Managing your money in your 30s—how to plan for today and tomorrow

Now that you’ve reached your 30s, your financial situation may be starting to feel more complicated. It’s not your imagination—you are, or soon could be, balancing more goals and responsibilities than you did before. Here are two views and some timely tips that can help make things easier.

See what other 30-somethings have for financial goals

Although everyone has their own financial considerations, there are particular stresses people tend to feel at each life stage. When you were in your 20s, you may have been trying to figure out what to do with your paycheck and, if you had one, your 401(k). From what we’ve observed, people in their 30s tend to sharpen their focus on saving for retirement while still nailing down other important basics.1

Here are tips for pursuing the financial goals that are in the sights of many 30-somethings, and may be in yours as well.

1 Save for retirement

Are you putting away enough for retirement? There are three parts to meeting this challenge:

  • Projecting what your expenses might look like when you expect to retire
  • Estimating how much retirement income you might be able to generate based on your current balance and how much you’re saving each month
  • Adjusting your current approach to fill any potential gap

Although this might all sound daunting, it’s within your reach. Online calculators such as this one can help clarify your goals.

As far as building your savings, keep in mind that money you put away now could multiply over the years, thanks to the magic of compound growth. And make it a habit to increase the amount you’re saving. Putting even 1% more of your pay toward retirement every year (automatically or on your own) can be a great way to do it.

2 Minimize debt

You’ve probably already done a fair amount of borrowing in your life. For instance, you might have a car loan and maybe a mortgage. Then there are those dreaded student loans and credit card bills.

Even responsible borrowers can get nervous about owing too much money. Strategies for handling credit cards, car loans, and other kinds of debt can help.

As a rule, aim to keep your monthly debt payments within recommended debt-to-income ratios (the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends 43%)2. For someone making $45,000 per year, the ratio would look something like this:

Annual earnings 


Monthly income

($45,000  ÷  12) = $3,750

Recommended monthly maximum debt payments

($3,750  x  0.43) = $1,612

For illustrative purposes only. Individual circumstances may vary and may not be reflective of your situation.

Finally, make sure you’re managing your credit rating to make sure you’ll have access to money if you need it, at a rate you can afford. 

3 Stay on budget

More than three-quarters of people like you say following a budget would help them reduce their financial concerns.2 Does this goal seem surprising to you? Well, just think for a second: Do you have a budget? And if so, do you follow it?

You can create your budget on a piece of paper, spreadsheet, app, or online—whichever works for you. For a quick, automated approach:

  • If your computer has Excel, just open the program, click on “New,” and search for “Budget” (this might differ by computer system). Then choose a template from the budget options and save it.
  • If you’d rather use an app, search “Budget” in the Apple App Store or Google Play and read the reviews to decide which will work best for you. 
  • Check out employer-provided wellness programs or your retirement plan benefit to see which tools and education may be available to help you set up a budget and manage it.

4 Put away money for a rainy day

The need for emergency savings is clear. Forty percent of people couldn’t afford a $400 emergency expense, such as a car repair or replacing a broken appliance, without borrowing. What’s more, 12% are unable to meet an emergency expense by any means.3

The rule of thumb for a rainy day fund is at least enough to cover three to six months of expenses—and up to a year’s worth, if you can afford it.4 One way to build up your fund? Consider a low-risk account, make regular deposits if you need to build toward your goal, and replace any money you take out. And, of course, increase your target balance if your expenses rise.

Some employers help by offering an emergency savings option, which lets you set up an account electronically and fund it with payroll deductions. But if not, you can do it on your own through online banking.

Next, look at where your financial priorities could be heading

Your 30s can be a time of exciting change.

You may enter the decade still settling into your career, relationship, and basic financial habits. But as time passes, your responsibilities and goals may multiply to include buying a home, juggling various types of debt, and maybe the desire to start socking money away for a child’s education. You’ll also start to be aware that with more responsibilities and long-term goals, your finances are sometimes vulnerable to factors outside your control.

Important disclosures

1 This viewpoint is based primarily on the following: In July 2020, John Hancock commissioned our seventh annual financial stress survey with the respected research firm Greenwald & Associates. An online survey of 589 workers was conducted between 7/28/20 and 8/14/20 to learn more about individual stress levels, their causes and effects, and strategies for relief. John Hancock and Greenwald & Associates are not affiliated, and neither is responsible for the liabilities of the other. 2 “What is a debt-to-income ratio? Why is the 43% debt-to-income ratio important?,”, 11/15/19. 3 “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2018,” Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, May 2019. 4 Economists say this is the minimum amount of money you need in an emergency fund,”, 10/18/19.

John Hancock Life Insurance Company (U.S.A.), John Hancock Life Insurance Company of New York, and John Hancock Retirement Plan Services, LLC are not affiliated with Apple or Google, and are not responsible for the liabilities of the others.

The content of this document is for general information only and is believed to be accurate and reliable as of the posting date, but may be subject to change. It is not intended to provide investment, tax, plan design, or legal advice (unless otherwise indicated). Please consult your own independent advisor as to any investment, tax, or legal statements made herein.

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