Chances are, you’re sick of hearing about saving money – the fact is, it can be difficult to save at any age.
However, arguably, it is most difficult to save when you are young. In our 20s, we typically start new careers, invest in rent and mortgages, make car payments, take out student loans, and generally just learn how to get by!
Setting money aside every month may seem impossible. Then, by the time you reach 30, the panic starts to set in that you actually have absolutely nothing saved up.
But, there’s no need to worry – many are in exactly the same boat as you. That said, if you can start saving as soon as possible, you should.
With that in mind, how much savings should you have by 30, and what can you do to better manage and boost your kitty? Let’s take a look.
What’s the average savings level for 30-year-olds in the US?
According to Federal Reserve statistics, the average savings for an individual under 35 is around $11,200, with the median being $3,240. That’s quite a large difference! The median tells us that 50% of the people 35-year or younger in the US have less than $3,240 in savings. Considering the high cost of living and mountains of student debt, it’s not a surprise. The average figure is being pulled higher by some savers that have exceptionally high savings levels.
That said, there’s some disagreement over whether or not that’s a good or a bad figure. Some experts recommend that young people save at least the same as their yearly salary by 30. So, with the idea that you’re on an average salary for someone your age, you should have ideally saved between $48,000 and $52,000.
That’s a tall order for even some of America’s hardest-working people.
Other schools of thought suggest that you should have around 15% of that number – so, at least $7,200, if you’re hitting the “ideal” salary for your age bracket.
If these figures all seem a little high to you, don’t worry.
First, always understand that there is no real set amount you should have saved by the age of 30. Many people in their 20s don’t get to save a lot of money – especially during a cost of living crisis!
Nowadays, the cost of living is incredibly high, and salaries for people in their 20s (usually at the start of their careers) don’t tend to reach dizzying heights. These figures are highly generalized and may not even suit your savings needs!
Remember that the amount you can earn may vary depending on the state you’re working in. For example, you’re less likely to hit these savings goals working in Mississippi than you are if you work in California.
Should I try to reach the average savings level for 30 year olds?
If your finances afford you the ability to do so, I would definitely recommend it. I’m not saying that you should sacrifice your quality of life just yet, but if you have enough money left over after covering your major expenses – such as rent, food, debt payments – it will be good to save what you can. Check out the saving rules below and see if any of those fit your lifestyle to really help you standardize your savings approach.
While people typically think about saving for retirement, young people also need to think about saving for a down payment for buying a house , for a wedding, and for emergencies. Try our house affordability calculator to see what kind of an impact having a down payment makes on your ability to buy a home!
Even though it may seem like you have lots time on your side, you may have major costs coming up in your 30s that will need a pot of cash to help with.
Of course retirement is a long time away, so you will still have plenty of time left on your side for saving for that bucket! That means plenty of time left to get serious about your savings. The chances are you have enough to focus on as it is, so don’t worry.
Set out your financial life goals
Keep in mind that everyone has different savings goals and needs. Specifically, you need to consider what you want out of your future.
What job do you ideally want to do? Do you have any dependents? Are you living the lifestyle you really desire? At what age would you (ideally and feasibly) like to retire?
Nowadays, many young people are leaning towards the idea of FIRE savings. FIRE, which stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early, refers to a movement and set of strategies aimed at achieving financial independence and retiring earlier than the state tradition.
That effectively means no longer sticking around in the same nine to five until you hit 65. However, FIRE methods are typically aggressive saving and investing techniques.
I suggest you look carefully at your current needs and long-term goals – and use a savings calculator to work out a feasible action plan.
How can I start reaching my savings potential?
If you’re short of ideas on how to start reaching your savings goals by 30 (or even older), here are a few ways of moving in the right direction.
Pay Off Debts
Debts (other than mortgages) can be a crippling noose around your life. Often the high interest rate on debts means that those payments suck away a significant chunk of your cashflows, leaving you with less money to enjoy your life.
Let’s look at an example with the help of our loan payment calculator. If you have $30k in credit card debt at 20% and you’re making $600 in monthly payments, it’ll take you around 9 years to clear out the balance – that’s assuming you’re not putting any new charges on that card. Over that period, you would have paid $34,886 in interest! You pay more in interest than your actual balance. Crazy, right?
If instead, you’re able to contribute an extra $100 monthly, you would pay off the loan in just 6.3 years and your interest costs would reduce to just under $23,000. That’s an extra nearly $12,000 of interest savings in your pocket!
