How to start investing in your 30s: tips for 30-39 year olds

Hey late starters! I’m glad you’re here! While you may be kicking yourself for not starting investing sooner, you are definitely not alone. In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, 28% of Americans don’t start investing until they are 30. That’s more than 1 in 4 people.

In fact, starting investing in your 30s isn’t a bad thing. Yes, it would have been great to start earlier. But on the other hand, it’s better than starting later!

At 30 things in your life start to change dramatically, especially when you look back on your college days. As such, it means there’s a different mindset when you start investing in your 30s. We’ll cover the biggest challenges investors over 30 are facing, as well as the top things to focus on going forward.

how did we get here
Here we are in our thirties and just starting to invest. Honestly, it’s been a long road for most – so congratulations on making it. Too many people get bogged down in life that they only start investing when it’s too late.

Luckily, getting into your 30s leaves you with plenty of time to save for retirement and the future.

But how did we get here? For most, it was a combination of life events:

You didn’t know what you wanted to do after high school and you postponed college
You didn’t find a career out of college and you’re hopping around in various low-wage jobs
You had unexpected life events that set you back and prevented you from earning more
Have you had positive life events such as B. a child, which prevented savings
Honestly, the list of reasons is endless, but the story is the same: you just never had the means to save and invest before.

So, now that you’re ready to go, let’s get started!

Balancing investing with life events in your 30s
The tricky part about getting started investing in your 30s is that your 30s are usually filled with big (and expensive) life events.

The wedding is one of the big events. The median age at which to marry is 29 for men and 27 for women. This means that a good proportion of millennials are getting married in their 30s. And with the average cost of a wedding being $26,645, that’s a major strain on the stomach.

Many people are also waiting to have children. The average age at which women have their first child continues to rise. According to the CDC, more than 30% of women were in their 30s before having their first child in 2014 — an all-time high. With an average delivery cost of $10,000 and an estimate that it costs over $245,000 to raise a child through the age of 18, it’s no wonder people are putting off those expenses until later.

After all, all of these events usually come at a time when people are just starting to make a little extra money at work and their student loan payments have become a little more manageable.

So how do you overcome these major life events while investing in the future? The goal is financial balance. You can do both – save for the present and save for the future. But it requires a little more thought and effort.

In your 20s, you could basically save as much money as you can afford without really worrying about other priorities. In your 30s, however, you must play the game of financial balance.

Understand your goals and be honest with yourself
So the real question is: how do you find your goals and how can you be honest with yourself when you achieve them?

For most people, your goals should be:

Take care of your immediate needs first
Make sure you take care of your family
Save for your future
Plan big events
Let’s start by taking care of your immediate needs first. That means making sure you already have at least a 6-month emergency fund saved up. If you don’t, that must be your primary goal. Read how to save an emergency fund here: What you need to know about emergency funds

You also need to make sure you are financially organized. The only way you will be successful at saving for your future is by keeping accurate records and knowing where all your money is. If you don’t already have a good system, you can use a free tool like Personal Capital to keep track of all your bank accounts.

Once you’ve taken care of yourself, it’s important to make sure you take care of your family. This is very important because nothing you do to build wealth matters if you only let them down when you die. When I talk about taking care of your family, you must have done the following:

Will – This document tells people what will happen to your children when they die
Trust – This document helps keep the money up at your death
Life Insurance – This can replace your income when you die so your family doesn’t become homeless
Disability Insurance – Most people forget this, but what happens when you’re in a serious car accident and can’t work? Disability insurance can replace your income so your family can survive.
Once you have these essential tools to protect your family, you can finally start saving for your future.

For most people, the primary goal in your 30s should be to contribute the maximum allowable contributions to both a 401k or 403b and an IRA. If possible, see if you can save more than that. The problem is that since you didn’t start in your 20s, you’ll have to catch up a bit.

And finally, once you’ve taken care of the above points, you can move on to balancing in life events. Use the money left over after saving for retirement only to plan for things like weddings and vacations. These “fun” things have a lot of flexibility when it comes to budget – but your future doesn’t.

Do you need a financial advisor?
If you’re in your 20s, there’s little point in meeting with a financial advisor. There just isn’t enough they can do for you to make it worthwhile. However, in your 30s, it may make sense to meet with a financial planner to discuss creating a plan if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself.

We recommend using a paid financial planner to create a financial plan for you. If you don’t know the difference between the types of financial advisors, read this article: The Shocking Truth About Financial Advisors. The bottom line is you want to pay for a service and not worry about potential conflicts of interest.

We recommend speaking to a financial planner for life events. The reason? The same financial plan should work during the same life event period. For example, if you create a financial plan as a newlywed, the same plan should work for you until you have children.

