The financial moves you make as a young woman have a powerful impact on your future finances. The wage gap is persisting, meaning women need to be savvy with their money to be as financially stable as their male counterparts.
Financial moves in your 20s and 30s like building credit, investing for retirement, and negotiating your salary, put yourself on an upward trajectory for the future. You’ll reap benefits you won’t gain if you wait until after you are middle-aged.
Keep reading to learn eight powerful financial moves for women in their 20s and 30s.
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1. Know Your Financial Values
You may have thought about your financial goals, but have you ever thought about your financial values?
In your 20s and 30s, you are just starting to make money and have many years ahead of you where you will have to decide what to do with it. Your values, or how you feel about money, will inform your financial decisions.
To help you formulate why you value money, complete the following sentences in a notebook. The more you write, the better. You may initially answer with a surface level value, but as you write more, you will discover deeper financial values.
- Money is important to me because…
- I will be financially successful when…
- The purpose of my money is…
- Money will help me…
These statements will help you discover values like:
- Helping others
Once you know why you value your money, you will know how you want to spend it throughout your lifetime. Now you can set financial goals that align with what you truly want out of life.
2. Track Your Credit Score
Track your credit score to understand your current credit position. Raising your score may take months, or even years, so you want to prepare now for when you need a good score.
In your 20s and 30s, you will find the need for a good credit score when you want a new car, credit card, or when you are looking for your first home.
The better the credit score you have, the better deal you will get, such as a lower interest rate, more money offered, or even better credit card perks.
By tracking your score, you will be conscientious about what it takes to keep a good score, and you will make intentional moves to boost your score. You will also know right away if it falls too low, and start working to bring it back up again sooner rather than later.
Many free apps allow you to track your credit score without hurting your credit. These apps will also notify you when your score changes and provide tips on how to raise it!
Here are some of the leading credit score apps:
- Credit Karma
Read my tips here on how to raise your credit score to excellent.
3. Start an Emergency Fund
Whether you are a woman who is single or has a family, you need to protect yourself financially. One step to security is having an emergency fund.
This fund is for in-case you lose your job or other sources of income or have a big surprise expense. You do not want to find yourself in a situation where you can not support yourself.
Your emergency fund should be a minimum of 3 months’ worth of living expenses. Figure out how much you spend each month and make sure you have 3 times that in your savings account.
See the next powerful financial move for what kind of savings account you should have.
4. Open a High-Yield Savings Account
Keeping your money in a savings account from a brick-and-mortar bank will not do you any favors. These accounts have measly interest rates at 0.01% APY. To make your money grow, keep it in a high-yield savings account.
You can find these accounts from online-only banks like Ally Bank, banking apps like Chime, and credit unions. They typically offer around a 1.0% APY but fluctuate based on the market because they are money market accounts. Make sure to shop around and find the bank that offers the highest rate before opening an account.
5. Max Out Your Retirement Account
After you have a solid emergency fund, health insurance, and do not have any out-of-control debt, your retirement account is where you should look next to put your money.
Create a financial goal of maxing out your retirement account, that is, make the maximum allowable contribution to your retirement account each year.
When just starting in your career, it is a hard decision to prioritize putting money towards retirement versus other financial goals. You will live on less money and will not see the benefits for many years to come.
Still, it’s much better to max out your retirement account in your 20’s and 30’s and ease up in your 40’s and 50’s than to not contribute much in your 20’s and 30’s and max out in your 40’s and 50’s.
This is because the money compounds, so the more time it is in the account, the more money you will make. That is why the same $1,000 you put in at 25 years old is worth way more than the $1,000 you put in at 45 years old. That is 20 more years of returns (dividends, interest, capital gains) you are earning! You will make more money if you contribute to your retirement account now!
Also, keep in mind that some companies will match your contributions, so you could be leaving money on the table if you do not put in the most that you can.
Why is this one of the critical financial moves for women? Due to the gender wage gap in the U.S., women have 70% of what men do in overall retirement income.
How to Check Your Maximum
So here’s how to check the maximum amount you can contribute. The IRS sets the maximum contribution amount and adjusts it every year, so start by checking with the IRS what your maximum contribution level is. Then, check with your benefits department at your work to ensure that your maximum contribution level is up to date.
If you have an account outside of your job, such as a Roth IRA, check directly with your account to see if you are contributing the maximum amount.
6. Negotiate Your Salary
Out of all the best financial moves for women, you’ve likely heard about this one the most. You know about the gender wage gap: in the U.S., women are paid 82 cents to every dollar earned by men.
You also probably have heard that women tend to shy away from negotiation. All this means that at this moment, you are likely not being paid enough and need to ask for a raise.
It may seem daunting, but you can increase your salary. In my last negotiation, I received a promotion with a 45% salary increase!
7. Track Your Spending
It is important to track your spending to know where your money is going. Remember the financial values you made in step #1? Tracking helps you see if your spending is in alignment with your values.
From month-to-month, you should know if you spent more or less than the money you made.
If you spent more, figure out what you are spending too much on, like restaurants. If you spent less, figure out how much to put towards savings.
There are different ways to track your spending. It can be as simple as keeping track of the totals on all of your accounts to as detailed as tracking line-by-line against a budget.
Here are a few ways to track your spending:
Review Your Accounts
Review your accounts, including savings, checking, credit cards, loans, and investments, monthly. Check if each account is trending up or down from month-to-month. Then, calculate if you have a positive or negative balance after subtracting your debt from your cash. This is a quick way to get a snapshot of your spending and financial status.
Calculate Total Fixed and Variable Expenses
Write out your monthly fixed expenses and calculate your average monthly variable expenses. Knowing your fixed expenses will help you know how much money you have for variable expenses.
If you are spending past your income, or your ability to save, knowing these two categories will help you see if you need to reduce your fixed expenses (like getting a cheaper apartment) or your variable expenses (like eating out only once a week instead of three times a week).
Use A Mobile App
An easy way to track your spending is to have a mobile app do it for you. Some popular apps that help you track your spending include Mint, Wally, You Need A Budget and ClarityMoney.
Create A Budget
Create a budget with different spending categories. At the end of the month, go through all of your transactions and see if you kept within your budget and what spending categories you spent too much in.
8. Read a Book on Finances
The last of the powerful financial moves for women is to read a book on finances on your own. I encourage you to take further steps towards educating yourself on personal finances.
This blog post only touched the surface of the information needed to be financially savvy; a book can tell you so much more! Read a book to dive into the details of investing, budgeting, salary negotiation, and more.
Here is where to start:
- Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach
- I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
- The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
- On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar
- The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
- Negotiating at Work: Turn Small Wins into Big Gains by Deborah Kolb and Jessica Porter
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