Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Six Financial Milestones Before Turning 30

From MSN Money, here are six financial milestones the "experts" agree we should achieve before we reach our 30th birthdays:

1. Scale back the credit cards

The average credit card debt among 25- to 34-year-olds was $5,200 in 2004,
according to credit card research firm CardWeb.com. That is on top of the
average $19,200 in student-loan debt carried by recent undergraduates.
2. Own a home -- or have a plan.

Young Fisher says that homeownership should be a top priority for those who rent. "Start saving for a down payment," she says. "If you find something you love, or a change of life comes along (like a baby or a relocation) and you don't have any money, you're going to borrow or get an interest-only mortgage -- which is ridiculous."

3. Have skills.

Even for those who do not consider themselves entrepreneurs, most workers should expect multiple changes in employers and job titles throughout their careers. "By time you're 30, you should develop a set of marketable skills," says Gregg Fisher, 35, founder of Gerstein Fisher, a New York financial-planning firm. "Try to bring something new to the table."

The model of working for the same company for 30 years and retiring with a gold watch is now two generations out of date, says Fisher, who founded his firm -- which serves mostly clients under age 45 -- at age 21.

Today's workers must differentiate themselves in order to survive and thrive, Fisher says. "Everyone's really self-employed. If you work for a company, you just have one client," he says. "If they fire you, you're out of business."

4. Give money away.

Establish a regular charitable giving plan, says Scott Hanson, founder of financial-planning firm Hanson McClain and the author of the recently published "Money Matters: Essential Tips & Tools for Building Financial Peace of Mind."

"I think it's financially healthy to give," says Hanson, who also co-hosts a financial call-in show out of Sacramento, Calif. In talking to clients and callers, he's come to believe that we are an emotionally deprived nation that spends to feel good. When we feel down, we head to the mall.

5. Know thyself.

Introspection is not just for middle-aged guys with ponytails living on a cliff in Japan. Having a firm grasp on your priorities and values is one critical component of a healthy financial life.

6. Know smart people.

It is important to have strong advisers in your life, Young Fisher says. Knowing a good tax preparer, financial adviser, attorney and insurance agent can save you untold amounts of money and stress. "When you do need someone, get someone good," she says.

So how am I shaping up to meet those goals? I have only a short time (okay about 14 months) until my 30th birthday and I'm hoping that 30 really is the new 20 because damn it sounds SO OLD.

#1 - Scale back on credit cards - Done. Actually I've never really had a problem with credit cards. I only have one right now. It had a credit limit of only $500 and it's pretty much maxed out right now but I hope to pay it off within this calendar year and then only use it for emergencies. I am also paying off a credit card that I used for only one semester when I studied away from my college and racked up about $1800 in debt. So at least I'm below average in this respect.

#2 - Own a home or have a plan - Sorta? I totally had a plan to buy my own house in a crummy neighborhood for less than $80k a while back. I was going to fix it up and lay low while I waited for the neighborhood to gentrify and hope I didn't get shot. But it didn't happen. I met Boyfriend and he bought a condo all on his own with the stated intention that "one day" we will live there together. I hope that this plan works out but if not I am fine renting at least until my collections are paid off. Is this a plan? I think so. Okay, then done!

#3 - Have skills - Done! I have mad skills. So many skills in fact that I can no longer list all the unpaid internships I have done in my life on one page. I spent about $140k to get these skills so I'm fairly certain I've done all I can in that respect. And the fact about not being able to work for the same company for 30 years? Hahaha, I actually can and probably will work for the same "company" for that long. Gotta love the public sector.

#4 - Give Money Away - Not Done - I only rarely engage in charitable giving, mostly alumni giving. This is something I want to improve. I've signed up at like three different places to do pro bono work and no one has called me yet. Sigh.

#5 - Know Thyself - Done - The article made this sound touchy-feely but I believe it's an important point. For example, I know I value my work-life balance and therefore feel wouldn't feel comfortable taking a job that compromised it. This shall be an even more important factor once I have kids - which I also know I want one day.

#6 - Know Smart People - Done - I know more lawyers than I care to count. I know lots of powerful people too. But those aren't the people I think you really should know. I think it's more important to find a good doctor (done), a decent auto mechanic (done but no longer relevant), and someone you know will answer their phone in the middle of the night if you need to talk (done). I also know a librarian who erases my fines and people who will lend me their large SUV.

