Guide to Investing in Your 30s

By Rebecca Lake · September 19, 2023 · 7 minute read

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Guide to Investing in Your 30s

Turning 30 can bring a shift in the way you approach your finances. Investing in your 30s can look very different from the way you invest in your 20s or 40s, based on your goals, strategies, and needs.

At this stage in life you may be working on paying off the last of your student loan debt while focusing more on saving. Your financial priorities may revolve around buying a home and starting a family. At the same time, you may be hoping to add investing for retirement into the mix (or increase the amount you’re already investing) as you approach your peak earning years.

Finding ways to make these goals and needs fit together is what financial planning in your 30s is all about. Knowing how to invest your money as a 30-something can help you start building wealth for the decades still to come.

5 Tips for Investing in Your 30s

1. Define Your Investment Goals

Setting clear financial goals in your 30s or at any age matters. Your goals are your end points, the destination that you’re traveling toward.

So as you consider how to invest in your 30s, think about the end result you’re hoping to achieve. Focus on goals that are specific, easy to measure and best of all, actionable.

For example, your goals for investing as a 30-something may include:

•  Contributing 10% of your income to your 401(k) each year

•  Maxing out annual contributions to an Individual Retirement Account

•  Saving three times your salary for retirement by age 40

•  Achieving a net worth of two times your annual salary by age 40

These goals work because you can define them using real numbers. So, say for example, you make $50,000 a year. To meet each of these goals, you’d need to:

•  Contribute $5,000 to your 401(k)

•  Save $6,000 in an IRA

•  Have $150,000 in retirement savings by age 40

•  Grow your net worth to $100,000 by age 40

Setting goals this way may require you to be a little more aggressive in your financial approach. But having hard numbers to work with can help motivate you to move forward.

2. Don’t Be Afraid of Risk

If there’s one important rule to remember about investing in your 30s, it’s that time is on your side.

When retirement is still several decades away, you typically have time to recover from the inevitable bouts of market volatility that you’re likely to experience. The market moves in cycles; sometimes it’s up, others it’s down. But the longer you have to invest, the more risk you can generally afford to take.

The best investments for 30 somethings are the ones that allow you to achieve your goals while taking on a level of risk with which you feel comfortable. That being said, here’s another investing rule to remember: the greater the investment risk, the greater the potential rewards.

Stocks, for example, are riskier than bonds, but of the two, stocks are likely to produce better returns over time. If you’re not sure how to choose your first stock, you may have heard that it’s easiest to buy what you know. But there’s more to investing in stocks than just that. When comparing the best stocks to buy in your 30s, think about things like:

•  How profitable a particular company is and its overall financial health

•  Whether you want to invest in a stock for capital appreciation (i.e. growth) or income (i.e. dividends)

•  How much you’ll need to invest in a particular stock

•  Whether you’re interested in short-term trading or using a buy-and-hold strategy

Past history isn’t an indicator of future performance, so don’t focus on returns alone when choosing stocks. Instead, consider what you want to get from your investments and how each type of investment can help you achieve that.

💡 Quick Tip: When people talk about investment risk, they mean the risk of losing money. Some investments are higher risk, some are lower. Be sure to bear this in mind when investing online.

3. Diversify, Diversify, Diversify

Investing in your 30s can mean taking risk but you don’t necessarily need or want to have 100% of your portfolio committed to just a handful of stocks. A diversified portfolio with multiple investments can spread out the risk associated with each investment.

So why does portfolio diversification matter? It’s simple. A portfolio that’s diversified is better able to balance risk. Say, for example, you have 80% of your investments dedicated to stocks and the remaining 20% split between bonds and cash. If stocks experience increased volatility, your lower risk investments could help smooth out losses.

Or say you want to allocate 90% of your portfolio to stocks. Rather than investing in just a few stocks, you could spread out risk by investing and picking one or more low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) instead.

ETFs are similar to mutual funds, but they trade on an exchange like a stock. That means you get the benefit of liquidity and flexibility of a stock along with the exposure to a diversified collection of different assets. Your diversified portfolio might include an index ETF, for example, that tracks the performance of the S&P 500, an ETF that’s focused on growth stocks, a couple of bond ETFs, and some individual stocks.

This type of strategy allows you to be aggressive with your investments in your 30s without putting all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak. That can help with growing wealth without inviting more risk into your portfolio than you’re prepared to handle.

💡 Quick Tip: Distributing your money across a range of assets — also known as diversification — can be beneficial for long-term investors. When you put your eggs in many baskets, it may be beneficial if a single asset class goes down.

4. Leverage Tax-Advantaged and Taxable Accounts

Asset allocation, or what you decide to invest in, matters for building a diversified portfolio. But asset location is just as important.

Asset location refers to where you keep your investments. This includes tax-advantaged accounts and taxable accounts. Tax-advantaged accounts offer tax benefits to investors, such as tax-deferred growth and/or deductions for contributions. Examples of tax-advantaged accounts include:

•  Workplace retirement plans, such as a 401(k)

•  Traditional and Roth IRAs

•  IRA CDs

•  Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

•  Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)

•  529 College Savings Accounts

If you’re interested in investing for retirement in your 30s, your workplace plan might be the best place to start. You can defer money from your paychecks into your retirement account and may benefit from an employer-matching contribution if your company offers one. That’s free money to help you build wealth for the future.

You could also open an IRA to supplement your 401(k) or in place of one if you don’t have a plan at work. Traditional IRAs can offer a deduction for contributions while Roth IRAs allow for tax-free distributions in retirement. When opening an IRA, think about whether getting a tax break now versus in retirement would be more valuable to you.

If you’re not earning a lot in your 30s but expect to be in a higher tax bracket when you retire, then a Roth IRA could make sense. But if you’re earning more now, then you may prefer the option to deduct what you save in a traditional IRA.

Don’t count out taxable accounts either for investing in your 30s. With a taxable brokerage account, you don’t get any tax breaks. And you’ll owe capital gains tax on any investments you sell at a profit. But taxable accounts can offer access to investments you might not have in a 401(k) or IRA, such as individual stocks, cryptocurrency or the ability to trade fractional shares.

5. Prioritize Other Financial Goals

Retirement is one of the most important financial goals to think about in your 30s but planning for it doesn’t have to sideline your other goals. Financial planning in your 30s should be more comprehensive than that, factoring in things like:

•  Buying a home

•  Marriage and children

•  Saving for emergencies

•  Saving for short-term goals

•  Paying off debt

As you build out your financial plan, consider how you want to prioritize each of your goals. After all, you only have so much income to spread across your goals, so think about which ones need to be funded first.

That might mean creating a comfortable emergency fund, then working on shorter-term goals while also setting aside money for a down payment on a home and contributing to your 401(k). If you’re still paying off student loans or other debts, that may take priority over something like saving for college if you already have children.

Looking at the bigger financial picture can help with balancing investing alongside your other goals.

The Takeaway

Your 30s are a great time to start investing and it’s important to remember that it doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming. Taking even small steps toward getting your money in order can help improve your financial security, both now and in the future.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.

Photo credit: iStock/katleho Seisa

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