you don’t have to be! “Funnel some of each paycheck automatically into a high-interest savings account that you can tap for unexpected and unavoidable expenses like a trip to the emergency room or a car or home repair, so you can avoid taking on credit card debt,” Barrett says. She suggests starting with a $1,000 savings account target and eventually aiming to set aside enough to cover three to six months of basic expenses.
3. Max out your retirement contributions. Okay, so if you can’t quite max them out, at least make sure you’re contributing enough to your employer-sponsored plan to earn any matching contribution offered by your employer. “For 2017, the max contribution is $18,000 for an employer plan like a 401(k) and $5,500 for an IRA (individual retirement account),” Barrett explains. “Contributing that much can be tough for a lot of people. But by the time you’re 35, you want to be putting 10-15 percent of your income toward your retirement.”
4. Know where your money is going. We’re all guilty of a little mindless spending, but Barrett notes that this habit can be pretty costly in the long run. She suggests being more conscious of how you spend your money and how much you’re setting aside each month. “Look at what you spend on essential expenses like rent, groceries, and transportation, and incidentals like entertainment and shopping. Identifying how much you spend within each category will help you see clearly where you can cut back on spending and start saving more.”
5. Create a budget you’ll actually follow. “One easy approach is to use the 50/20/30 budgeting rule,” Barrett says. “Allocate 50 percent of your income for fixed expenses like housing, health insurance, and utilities. Put 20 percent into savings and investment accounts to help you reach mid- to long-term financial goals. Use the other 30 percent for flexible spending like travel, eating out, and entertainment. You can also allocate some of that toward your financial goals and reach them even faster! Using accounting apps like Mint can help you easily map out a budget and stay on top of your spending. The more you know, the more you can make smart, informed choices.”
6. Use credit wisely. So you want to establish credit, but you don’t want credit card debt. Barrett recommends trying to pay off your balance each month.“At the least, make sure you’re paying more than the minimum,” she says. And what if you don’t? “You could end up paying significantly more than you borrowed because of compounding interest.”
7. Boost your credit score. “A difference of 100 points in your credit score can mean the difference of thousands of dollars in interest you’ll pay when you take out a mortgage or other big loan,” notes Barrett. So it’s worth the effort. Start by using annualcreditreport.com to check your report for errors, and get free credit reports from three credit agencies every 12 months. “Pay down debt as quickly as you can [and] ask for an increase in your credit limits, which will help boost your balance-to-limit ratio — a major factor in determining your score. Aim for a score of 750 or more,” Barrett says.
8. Invest your money smartly. “In addition to retirement accounts, you can make big strides toward other financial goals by investing,” says Barrett. “Don’t try to time the market, though. It’s better to invest in a mix of low-cost index funds, like exchange-traded funds that trade like stocks, that fit your goals and timeframe, and stick to the plan.”
9. Get the insurance you need. Aside from needing health, renter’s or homeowner’s, and auto insurance, Barrett notes the importance of life and disability insurance. Although these are a bummer to think about, Barrett says that enrolling in a life insurance policy will ensure your loved ones and your nest egg are protected no matter what happens to you. “Disability insurance can protect you if you get sick, and short-term disability can replace part of your income for six to eight weeks when you’re out on maternity leave,” adds Barrett.
10. Write a will. “Create a will as soon as you have stuff worth bequeathing,” says Barrett. “It’s especially important if you have kids or other dependents to outline your wishes in the event something happens to you. [Make sure to] include a financial power of attorney, health power of attorney, and advance medical directive. [This will guarantee that] you know that someone you’ve designated will have a say in what happens or you’ll have left directions in case a debilitating issue prevents you from making decisions for yourself.”
Bonus Tip: Negotiate every raise and job offer. “The National Women’s Law Center estimates that the gender pay gap will cost the average American woman $430,480 over the course of her career,” says Barrett. That’s serious money… so what will help close that gap? According to Barrett, there are three factors — knowing your market value and asking for it, always politely negotiating your job offers, and looking for employers who are committed to closing that gap.
Let’s get financially smarter, together. Tweet us your best financial tip @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)