So how are you under 30s doing with this list? What about those of you that have passed 30 - did you meet these goals?


Anny said...

I turn 30 next month *ugh*

I guess I have enough downpayment for a home but with no stable plans for the next five years I don't think I will. Skills and credit card are ok...unless you count charity as giving stuff to friends and family Not Done..I feel pretty confident on the "know thyself" part but not so sure of the smart folks section (although I have a librarian who erases my fines too!)

Daizy said...

I'm 36 so I guess I'm slow because I haven't finished all of those goals.

1. I don't carry a balance.
2. I do own a home.
3. Have skills, not as many as I would like.
4. Give money away. Not as much as I should.
5. I do know my priorities...semi-retirement before age 40!
6. I don't know nearly enough smart people. I'm an introvert and don't have a lot of connections but I'm working on it.

Interesting list.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree that everyone should either own property or be in the process of planning for it, especially before the age of 30 when most people are still not 100% settled. Relocating and moving house due to a growing family is a lot cheaper and easier when renting. If I wanted to buy a house now and pay the same amount on a mortgage each month as I do for renting, I'd have to move into the suburbs and live in a shoe box. I've got a much better quality of life by renting, and don't agree that it should be a top priority. Over stretching yourself to get onto the property ladder is what has led to a lot of people ending up in serious financial difficulty today.

Shtinkykat said...

heh heh heh. I'm waaaay behind the curve. Now c'mon. Being in your 30s isn't so bad! One benefit is that your income in your 30s is much better than in your 20s, making these goals much more achievable. I agree with FruGal re: the supposed "milestone" of owning a home. I think many people feel pressured to own homes they can't afford to keep up with the Joneses (or to conform to these kinds of arbitrary "milestones"). But definitely, these are worthy goals to strive for.

Anonymous said...

I just past 40 and I have a little work.

1. I have a credit card balance.
2. I own a home and have paid off 50% of it.
3. Have too many skills. Just ask all the people who always need me to do something.
4. Donate to 3 charities regularly.
5. Definitely know what is important to me.
6. Know lots of "smart" people who are always willing to help.

Anonymous said...

I'm 38, and here's how I stack up.

1. DONE. Haven't carried a balance in 12 years, and even then it was never more than $2K.
2. NOT DONE - DON'T WANT TO. Like FruGal, I live in an unaffordable market - Manhattan. I'd need to put down about 60% ($300K) as the deposit in order to pay on a monthly basis what I currently pay in rent. And I live in a studio. That's not even in ther realm of possibility.
3. DOING. I can't say I make the best choices, but I get the urge to learn new things all the time and you never know what might prove useful.
4. DONE - AT 38. Only started giving back this year. I find the concept of charity quite complex, so I keep a whole separate blog for sorting through my thoughts on it.
5. HALF-DONE. I'm still directionless. The only thing I've figured out is that travel is a need and not a luxury for me. I've felt this way since the age of 11. Sometimes I think I knew myself better then.
6. HALF-DONE. I sincerely lack smart and useful people in my circle. I have a great doctor and a great mother (who's a fine-erasing librarian!), and they get me through.

Sallie's Niece said...

I thought I was special - apparently other librarians erase fines too!

Oh and travel, need to do plenty of that before (and after) I turn 30.

Jim ~ mydebtblog.com said...

I think it would be a huge financial milestone for people to figure out living within their means works better. If your income is less than your expenses, your savings will decline and debt grows. When you can keep your expenses below your income, debt declines and your savings will grow. I have personally seen how both of these situations work.

Anonymous said...

I'm 38 and haven't finished all of those goals either. By the way, 30s isn't too bad but I'm worried about approaching 40!
1) I don't carry a balance
2) No home. I live in a high cost of living area and prices are only starting to come down now, and it's still unaffordable. However, my husband and I do have a lot of money saved and could 20% down if we wanted to buy now.
3) Have solid skills but could probably learn more
4) Don't give money away regularly
5) Do know priorities
6) Know some smart people but I'm not very good at networking and using my connections

I would also add another financial milestone not on this list. #7 Not having to rely on parents for money. I haven't needed money from them since I was in my early 20s. They think I'm super responsible and know I live below my means, save money and invest wisely. People can fall on hard times but it's important to me that I don't expect parental bailout money.