Building a solid foundation: Retirement savings essentials in your 30s

4 MIN READ | #blog

When you cross the threshold into your thirties, you have a sense of confidence and direction for the kind of life you want to live. After all, you likely spent your twenties surviving tough lessons about work and self-sufficiency. You may not have all the answers, but you do understand the importance of planning for the future.  As you begin your thirties, you have more earning power than in your twenties, but you have more financial responsibilities too. Your thirties are the time for starting a family, starting a household, and just as importantly . . . starting to plan for your retirement.

According to a recent survey1, Generation Y, currently ages 25 – 40, plans to retire at an average age of 59 and approximately 88% of Gen Y are confident they will be financially secure in retirement. Yet the average 401(k) balance for people between 30 and 39 is $38,400 according to data from Fidelity’s retirement platform as of late-November 2021. The average contribution rate is 8%.2

Your 30s are the best time to set yourself up for long-term savings success. To get ahead, you’ve got to ‘know the ropes.’ Your learning curve doesn’t have to be steep. The key is to know what’s available to you and why you should get started today.


When you’re in your thirties, your biggest advantage in saving for your retirement is time. You have an investment horizon that extends about 35 years depending on your individual situation and retirement goals. Hypothetically, if you save $5,000 per year beginning at the age of 30 (invested at a 5% annual return), you’ll have nearly $500,000 (after taxes) by the age of 65. You will have invested only $175,000 over 35 years to generate nearly a half a million dollars.

If you wait until you’re 40 to begin saving, you’ll need to save twice that amount – nearly $10,000 per year – to reach the same end amount. Waiting until the age of 50 means you’ll need to save over $21,000 per year. Time gives your money the ability to grow, and depending on your situation you may be able to pursue a more aggressive blend of investments. A longer term time horizon also enables you to weather the ups and downs of the market with a greater sense of ease.


If your employer offers a 401(k) retirement savings plan, now may be the time to increase or to max out your contributions. For 2022, the maximum contribution is $20,500 for those under 50.3 Be aware of any vesting schedules so that you can capture and retain the entire employer-paid match in your account. Remember, your workplace isn’t the only place to build retirement savings. An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is another important component of your retirement savings plan. For those under 50, the maximum amount you can contribute to a traditional or a Roth IRA for 2022 is $6,000.4 Traditional IRA contributions may be tax deductible, pending certain income phase-outs and whether your spouse is already covered by a retirement savings plan at work. You should speak with your personal tax advisor for relevant information regarding income limitations and phase outs.


Your 30s are likely to be the first time that you’re struck with this new wisdom: It’s important to have protection in case something doesn’t go according to the plan. You’ve worked hard, and it’s important to protect your retirement savings. Disability insurance is an important safety net, particularly if your spouse or family depend on your income. While your employer may offer short-term disability coverage, a private policy can help ensure that coverage is there for as long as you need it. Disability insurance can help you cover your daily expenses while you are unable to work. Because it provides steady income, it can help you avoid tapping into your retirement savings.

Spend the time in your 30s wisely. It’s a great time to create a more structured budget for your household. As your income and expenditures take on regular patterns, you can begin to set your sights on long-term goals. As you advance in your career, remember that each increase in income doesn’t necessarily mean you should increase your lifestyle. Make it a prime opportunity to increase your retirement savings instead.

Brought to you by The Guardian Network © 2017, 2019, 2021. The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America®, New York, NY

2021-130322 Exp. 11/23

Not seeing what you’re looking for?

The Guardian Network®

Living Confidently is powered by The Guardian Network.


1 Natixis Investment Managers, Global Survey of Individual Investors conducted by CoreData Research, March-April 2021. Survey included 8,550 investors in 24 countries.

2; accessed Nov. 22, 2021.

3,4 U.S. Internal Revenue Service


This material is intended for general public use. By providing this content, Guardian/Park Avenue Securities LLC is not undertaking to provide investment advice or a recommendation for any specific individual or situation, or to otherwise act in a fiduciary capacity. Please contact a financial representative for guidance and information that is specific to your individual situation. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents, and employees do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. Consult your tax, legal, or accounting professional regarding your individual situation.

To learn more about Guardian, visit