The moral of the story here is that if you have high interest rate consumer debt, it’s imperative to prioritize paying that debt off first and as quickly as possible.
Prioritize an emergency fund
No matter your age, you never know when you need extra or emergency money. Whether it’s a job change, a relocation, or a health emergency, it pays to have a stock of money to one side.
Ideally, your emergency fund should be worth at least three to six months of your average expenses (such as regular bills, food, transport, etc.).
When you reach your 30s, you’re more likely to be financially independent (and, in some cases, you may be more stable). You may also have more responsibilities and dependents at this age, meaning it pays to have money to fall back on to keep everything ticking over.
Follow the 50/20/30 rule
Many financial experts recommend the 50/20/30 method of saving money. Simply put, the 50/20/30 rule helps you to allocate your income across different categories responsibly to prioritize your savings. It suggests dividing your after-tax income into three main categories based on percentages.
So, 50% of your salary goes to your essentials. This includes mortgages, rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, insurance, etc. You need to cover these necessary expenses to maintain your basic living standards.
Then, 20% of your salary should go into your savings and debt repayment. This includes contributions to your emergency fund, retirement savings, investments, and any extra payments toward loans or credit card debt. If for example you aim to save $500 a month, this means you should be earning $2,500 a month after-tax to comfortably fit this rule.
Finally, your lifestyle choices should be the last 30% of your salary. This means non-essential expenses such as eating out, entertainment, travel, hobbies, and other personal indulgences.
The 50/20/30 rule offers a potentially feasible way of managing your salary to help ensure that you have what you need, are living the life you desire, and are still managing to save money for the future.
Follow the 70/20/10 rule
If the 50/20/30 rule doesn’t work for you, then you can try the 70/20/10 rule instead – this is often a more reliable option for those people and households with higher day-to-day expenses than most.
It works much like the 50/20/30 rule, but instead, 70% of your salary goes on living expenses, 20% towards savings and debt repayment, and only 10% goes on your personal goals and lifestyle choices.
This does mean you need to cut back on extravagances – however, it means your savings potential stays the same, and you can live from day to day a little more comfortably.
Use an app or program to help
All of these apps help people to allocate money towards their savings through simple changes in habit and lifestyle. You may not even find you need to make many compromises!
It is worth looking at multiple apps to find the right program to suit you and your needs – and do remember that, unfortunately, you won’t be able to delegate all the financial mathematics to robots just yet!
Make saving an automatic habit
The best way to save – and to keep saving – is by making a habit out of it! Set yourself clear goals, ones that truly motivate you, and make sure that every month, no matter what, you put money into your kitty.
Sometimes that means making hard choices regarding things you want, but consider the long-term impacts. No one regrets having saved too much money!
Contribute to retirement savings
A great way to better ensure your retirement’s financial security is by investing in quality savings funds specially built for when you retire. For example, consider contributing to your 401(k) as soon as you possibly can, or set up a Roth IRA. Neither option taxes deposits, but your funds will lock away until later life.
As mentioned, some people choose the FIRE saving methods so they can retire earlier. For those who feel these routes carry too great a risk, always make sure you have a 401(k) route planned out.
Increase your savings alongside your income
Ultimately, as you grow your income, you should grow your savings. Think about the 50/20/30 rule, for example, if it suits your needs.
The more you’re earning, the more you should be saving. If you must change your lifestyle a little on the back of a new job, do so – but don’t ever sacrifice your savings goals.
Crucially, while you may not be reaching what experts believe is the ideal savings pot for a 30-year-old, you should always keep a saving mentality in mind. That is, of course, provided you have no debts left to clear!
Is $100k saved at 30 good?
Having such a large pot of money at 30 is really good! You’re well above the average and medians for your age group. Just ensure you’re not carrying any credit card debt or car loans at the same time. Try out our FAT FIRE calculator to see if you can really accelerate your financial independence!
Is $20,000 a good amount of savings?
The “goodness” of savings depends on your age, lifestyle, expenses, health, etc. Unfortunately there’s no clear answer. A young person with $20k in savings is likely in a great position. However if you’re in your 50’s, you may still need to work hard to save up more to ensure you’re well set for retirement. Try our retirement calculator to see whether that amount of money is sufficient for your specific situation.
by Andrew Garcia
Andrew, an alumnus of South Florida State College, loves finance, fintech, and coding. When he’s not crunching numbers at the bank, he’s passionately writing about personal finance and building calculators for PFF. See more.