By the time you’re in your 30s, you should be on the road to building a solid financial future for yourself. If you’re not quite there yet, don’t fret. Start by taking action on one of these 6 steps below to get yourself on track for a financially sound retirement.
1. Set aside at least 15% of your income.
If you’re late to the savings game and haven’t been able to stash away, you’ll want to aim to put aside 15% of your income in savings. Preferably this is off the gross number, but if that feels too strained, aim for the 15% of your net (after tax) income. If you’re just starting out, focus on building up your retirement accounts with about 10% of the money and put the other 5% towards an emergency fund. Set money aside on a systematic basis each month.
2. Guard against lifestyle inflation.
Since you’re still early in your career, chances are there are (hopefully) plenty of raises and income bumps on the horizon. Just because your income grows doesn’t mean you can automatically rely on the small increase to your savings as well. Each time you get a raise, aim to increase your savings rate by a percentage or two right away. This will ensure you don’t get used to the extra money in your budget and end up relying on it for everyday spending.
3. Start envisioning your retirement.
It may seem a long ways off, but envisioning the type of retirement lifestyle you want for yourself will better prepare you for how much money you need set aside for your future years. Do you picture a life with month long trips abroad and second homes in the mountains or will you spend time close to home with family and do some volunteer work? These are two very different lifestyles that will likely command very different amounts of money to sustain.
4. Pay attention to taxes.
Taxes account for a significant chunk of your income that you don’t get to touch. Ensure you’re maximizing employer benefits in terms of Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Savings Accounts, and 401(k) contributions. Do the math on if a Roth IRA (or Roth 401(k)) contribution makes sense lieu of going the Traditional route. Sometimes paying taxes today instead of in the future makes the most sense. Keep track of your donation receipts and if you own a business, learn what counts as a write-off and what doesn’t.
5. Rebalance your investments every six months.
Now is not the time to gamble with picking hot stocks (at least not with the bulk of your portfolio). Select a well-diversified portfolio allocation based upon your time horizon and risk tolerance and then mark a date to rebalance back in line with the intended allocation every six months. If you can’t stomach the swings that will come with your portfolio over the years until retirement, it might be best to consult with a professional or select a more conservative allocation that could be less volatile.
6. Learn to negotiate.
Your ability to earn an income is one of your greatest assets, which is why it’s important to continuously invest in your skillset and get comfortable with negotiation. An average raise of $5,000 per year invested and earning a 6% annual return over 30 years will add $395,290 to your portfolio – all because you felt comfortable going in for the ask! Take time to list out your skills, do research on what comparable companies and positions pay and work with your boss to set a strategy to get your income to where you’d like it to be.
Whether you start with one or all of the above, just get started! The earlier you start on building a solid financial future, the better off you’ll be.
This post originally appeared on U.S. New & World Report.