I turned 33 in March. It’s not a big milestone year, and the festivities I had planned with my friends and family were pretty ordinary. Though I normally buy myself something nice for my birthday (perks of single adulthood), I did something a little different this year: I set some financial-adjacent goals for the month instead.
What should I do with my money in my 30s?
I thought that one of the best gifts I could give myself would be a systematic evaluation of my financial health to make sure I was still on track for the life I’m trying to build. As such, I set goals for three different areas: my work, my credit, and my freelance opportunities.
Goal #1 – Ask for additional feedback at work
My current employer does yearly reviews based on your hire date, but there is also a six-month mini-review specifically designed to see where you stand in achieving the goals you set in your annual review. At my previous annual review, I was offered a promotion and a solid bump in pay to go with it. It was a newly created position within the company — my supervisor wrote up the job description herself. I accepted it, but with it came a lot of new-job jitters even though I was optimistic about my ability to do the work and had general confidence in my skill set.
Since my six-month meeting was scheduled for mid-March, I spent the first part of the month coming up with a plan for the meeting. The company provides merit-based bonuses once a year in addition to raises at your regular annual review, and how you’re doing on your official goals is just one of the metrics that influence that.
Since I want good news for both my review and my bonus later this year, I spent the days leading up to the meeting brainstorming several additional questions to ask my supervisor beyond just updating her on the progress of my goals. Here are just a few of them:
- How do you feel about my general performance in this position so far?
- Is there anything you’d like to see me focus on more in this position?
- Are there any unfulfilled needs in our department that you think I can help address?
- Are there any upcoming projects or challenges that I should know about?
All this made my six-month meeting a little longer than normal, but I left my supervisor’s office with a lot of answers and issues to think about. I’m now working on putting her feedback into action so that I’ll (cross your fingers) have good news later this year.
Goal #2 – Review my credit reports
Your credit history and score are a big deal. Both of them are on my mind right now since I’m at the point in my life where I’ve decided I want to buy a home (condo or townhome, in my case). I even managed to hit my down payment goal during the first week of March. As just one of the many steps in the home-buying process, I set aside a weekend to obtain my credit reports and review them thoroughly prior to applying for a mortgage. The last thing I wanted was to put in all the work of applying only for something in my credit report to hold me back.
You can get one free report each year from Experian, Equifax, and Transunion from annualcreditreport.com. My credit history stretches all the way back to 2007, when I got my first ever credit card as a senior in college, so I had quite a few pages to go through. I made snacks, put on some music, and went over each report carefully. It was a relief to see that all of my information had been reported accurately and that there were no surprises lurking in there.
Taking the time to review all of my credit reports made me feel secure enough to apply for a mortgage a few days later. I got my first pre-approval letter just last week (at a good rate and for the amount I anticipated I would qualify for). I still need to apply to a few other places in order to compare rates, but I’m excited that I cleared one of the first hurdles in the home buying process and will be able to take the next steps soon.
Goal #3 – Evaluate freelance work
To round off my finance-related goals, I also set time aside in March to focus on reviewing my freelance work. This included reevaluating the clients I do business with and the type of work I’m doing. I was honest with myself about who I enjoyed working with, what kind of projects I was and wasn’t interested in anymore, and whether there were rate increases I needed to make.
I also spent some time investigating potential clients. Now I have a short, curated list of sites and people to reach out to in order to expand my freelance work. I’m still settling on exactly what to pitch for each one, but I have a solid foundation to start from.
I also ended up taking a hard look at where I was stashing the money I made from freelance work. Originally I was sticking a third of it into taxes and the rest into my adventure/travel fund, but my priorities changed fast when I got my mortgage pre-approval letter. The third for taxes remains, but the rest is now getting added to my house fund instead, either for the down payment or for closing costs, now that I’ve made progress on that front.
While checking in on three major areas of my financial life wasn’t exactly the most exciting of gifts on the surface, it was a fitting one for my thirty-third birthday. