In your 20s, it’s normal to make a few money mistakes. Chalk it up to life experience and move on.

Once you reach your 30s, though, it’s time to put those tough lessons to good use.

With a decade of career experience under your belt, you may be earning a lot more. You can make the most of those hard-earned dollars by investing—here’s how.

Start With Your Emergency Fund

You may have experienced your share of financial emergencies in your 20s.

Major car repairs and medical bills happen—often when it’s least convenient. If you didn’t have enough cash, you may have relied on high-interest credit cards.

Paying them off isn’t easy. It’s a costly lesson on why your emergency fund is so important.

You may have been able to skirt by without an emergency fund in the past. But the stakes are a lot higher in your 30s, especially if you have a family that is relying on you.

Experts suggest setting aside three to six months of your family’s living expenses.

If you own a home, you also need a separate fund for ongoing maintenance and repairs. Your goal should be one to four percent of your home’s value per year. So, if your home is worth $300,000, set aside an extra $3,000 to $12,000 per year.

Both emergency funds should be in cash and easy to access.

Twine makes it easy to save with your partner and withdraw the money in a pinch.

Boost Your Retirement Savings

With more experience, you may now be earning a higher salary to match.

While it may be tempting to upgrade your lifestyle, check on your retirement goals first. Experts recommend saving at least ten percent of your income for retirement.

If you aren’t there yet, try boosting your 401(k) or 403(b) contributions by one to two percent throughout the year. Set reminders every quarter to see where you can make adjustments.

If you have the option, it’s also important to take advantage of employer matches.

Two or three percent could make a big difference—making it easier to reach the ten percent goal.

Regular retirement contributions is one of the best ways to invest money in your 30s.

Saving for College

Once your debt and retirement plans are underway, it’s time to think about your children. You may already be worrying about the cost of college.

The average costs per year are currently at $21,370 – $48,510. There is no telling how high it may be in the future. Regardless of your family’s plans, it never hurts to be proactive.

One popular way to save and invest for college is through a 529 savings plan.

These plans offer many perks, including tax breaks at both the state and federal level.

Here are a few key details from the IRS to know:

  • You won’t owe taxes on your 529 earnings. As long as you spend the money on qualified education expenses, you won’t have to pay federal or state taxes.
  • You can use 529 money for elementary and high schools, too. You can use up to $10,000 per year for elementary, high school, and religious schools—public or private.
  • You don’t have to choose your state’s 529 plan. There are many options to choose from. Feel free to shop around for either a 529 prepaid tuition or 529 savings plan.  

Once you choose a plan, the next step is deciding how to invest.

Like your other investment accounts, your risk tolerance and timeline are important. For example, if you have a 3-year-old, you may have 15 years to save. But for your 10-year-old, the timeline shrinks to only 8 years.  

Often, it’s tough to nail down a specific goal.

The cost of college, inflation, and your expected returns may all impact your final numbers. If it feels too difficult to calculate on your own, an investment advisor can do it for you.

Best Ways to Invest Money in Your 30s

Your 30s are important for both your career and family’s financial future.

The pinnacle of work is still to come, with plenty of raises, promotions, and new jobs to look forward to. As your income goes up, it takes discipline to keep saving and investing. But as you see progress, you may feel motivated to keep the momentum going.

By setting your goals now, it will be that much easier to double down in the future.

Put your money to work.

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