Setting and reaching financial goals is foundational to thriving in our complex economy. Yet ‘Finance 101’, and the basic fundamentals of smart budgeting and saving are rarely taught in school. What realistic and attainable goals should you aim to reach? What milestones should you reach by age 30? Clarifying these goals is key to reaching them. Remember, these goals should be specific, realistic, measurable, attainable and time-bound. Set short-term goals to reach with each milestone age. Then, set the next goal. With this method, attainable short-term goals are building blocks to your long-term financial success

Reaching financial goals by 30 is possible. Let’s look at which goals you should aim for. Follow these helpful tips below and get closer to financial freedom and security by the time you are 30.

Pay off debt

Create a plan for managing debt. Work to pay it off completely or lower it substantially by the time you are 30. It’s easy to accumulate debt when you are starting out in your 20s. Student loans, car loans and credit card debt add up quickly. Be proactive and create a plan to pay off debt sooner. You can manage your debt and avoid paying too much interest and falling behind. You also need to avoid defaulting on payments and overpaying in interest. This will help you save what is yours and protect your credit score.

Consider choosing one of the following methods to tackle debt. With the “snowball” method, you list your debts in order from smallest to largest. Pay the minimum due on each debt, except for the smallest. With the smallest, pay as much as you can and aim to pay it in full as soon as possible. Once the smallest debt is paid off, repeat the process with the next smallest and the next.

Conversely, the “avalanche” method uses a reverse strategy. First, you pay off the loan with the highest interest rate and then move down the list, saving the lowest interest rate for last.

Remember, you don’t have to have the entirety of your debt paid off by 30. Just focus on creating a repayment plan that works for you and stick to it.

Build credit

Apply for a credit card and start building credit. It’s best to start in your 20s or earlier so you have built credit by the time you are 30. At 30, you may be ready to make larger purchases or save toward purchasing a house.

Don’t let the fear of debt keep you from getting a credit card. With a careful plan and treating a credit card like a debit card, you can safely build credit without creating debt. Simply spend only what you have cash for and pay off the full balance each payment period. You can set up an automatic payment plan and remove the risk of late payment penalties (and paying the dreaded interest rate).

There are many opportunities to take advantage of low-interest credit cards and cards with rewards, such as cash back or earning airline miles. There are many cards to choose from, so shop around. If you are younger and want to start learning money management, apply for a young adult credit card. Or if you need to rebuild credit, look for a secured credit card. This option lets you improve your credit history and use a security deposit as cash collateral.

No matter your situation, there is a card for you. Take the steps to build credit now, pay off your bills immediately and earn cash or rewards in the process.

Create a budget

Not only can you plan your savings, but you can also plan your spending. There is room to have fun and experience life while saving for the future. You can accomplish this through budgeting. Make a list of your financial goals, as well as the categories that fit within these goals. This includes budgeting for serious goals as well as fun goals, such as trips, events and entertainment. Are you wanting to save for a car, housing, education, a dream trip or your favorite band’s concert?

List these goals, big and small. Then, decide on what percentage of your paycheck will go toward each category. Different financial advisors suggest different percentages. Choose one that works best for you. For instance, some live by the 50/30/20 rule: 50% toward essentials, 30% toward entertainment and 20% toward savings. Consider setting up automatic withdrawals and creating separate, labeled savings accounts for each goal. You can also manage your budget through online tools and apps. Some financial institutions, including Solarity, allow you to create multiple secondary savings accounts, allowing for clear budgeting.

Invest in the future

It’s never too early to start investing in your future and saving for retirement. Typically, people’s first introduction to investing is with their job’s 401(k). If you have a retirement fund through work, be sure to take advantage of matching contributions from your employer and start saving for the future. The sooner you start, the more time your money has to grow. Ideally, you should start contributing to a retirement savings account in your 20s. If you are reaching your 30s and have not invested in a retirement fund, start now.

Additionally, there are many other ways you can invest. Consider diversifying your portfolio. With a startup IRA, you can begin investing with as little as $5 by investing in a Roth IRA, Traditional IRA or SEP IRA. You may also want to look into stock trading, which is made more accessible than ever through mobile and web apps.

Solarity Credit Union loves to do annual, free financial reviews with members and those who want to be members. It’s easy to join, and we are here to help you reach your financial goals. When you become a member, you can unlock savings on our wide range of products and services. We make banking fast, easy and convenient.

Reaching specific financial goals by 30 is achievable. Make a plan, focus on starting today and stick with it. With this guideline, you’ll be closer to financial freedom and security before you know it.

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