Here are some good life events to think about when meeting a financial planner:

Career change (with significant pay changes)
have children
pay for college
approaching retirement

An alternative to meeting with a financial advisor if you just want to stick with investing is to use a robo-advisor. These are online platforms that do all the “investing” for you, such as: B. Setting up an asset allocation and rebalancing your portfolio.

While most robo-advisors can’t help you with a holistic financial plan, they are great investment tools. If you want to go the robo-advisor route, we recommend using Betterment. Betterment is a great robo advisor for young investors. They make investing easy for beginners by focusing on simple asset allocation, goal setting features, and low-cost portfolio management. Click here to view Betterment.

Which accounts should you invest in?
In your 30s, you should place a high focus on saving for retirement. Therefore, you should follow the correct order of operations to save for retirement.

This order is about what types of accounts money should be invested in, in the best order to take advantage of as many tax deferrals as possible.

The best order to save for retirement is:

Contribute to your 401k by the company match
Maximize your IRA up to the annual contribution limit
Go back and max your 401,000 up to the annual contribution limit
If you qualify for a Health Savings Account (HSA), contribute to the maximum and treat it like an IRA
If you’re earning an extra income, take advantage of a SEP IRA or Solo 401k
Store any surplus in a standard brokerage account
How much should you invest?
So how much do you need to save and invest in your 30s to reach your goals? Well… it all depends on your goals.

The problem with starting investing in your 30s is that it always takes more money to achieve the same goal than it did in your 20s. Remember, if your goal was to have $1 million by the time you were 62, you would need to be saving $3,600 a year by the time you turned 22.

In your 30s, with an average annual return of 8%, you need to save and invest the following amounts each year to have $1 million by age 62:

Das Alter

Betrag, der pro Jahr investiert werden muss, um 1 Million US-Dollar zu erreichen




7.600 $


8.200 $


9.000 $


9.800 $


10.700 $


11.600 $


12.700 $


13.900 $


15.300 $

Just look at the difference a decade makes! If you just start investing $6,900 a month at age 30, you can achieve the same goal that required $15,300 at age 39!

This is only a guideline. I recommend saving until it hurts — and for most, that means you’ll save well over $1 million. In fact, for many people, a $1 million retirement portfolio probably won’t be enough to live at the same standard as they are today. You might even want to consider increasing your goal.

The bottom line here is that you need to save and invest as much as possible. If you are not achieving this goal right now, find a way to achieve it quickly.

Investment allocations in your 30s
What you invest in depends entirely on your personal goals and risk tolerance. In your 30s, the biggest way to build wealth is still by saving. While you want your portfolio to give you a “good” return, you need to choose a portfolio allocation that also matches the risk you are willing to take.

For this reason, we believe you should maintain a diversified portfolio of low-cost ETFs. This is the same strategy that a robo-advisor like Betterment would automatically perform for you.

We really like Boglehead’s Lazy Portfolios, and here are our three favorites depending on what you’re looking for. And while we give some examples of ETFs that might work in the fund, take a look at what commission-free ETFs you might have access to that offer similar investments at a low cost.

Conservative long-term investor

If you’re a conservative long-term investor who doesn’t want to deal with much in your investing life, check out this simple 2-ETF portfolio.

% Allocation




Vanguard Total Bond Market Fund



Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund


Moderate Long Term Investor

If you are okay with more fluctuations in exchange for potentially more growth, here is a portfolio that incorporates more risk with international exposure and real estate.

% Allocation




Vanguard Total Bond Market Fund



Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund



Vanguard International Stock Index Fund



Vanguard REIT Index Fund


Aggressive Long Term Investor

If you’re okay with more risk (i.e. potentially losing more money), but want higher returns, here’s an easy to maintain portfolio that could work for you.

% Allocation




Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund



Vanguard Emerging Markets Fund



Vanguard International Stock Index Fund



Vanguard REIT Index Fund



Vanguard Total Bond Market Fund



Vanguard TIPS


Don’t forget to rebalance your portfolio

When investing in your portfolio, remember that prices will change all the time. You don’t have to be perfect at these percentages – aim for within 5% of each. However, you must ensure that you monitor these investments and rebalance them at least once a year.

Rebalancing puts your allocations back on track. Let’s say international stocks shoot up. That’s great, but you could be well over the percentage you want to hold. In that case, sell a little and buy other ETFs to offset and get your percentages back on track.

And your allotment can be fluid. What you create now in your 20s may not be the same portfolio you want to have in your 30s or later. However, once you create a plan, you should stick to it for a few years.

Here’s a good article to help you plan how to rebalance your asset allocation each year.

Final Thoughts
Investing at 30 is harder than starting at 20. There are more “lives” to manage, more money to save to achieve the same goals, and frankly, you keep struggling uphill in work, income, and more.

However, it is important that you start. Don’t kick yourself for not starting 10 years sooner – realize that today is better than 10 more years from now. One of my favorite quotes is:

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