6 Money Management Tips for Women in Their 20s and 30s

Saving and investing when you are young can help you build wealth.

There’s no better time to start amassing savings than when you’re a young adult. That’s because your investments have years—decades, really—to grow. Moreover, believe it or not, you may have more disposable income now than you’ll have when you’re older and face more financial obligations.

Building wealth is less challenging if you take the right steps from a young age. Here are six tips to get started.

1. Set Realistic Financial Goals

Meeting your financial goals is so much easier when you develop a saving mentality. Consider creating a monthly budget that factors in your ongoing expenses, such as your rent or mortgage, food and entertainment. Still, budgeting is not just about watching what you spend; it’s also about consciously setting financial goals. Think about what’s important to you, and view goal-setting as a path to getting there.

“It’s important to set a time frame for your short- and long-term financial goals,” says Christine M. Ceron, Wealth Advisor at Regions Private Wealth Management in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “That will dictate the savings level you need and the risk level you can take on.”

For instance, if your goal is to save X dollars for your wedding or to buy a house in two years, play around with your discretionary expenses to decide what can stay and what needs to go. While a budget may seem limiting at first, it can be incredibly empowering to watch your savings grow over time.

When you’re deciding what to do with your savings, consider your tolerance for risk. Investing in individual stocks and stock mutual funds carries the risk of fluctuations in value, but these assets may deliver higher returns over the long term.

Beyond saving for short- and long-term goals, it’s also important to earmark money for an emergency fund. “The rule of thumb is to set aside six months of your income,” Ceron says. Why six months? The logic is that if you get fired or have a medical crisis, those funds can see you through. Open a separate bank account for your emergency savings and set up automatic monthly deposits to that account to force yourself to save.

2. Build Your Credit History

Your credit history is your track record of how long and how responsibly you’ve handled your debts—and a strong predictor of how well you’ll do so in the future. All that information is detailed in your credit report and crunched into a three-digit number called a credit score. You can request one free credit report a year from each of the three major credit bureaus at the government-authorized website annualcreditreport.com.

Anyone from mortgage lenders to landlords to prospective employers might pull your credit report or score. The most important factor they consider is whether you’ve made on-time payments for your debts, including student loans, a mortgage, car loans and credit cards. Another influential factor is how much of your available credit you use on your credit cards—the less, the better. For instance, if you have a $10,000 credit card limit and carry a $9,500 balance on your card, that doesn’t look great.

3. Invest in Your Career

You likely won’t be shocked to learn that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, women earned 82 cents to each dollar men earned in 2021. That means it’s especially critical during this phase of your career to take advantage of every chance to network and to enlist mentors who can help you advance in your field and increase your salary. “It’s important for people to know about your achievements and skills,” Ceron says. “That way, when an opportunity comes up, they’ll think of you.”

4. Start Saving for Retirement ASAP

If you’re already saving for retirement, pat yourself on the back. If not, it’s likely time to reevaluate. Why? Two words: compound interest, or the interest you earn on interest when you leave your savings alone and allow it to build up (you can find more on that here). The longer your money is invested, the greater your balance may potentially grow.

So it’s vital to contribute as early, and as generously, as possible to a 401(k), individual retirement account (IRA) or Roth IRA. Roth accounts, in particular, can be especially beneficial for young adults. While you don’t receive a tax deduction on contributions, you won’t have to pay taxes on withdrawals in the future as long as you meet IRS guidelines.

How much should you save for retirement? Experts suggest you aim for at least 10% of your income each year. If you start in your 20s or 30s, putting that amount in a tax-advantaged retirement account should put you on solid footing when it’s time to retire. If you’re self-employed, consider setting up a solo 401(k) plan or a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP-IRA), which both provide tax breaks for your contributions. Once you start saving, aim to raise your contribution by 1% of your income annually until you reach at least 20% of your income.

Saving for retirement is especially important for American women, who can expect to live nearly six years longer than men, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Don’t leave your golden years in jeopardy—your future self will thank you.

5. Provide for Your Growing Family

Once you have kids, you may also want to start setting aside money for your child’s schooling, even while you’re paying for diapers and day care. While education savings is most often for college expenses, consider the potential cost of private K–12 schooling as well. Check out prepaid tuition programs and 529 plans, which can offer tax benefits.

You’ll also want to think about purchasing life insurance. Why? Life insurance can provide an income stream and safety net for your growing family should something happen to you or your spouse. Evaluate if a term policy or permanent policy could benefit your family most.

6. Work With a Professional

It’s not always easy to pursue financial goals while managing work and family life. For that reason, having an experienced financial advisor when you’re just starting to accumulate savings can be extraordinarily helpful. For one thing, working with a Regions Wealth Advisor can help you determine an appropriate asset allocation strategy based on your personal goals and risk tolerance. Your goals are likely to change as you get older, of course, but it’s good to have a basic plan that can be fine-tuned as your priorities change. Your Private Wealth Advisor can be your go-to source for financial advice—whether buying property, starting a family or saving for retirement.

Managing your money while you’re building your career can seem overwhelming. But it only takes a few money-savvy moves now to help create a brighter future.

Three Things to Do

  1. Learn more about asset allocation and how it’s likely to change over the life of your investments.
  2. Consider the “three P’s” of finances: Be proactive, be present and be prepared.
  3. Create a plan for actively networking to invest in your career.

This graphic is titled, 'Creating Positive Money Management Habits.' There is an introduction and then a checklist of items. The introduction reads, 'Keeping track of your finances and saving to meet your goals can feel overwhelming. Use this checklist to identify areas for improvement in your financial management.' The items on the checklist read, 'Create a monthly budget. Commit to saving a certain amount each month. Build your emergency fund. Pay down debts and improve your credit score. Open a retirement account and invest 10% each year. Increase your retirement savings by 1% each year until you reach 20%. Purchase life insurance. Start saving for your child’s education. Work with a financial professional to develop an investment strategy. Each year, reassess your goals and make sure you’re on track to meet them.'

This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and irs.gov for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.