Some big life changes – and big expenses – can occur in your 30s. The key to maximising your retirement savings now is making savvy, forward-thinking financial decisions. 

To save for retirement in your 30s, you might need to adopt the principle of delayed gratification. That is, being aware of what you can comfortably borrow and pay back, resisting living expenses you can’t afford, and tucking away any extra money to help protect yourself financially, both now and in the future. 

This becomes even more relevant when you’re surrounded by the current economic uncertainty. Short-term needs and expenses are front-of-mind and you might prioritise saving more money for a rainy day. Even so, it’s still possible to balance this with preparing for retirement while in your 30s to help make sure you eventually leave the workforce with sufficient financial freedom. 

Set a budget - and stick to it

Your budget shouldn’t be static, and it’s a good idea to reassess it at different stages of your life. This is particularly important from age 30, when you’re potentially faced with a lot of large expenses, both expected and unexpected.

Buying a house? Don’t be tempted to get in over your head with debt to purchase your dream property. Getting married? Work out how much you can afford to borrow in advance and stick to your budget. Planning to have children? Taking time out of the workforce not only affects your day-to-day household budget, it can also have a long-term effect on your super balance; explore contribution splitting to help make up the shortfall.

Start saving as much as you can 

You’re no longer new to the workforce and, with a decade of experience under your belt, you may be in a position to receive a promotion or pay rise. If you’re in a relationship, you may also benefit from having two income streams, as you can share some of the load on living expenses like rent, car costs and groceries.

But just because you’re earning more doesn’t mean you should spend more. In fact, as your income grows so, too, should your financial and savings goals. If you developed strong savings habits in your 20s – now’s a good time to save and invest to set aside even more for your future. 

Boost your super

It’s time to get serious about super, so your retirement savings are maximised. If you haven’t completed all the steps recommended in your 20s – like consolidating funds where appropriate, choosing a fund that’s in line with your values and understanding where and how your money is generating an investment return, then it’s time to think about these tasks.

Next, if you were one of the thousands of Australians who withdrew their superannuation this year under the Federal Government’s early super access scheme, start thinking about how you might be able to replenish your super balance.  

You could do this by making a personal super contributions – you could then try claim this amount as a tax deduction in your tax return or potentially receive a government bonus to your super in the form of a co-contribution.

If you’re an employee, on top of the compulsory superannuation guarantee (SG) from your employer (currently 9.5%) you might also consider salary sacrificing, which is where your employer makes additional voluntary contributions to your super account. You choose the amount you’re comfortable salary sacrificing and it’s paid directly from your before-tax income. 

Whatever strategy you choose, by setting up payments as an automatic contribution, you’re less likely to even notice them coming out. Plus, putting these tactics in place now means you’re taking a small but vital step toward ensuring your financial wellbeing and a comfortable retirement. 

Identify additional income streams 

Furniture lying around the house that you never use? A talent for photography? Love making jewellery in your spare time? Your talents and hobbies – and all that ‘stuff’ you no longer need – could be earning you extra cash.

Help save for retirement in your 30s through a side hustle or by regularly getting rid of the stuff you no longer use. It’s also potentially a fun way to meet new people and spend more time doing the things you love. Consider putting whatever you earn from these side projects directly into your retirement account – you’ll be building funds for your future, while decluttering or getting your creative juices flowing. 

Assess your insurance needs 

With more responsibilities, and possibly debts, it’s probably a good time to make sure your financial future is protected with insurance. You might consider taking out private health insurance before you turn 31, to avoid paying a lifetime health cover1 loading on top of your premium. 

While it may not seem like something you need just yet, income protection and life insurance are not just for oldies. They’re relevant for Aussies at all life stages, especially those of working age with ambitions for the future. Imagine if you couldn’t work because of illness or an accident – taking out insurance can protect you from having to dip into your savings to pay for unforeseen expenses whilst you maybe off work. 

Save and invest wisely 

This is the decade where you might consider investing more aggressively for your future, however it’s important to make considered decisions with advice from those in the know. 

If you’re a newbie investor, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration, including what level of risk you’re comfortable with and how diversified you’d like your portfolio to be. Start small, set clear goals and continually re-evaluate your progress. 

For example, if buying a home is still out of reach, then rentvesting – where you purchase an investment property in a different area, while you continue to rent – is becoming a popular alternative. If you’re looking at the stock market, managed funds offer a chance to buy into a portfolio of different companies, without purchasing them individually.

Get personal finance advice

Whether you talk to your partner, use savvy friends as a sounding board, or get advice from your parents, it’s good to have honest conversations about personal finance. But it’s also important to understand the value of qualified professional advice. Consider making an appointment to see a financial adviser to help you better understand your financial situation, so you can set and reach your retirement goals. 

Australian Taxation Office  2019), Lifetime Health Cover

Get started in 3 easy steps

Budget and save for your financial future

Create and reassess your budget and put any extra money straight into your savings.

Boost your super

Consider personal contributions or salary sacrifice to build up your super balance.

Get help with your personal finances

Talk to a financial adviser about your short-term and long-term financial goals.  

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