By: Andrew Rosen, CFP®, CEP®

If you’re reading this, I’m… 40! That’s right, I beat the odds and made it to my 40th trip around the sun. I love birthdays with one big exception, my own. Ever since I’ve had kids though, I’ve learned to tolerate it for them.

Since I fancy myself the reflective type, I thought why not write a blog about my 30s. More specifically, why doesn’t this President of a billion-dollar-under-management financial planning firm write what he’s learned about his own personal finances in his 30s. This way, you’ll have it for yourself, or your spouse, and/or can share it with children or grandchildren, if they’re in their 30s. Sound like a plan?

For starters, if my 20’s were about finding myself and spreading my wings, my 30s were about settling down and solidifying my future. This decade, much like the rest of us, was a transitional one. I went from 0 children to 3 children. Went from a newlywed to happily married. Went from finding my career to a thriving career. Now with these changes came growth and financial planning opportunities. Here are what I’ve done this decade to really solidify my family’s finances.

Protection – What did I learn about protecting my family in my 30s?

As my family kept multiplying, it caused a lot of financial planning strategies to go into motion. For starters, we went from a dual income to a solo income household. We also went from only my wife being inconvenienced if something happened to me, to Aviva, Isabella, and Emmet Rosen being financially in ruins. How can I begin to talk about building wealth if I don’t first secure and protect my foundation? Therefore, I acquired a lot of term life insurance, along with getting the maximum amount of disability insurance. Unfortunately, this stuff isn’t cheap, but I’ve lived through tragedy on both the disability and death side. With the risk of a tragedy putting me or my family in ruins, I’m doing all I can do for their protection.    

Emergency – What did I learn about emergency savings in my 30s?

With this young, budding family comes lots of unforeseen stuff, which brings unforeseen expenses. You know the saying, “man plans God laughs”.  What does one do in preparation for all this unknown? Secure a solid-liquid emergency account. I went from barely having 3 months’ expenses in liquid savings to 6 months (plus) covered. Now, I have enough in savings that everything else goes into a liquid investment account. If there’s a need for additional emergency savings (and I hope there isn’t), it can be found there. In addition, those dollars are growing with the markets and ideally will be future dollars for retirement (or something else).

Retirement – What did I learn about retirement savings in my 30s?

From a retirement standpoint, my 30s were CRITICAL. With everything else going on, it was very easy for me to make excuses why I couldn’t save, and no one would blame me (except me). That said, I truly believe what I did from a savings standpoint has positioned me phenomenally for retirement. So, what did I do? In my early 30s, I started with 10% (then up to 15%) into my 401(k). In my mind, that was the absolute minimum I should be doing. Then as my income kept creeping up, I started maxing out that 401(k), which I often tout as the single most important thing you can do for your finances. But what I did next is the difference between feeling good and feeling fantastic about my retirement picture. You see, as my income kept increasing, my lifestyle also increased, but I kept increasing my savings to coincide with it.

All too often I see people’s incomes increase, their expenses increase, and yet they stop at maxing out their 401(k). Thus, they’re living the good life, but doing nothing to be able to sustain the good life in retirement. Not me, no sir! I now have a decent size non-retirement account, and with 20 plus years of work left to add to it, along with 20 more years for these dollars to compound, I’m feeling pretty good about things.

What I learned about personal finance in my 30s - college

College What did I learn about college savings in my 30s?

This is a tricky one, as I certainly put more importance on retirement than college for my kids. That said, it’s important. After I felt good about my retirement savings rate, my wife and I had to sit down to chat. Now I recommend this for everyone, as often one spouse has a different feeling about paying for kid’s college than the other. Luckily, we were aligned and said if we can afford it, let’s start saving for our children’s college education. This got increasingly difficult as we kept having babies every few years, go figure. However, we’ve started 529 accounts in each of their names. Much like our other savings, this started small on a monthly basis and has grown modestly through the years. Again, it took a back seat to retirement savings, but now with a 9-, 6-, and 3-year-old child, I feel we’re in a decent position to keep adding fuel to this fire to make our college dreams come true!

Debt – What did I learn about debt management in my 30s?

Debt is an interesting one to reflect on in my 30s. Especially, since I was fortunate enough not to have much of it (outside the normal mortgage and car loan). Being I was in a position to have a nice emergency fund, coupled with that I didn’t buy things I couldn’t afford, it set me up well. I now feel confident I can deal with any surprises without going into the debt pile. Avoiding costly, high-interest-rate debt has me feeling good about where I’m starting my 40th year. I know not everyone is as lucky as I am, but doing everything you can to stay out of detrimental debt will only put you that much more ahead of the game starting your 40s.

Career – What did I learn about my career in my 30s?

I truly believe your 30s is where you develop a real skill set. By the end of your 30s, the world starts to really compensate you for those skills. I see this every day and have again lived it myself. I say this because I want those reading it on the younger side to not get discouraged, and for those who are older to calibrate this notion into their future plans. The other big revelation I had is to follow my passion. There was a real inflection point of what I wanted to do as I entered my 30s. Do I stay the course in financial services or go follow another dream? After a lot of soul searching, I knew my calling and continued to follow my passion, and I’m thankful I followed my heart.

what I learned about personal finance in my 30s

Housing – What did I learn about housing in my 30s?

I lived in 4 different homes in my 30s. Honestly, even writing this I can’t even believe it. We went from a 1-bedroom condo to a townhome, to our family home, to our forever dream home. The key here is we always stayed within our means, which is probably why we moved so many times. We didn’t get carried away and overshoot what we could afford (thanks to my conservative nature). It was important to my wife and I that we weren’t house poor. This caused us to bide our time until we felt very comfortable about our financial positioning to get into our (hopefully) forever home.

Happiness – What did I learn about my happiness in my 30s?

Probably the biggest development in my 30s from a planning standpoint is understanding the importance and correlation money can have with happiness. It’s really a transformative thought for me that has paved the way to see things differently. When I entered my 30s, I wanted to be rich, I wanted to be a millionaire, I wanted to set the world on fire, I wanted a successful business, and if you asked me why, I would have given an empty response like “so I can buy lots of stuff.” Today my thinking has shifted DRAMATICALLY.

Don’t get me wrong, I still would love all those things, but now I’d answer differently. I’d say I want to be successful so I can change people’s lives. I want a thriving business so I can watch all those that work with me to achieve their dreams. I want to be rich so I can provide the best of what life has to offer to my family and find ways to use wealth to give back. And I want to set the world on fire because I want to change the world for the better. I know these are lofty goals, but when I think about my why I realize that my 30s taught me that my mission is to deliver happiness to as many people that will let me in.

Thanks!

Thanks for reading and listening to me pontificate about my 30s. It really was a decade of immense learning and growth. I’m excited to see what these next ten years have in store, but I’m certainly in no rush, as life is good. Please feel free to share with others or love to hear what you learned about your 30s, or even teach me about your reflection on your 40’s or your favorite decade.

In any event thanks for reading and please stay wealthy, healthy, and happy!

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