10 Money Principles You Should Master by 30

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the financial institution.


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You spend your 20s learning, experimenting, and making mistakes. It’s when you get closer to the big 3-0 that you really grow into who you are and become older, yet wiser. Even so, one area of life that can be confusing no matter how old you are: money.

Many people learn about money by making mistakes – there’s no Welcome to Adulthood guidebook that gives you all the answers to managing money in your 30s. But don’t worry. In this post, we’ll go over the 10 personal finance principles you should master by 30 so you don’t have to find out the hard way.

1. The value of your dollars

To rock money in your 30s, you should have an idea of how much you actually make and what that can afford you.

It’s easy to look at a nice, hefty gross salary and think you’re doing fine. However, it’s key to look at your salary after taxes and deductions to get a true financial picture. In other words, how much are you actually bringing home? Knowing this will help you be realistic about your goals.

For instance, ask yourself how many hours you have to work in order to buy that daily lunch out.

I was introduced to the concept of measuring spending by hours worked through the great personal finance book “Your Money or Your Life.” I realized my lunch out was costing me a whole hour of work. And dinner and happy hour? I was wasting over half a day of work.

Thinking about purchases this way will give you a clearer picture of how your income and spending are related and can shift your spending habits to prioritize larger goals.

2. How to budget

By the time you’re approaching 30, it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of budgeting.

I know, I know – budgeting can feel boring and restrictive. At the end of the day, though, it’s simply about making sure you spend less than you earn and have a purpose for every dollar.

Even if you’re not a strict budgeter, tracking your expenses and allocating money towards specific spending categories can help you gain control over your finances and make saving money in your 30s easier.

You can use tools like Mint or You Need a Budget (YNAB) to make the process easier or go DIY with an old-school pen and paper or Excel spreadsheet.

3. The impact of interest

The power of interest can either make you money or cost you money. Regardless, you should be clear on the impact of interest when it comes to all of your financial choices.

For example, how much is interest really adding to your loans? Though I borrowed $81,000 in student loans, with interest I ended up paying closer to six figures. Ugh.

On the other hand, I’ve been saving for years and have seen firsthand how interest can work in my favor. Aside from knowing the impact of interest on your debt as well as your savings, it’s key to understand the magic of compound interest. Compound interest is essentially like interest on top of interest and it can do wonders.

Let’s say you invest your $3,000 tax refund and don’t add another dime for the next 35 years. Under a seven percent return rate, your tax refund would balloon up to $32,029.74.

4. How your credit score is calculated

Your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your life. It determines whether or not you get approved for a mortgage or apartment, credit card, car loan, lower interest rates, cheaper insurance – maybe even a job.

Knowing how your credit score is calculated can help you keep it healthy.

“The majority of a credit score is comprised of five key factors,” said Katie Gampietro Burke, CFP at Wealth by Empowerment. According to Gampietro, those factors include:

  1. Whether or not you pay your bills on time
  2. Credit utilization (how much of the credit you have available is actually being used – ideally, you do not want to carry a balance more than 20 percent of your available credit, 30 percent maximum)
  3. Length of your credit history
  4. How often you apply for new credit
  5. Types of credit (a mix of mortgage, student loans, auto loans, revolving credit, etc.)

Your payment history — whether you make payments on time or not — is typically the largest contributing factor to your credit score. Make sure you’re paying your bills on time; if you’re prone to making late payments, consider setting up auto-pay so you never miss a bill.

5. Investing 101

By 30, you should have a grasp of basic investing terms and understand how investing works — and hopefully be investing!

Do you know the difference between a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA and the various tax benefits? Do you know the differences between stocks and bonds? Most importantly, if you are already investing, do you know how much you are paying in fees?

While learning about investing can often feel like learning another language, it’s one that becomes easier with a little practice. And once you become familiar with how things work, you can invest and build wealth for the future.

When it comes to money in your 30s, investing should be a key player in your financial plan while time is still on your side.

6. When to say no

When you start to make any kind of money in your teens and 20s, it can feel like a rite of passage – you’ve grown up and can spend money on whatever you want.

Spending your own hard-earned money is liberating, but it can also lead to excessive spending because YOLO. If you’re like me, you’ve probably wasted some money on things that leave you shaking your head later.

By the time you get to 30, it’s important to have learned when to say no to things you don’t want to do, you don’t want to spend money on, and that aren’t in your budget. “No” is your friend; use it wisely. Saying “no” when appropriate and understanding your values when it comes to money can make saving money in your 30s easier.

7. How to write a will

Okay, so 30 isn’t exactly old, but it is time to start planning for the future and write a will. While no one likes to think about their own death, not having a plan in place can lead to confusion and trouble if you’re no longer around.

Saul M. Simon, CFP at Simon Financial Group, recommends having both a simple will and a living will.

A simple will indicates what you want to happen to your assets should you pass, while a living will details your wishes for medical care.

“If you die without a simple will to distribute your property, your loved ones will be put in a difficult legal position. A living will can help them make medical decisions if you become seriously ill,” Simon explained.

8. Rent or buy?

As you get closer to 30, you may start to think about buying a house. But is it the right choice for you? Though owning a home is a major financial goal for many people, it’s not always a great investment.

Seriously ask yourself if you’re happy with renting or if you really want to own a home. There are no right or wrong answers, but if you want to buy a home, it’s key to start saving for a down payment — at least 20 percent – to avoid paying expensive private mortgage insurance (PMI). Plus, depending on where you live and your lifestyle, it might actually make more financial sense to keep renting.

Don’t forget to factor in additional fees, repairs, taxes and insurance to the overall cost when deciding if homeownership is truly for you.

9. Your insurance needs

At this point, you probably have health insurance (thanks, Obama!). As you get older, however, you’ll want to assess what level of insurance you need in various areas of your life and try to find that Goldilocks balance of just right.

For example, renters insurance can protect your items in the case of theft or if there’s an incident at your apartment. You may also consider life insurance if you have a family or are the primary income earner.

“Imagine the situation a 29-year-old who has just started a family, or with large student loans co-signed by parents, or who just purchased a house would leave if they passed away tomorrow,” said Matt Hylland, a financial planner at Hylland Capital Management.

Now is the best time to look at your insurance needs, as you are most likely young and healthy and can get low rates.

They key is to understand what insurance coverage you have, what coverage you need, and fill in the gaps — just enough to be prepared, but not too much where you are wasting money on expensive premiums.

Money in your 30s should be about building and saving to prepare for your future. And sometimes that means thinking about the not-so-sexy financial things like insurance.

10. The importance of a money mindset

You’ve probably been in and out of a few romantic relationships and some of your friendships have come and gone. It happens. But one area you can still focus on building a solid, long-term relationship with is your money.

Your money mindset affects how you build wealth and how you prepare for the future. Think about some of your long-held beliefs about money and how they may be holding you back from success.

For example, I used to think I’d never get out of debt or make a lot of money, but those were simply things I told myself. Once I changed my money mindset, I started taking action instead of making excuses.

To enhance your money mindset, let go of some of your past mistakes, keep learning, and prepare for your future. Realize that just because you may think you are “bad with money” doesn’t mean you have to actually be that way. Having a positive money mindset is important in reaching your financial goals.

What else would you add to the list? What personal finance principles did you master by 30?

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 8 lenders of 2020!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.20% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.89% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of December 13, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 12/13/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.46% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% APR (without AutoPay). Variable rates currently from 2.31% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% (without AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.31% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.31% plus 0.75% margin minus 0.25% for AutoPay. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your credit history and the term of the loan and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

3 Important Disclosures for Figure.

Figure Disclosures

Figure’s Student Refinance Loan is a private loan. If you refinance federal loans, you forfeit certain flexible repayment options associated with those loans. If you expect to incur financial hardship that would impact your ability to repay, you should consider federal consolidation alternatives.

4 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

College Ave Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

1College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.

2All rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

3$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees.

4This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 1/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

5 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.


There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.


For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
For eligible Associates degrees in the healthcare field (see Eligibility & Eligible Loans section below), Lender will refinance up to $50,000 in loans for non-ParentPlus refinance loans. Note, parents who are refinancing loans taken out on behalf of a child who has obtained an associates degrees in an eligible healthcare field are not subject to the $50,000 loan maximum, refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for more information about refinancing ParentPlus loans.


Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).

Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.

All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.

For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.


The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.


The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.


After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.

If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.


This information is current as of November 8, 2019 and is subject to change.

6 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers.

7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 1.76% effective November 10, 2019.

8 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 12/019/2019 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% to 8.59% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.49% to 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

1.99% – 6.89%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.31% – 7.36%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.06% – 6.81%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Figure

2.62% – 6.12%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit College Ave

1.99% – 6.65%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

1.99% – 7.06%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.85% – 6.13%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.90% – 8.59%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

Published in Big Money Decisions, Budgeting & Expenses,