Getting to middle adulthood demands a shift in priorities. Once you stop needing to count the days to your next paycheck, it’s time to start really planning out your financial future. There are so many money traps that can get in the way, and you may not even realize it.
Now that you have a decent income, don’t let your social obligations strip it away. Here are 6 money traps that you should avoid at all costs in your 30s.
1. Buying a Car That’s Out of Your Price Range
Don’t buy a fancy car to impress people you don’t like, just because you can. People need transportation, but there’s so much variability in price that you have to spend wisely. New cars can be one of the biggest money pits a person can get stuck in.
A car fresh from the manufacturer loses about 30% of its value in the first year, and half by the end of three years. Learning to protect and enjoy what we already have will make it easier to set aside more income for investing.
2. Buying a Home That’s Too Expensive
Owning a home that increases in value can be a practical expense, but there’s a point of diminishing returns. When you are funneling every dime you have into a mortgage on a home that you really can’t afford, you have no money left for emergencies.
A monthly payment that you can barely manage could place an enormous weight on your budget for 30 years, on average. Instead, keep an eye on the local market and buy when you can get a home for a moderate price you can easily handle.
3. Spending Too Much Going Out
Although paying for a house and car could be the biggest hits to your monthly income, you might be shocked by the effect little expenses can have. Dining out used to mean the cheap pizza joint on the corner or fast food. Now that you have more discretionary income, you may think you could step it up a little.
That doesn’t mean you have to.
Everyone wants a little entertainment now and then, but you should still budget for it. Give yourself a little room to spend on the things you really want to do, and keep it under control. You’ll enjoy the break all the more for the effort.
4. Having an Expensive Significant Other or Friends
Even if you are the master of your own money, other people may have a habit of getting in the way of your financial plans. Failing to communicate about spending habits with a significant other is a major cause of relationship trouble for married couples.
If you are dating or just getting into a long-term relationship, it is tempting to blow your budget with gifts, entertainment and travel. Don’t let too many weekend getaways take away your ability to plan effectively for the future. Make your expectations clear from the start, and you will avoid a lot of fights over money in the years to come.
5. Racking Up Credit Card Debt
There’s a reason so many people think that credit card debt is the worst ever, and that’s because it is.
Credit cards are relatively easy to access these days, even if you don’t have solid income or good credit. This means that you might have a few monsters lurking in your wallet from your college days, with interest rates higher than you could get by investing.
Every time you spend money on a credit card and don’t pay it back by the end of the grace period, you are paying for the convenience of spending money. It can be tempting to open a new credit card once you max one out. And all the while, more of your budget gets eaten up with interest payments.
There’s an easy way to stop the cycle and improve your credit score. Keep your budget less than your income, and stick to it. And don’t open new credit cards.
6. Not Investing
Although some people put a lot of emphasis on short-term investment gains, planning for retirement is a marathon, not a sprint. The earlier you start, the more you could accumulate. Beginning investments and retirement planning are all about the balance between paying your expenses, eliminating current debts and setting aside money that can help pay you back.
Make sure you make the most of investing in your 30s.
Life moves fast, and you don’t want to lose track of your opportunities. Investing now gives you decades to pick up skills and confidence, and watch your money grow.
Have you fallen for any of these money traps and regretted it? Learn more about investing from my free Transformational Investing Webinar.
Phil Town is an investment advisor, hedge fund manager, 3x NY Times Best-Selling Author, ex-Grand Canyon river guide, and former Lieutenant in the US Army Special Forces. He and his wife, Melissa, share a passion for horses, polo, and eventing. Phil’s goal is to help you learn how to invest and achieve financial independence.