Here are six important financial decisions 30-year-olds make that could come back to haunt them in their 50s:
1. THE COMPANY YOU WORK FOR. There are many things to consider when choosing a job, but the retirement benefits offered are vital to wealth-building in the long term. A 30-year-old who doesn’t carefully research his or her benefits and chooses to work for a company with no company match or retirement contribution could be way behind someone who works for a company with robust benefits.
2. YOUR STARTING SALARY. Even a slightly higher starting salary can jump start your earning potential. A study has shown that employees who negotiated their starting salaries average a higher annual increase compared to those who didn’t negotiate. Due to the effects of compounding, the researchers estimate that an employee who starts his or her career with a salary of R55 000 per annum instead of R50,000 (with 5% increases each year) would earn over R600,000 more in income over a 40-year career.
3. YOUR CHOICE OF PARTNER. Who you marry is one of the most important financial decisions you can make. I’m not advocating you marry for money—quite the contrary. Marrying for love and staying together is a smart financial move. Whether the 50% divorce rate is an accurate statistic or not, we can all agree that when it happens to you, it is devastating both emotionally and financially. The divorce itself can be expensive and dividing financial assets unravels your financial planning. Just ask Robin Williams, who is returning to television after two expensive divorces! Your choice of a mate isn’t only about love and commitment; it’s also about financial compatibility. If you and your partner are compatible money-wise and commit to setting up a financial plan to save, invest and build your future, you can enjoy life and create financial security at the same time.
4. WHEN YOU HAVE CHILDREN. People are delaying having children. More than one in three university-educated women will have children after the age of 30. In the past few decades, the average age of first-time mothers has increased by four years, and first-time fathers are aging at the same rate. Since the recession, the only age group that has continued to have more babies than in years past is the “over 40” group.Women should try not to pass up promotions because of plans to have children. If you have plenty of support at home, this can be a great idea. Another way to look at it is, if you plan on having children, don’t wait because you are focusing on your career or waiting for financial security. There are advantages to having children earlier.One reason has to do with timing of kids’ expenses. Consider a couple that has children when they are 25 years old. Before they hit their 50s, their kids are past the very expensive college years. These parents, still young themselves, have 15 years to focus on their own retirement savings if they plan to retire at 65. Couples that have children when they are 35 years old may not see the light at the end of the “empty nest” tunnel until they are 60—much closer to retirement age.
5.WHETHER TO BUY A HOUSE. There are instances when it is better to rent than to buy a house. If you need mobility, don’t plan on staying in your area for long or aren’t interested in potentially being a long-distance landlord, you may be better off renting. Without even taking home equity into account, a homeowner with a fixed-rate mortgage won’t have to worry about a rent increase. Having a fixed housing cost is increasingly important as you get older, since rents can increase with inflation and you are attempting to estimate future expenses. As a homeowner, the mortgage will eventually be paid off and your housing budget will only have to cover taxes and repairs, so there may be more money to enjoy during your retirement.
6. HOW TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR MONEY. If I could take back what I spent in the past twenty years on coffee, clothes I bought on sale but rarely wore and my “guilty pleasure” books, I’d be a wealthy woman. Tracking expenses to see where your money is going which you can do with your bank, and identifying blind spots can help you save more and spend less. First of all, when you are tracking expenses, you have a heightened awareness of your money and subsequently are more reluctant to part with your money wrecklessly. I hear clients exclaim all the time, “I had no idea I spend R600 a month on restaurants (or R800 a month on shopping). I am shocked!” When tracking, you can more easily identify areas for cost savings and put those savings toward your financial goals.
Mickey Mantle said, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” I suggest that if 30-year-olds knew just how young they’d feel in their 50s and how much life is left to live, they’d take much better care of their finances.