How to Build Your Wealth in Your 30s

You're being pulled in so many directions at this stage of life, and so is your money. To set yourself up for a successful financial future, start by defining what it is that you really value.

(Image credit: Cyclopes Photographie (Cyclopes Photographie (Photographer) - [None])

Your 30s are an exciting time. You start to make the transition from being a young adult still struggling to find balance and financial success to becoming more organized, and ready to level up. However, building wealth in your 30s still might feel a little bit out of reach.

Even though you may be finding more financial success than you did in your 20s, there are still so many stressors that impact you day-to-day. Between student loans, growing or starting a family, buying a home, and moving toward your other lifestyle goals, wealth building often falls to the back burner.

Luckily, there are a few money moves you can make now that will do wonders for your financial future. These moves require minimal effort but will have a positive impact on your financial life now and as you near retirement!

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

Align Your Budget with Your Values

By the time you’ve hit your 30s, you’ve likely tried and abandoned several different budgeting strategies. The truth is that budgeting is hard, and it certainly doesn’t get any easier as you continue to grow and take on more responsibilities in life. In your 30s, there are so many expenses that are vying for your attention that it can be tough to prioritize.

The best thing you can do to keep your spending organized and in check in your 30s is to develop a values-based budget. In other words, spending your resources in a way that aligns with the people, places and things you care most about in life.

For example, if you value time with family and friends, a dinner out with them once a week maybe a critical expense you aren’t willing to give up. Another example might be if you value your holistic health, you may budget for a gym membership and seeing a therapist periodically to keep your mental health in top shape.

Once you get clear on your values, creating a budget that cuts expenses that aren’t valuable to you in order to prioritize what you actually care about helps you to start using your money in a way that positively impacts your life.

Boost Your Emergency Fund

The last thing you want is to be budgeting successfully, only to get hit by an unexpected expense. Hospital bills, vet expenses and even trips home for funerals or to visit a family member in need can catch you off guard and derail your financial progress. Instead, while in your 30s, make your emergency fund a priority.

A good rule of thumb is to keep three to six months of total living expenses in an accessible, cash-based saving account. This can help cover unexpected expenses that crop up and help you avoid going into debt to pay for emergencies.

Not sure where to get started? Try funneling 10% to 20% of your paycheck into emergency savings until it’s where you want it to be. Once topped off, those funds can be put toward other savings goals.

Start Saving for Your Goals

Speaking of saving, your 30s are a perfect time to start clearly defining your goals and working toward them. As you move through life, expenses tend to grow. Housing may cost more as you move to a bigger place to support your growing family, you might want to spend more on travel or other hobbies you enjoy, and you’re thinking more seriously about funding your children’s education costs and your own retirement.

Now is the time to determine what you’re saving for, and to allocate a portion of your finances to pursue those milestones. To make things easier, and to help you prioritize, it can be helpful to break your savings goals into two categories:

  1. Short-term savings
  2. Long-term savings

Short-term savings goals could include a house down payment, travel expenses or a new car. Long-term savings goals might be retirement, education costs for your kids, or planning to take care of aging parents someday. Once you know your short- and long-term savings goals, you can work backward to see how much you would need to save toward each of them in the coming months and years.

If the number of goals you have feels overwhelming, don’t be afraid to prioritize. You may not be able to start saving thousands of dollars each month toward each of your goals, so pick what’s important to you and start there.

Put Together a Debt Payoff Plan

If you haven’t started thinking about debt payoff, now is the time! In your 30s, you may still be dealing with student loans, a mortgage and possibly consumer debt, like credit cards or an auto loan. Put a plan in place to knock out your consumer debt first, then student loans, then your mortgage.

Of course, nobody is expecting you to become debt-free overnight. The key is to prioritize getting out of consumer debt — and staying out of it! Focus on high-interest, high-balance debts first and continue to pay them off slowly over time. Then, work on saving for big expenses and goals rather than pulling out your credit card to pay for them.


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Chad Chubb, CFP®
Founder, WealthKeel LLC

Chad Chubb is a Certified Financial Planner™, Certified Student Loan Professional™ and the founder of WealthKeel LLC. He works alongside Gen X & Gen Y physicians to help them navigate the complexities of everyday life by crafting streamlined financial plans that are agile for his clients' evolving needs. He helps them utilize their wealth to free up time and energy to focus on their family, their practice and what they love most.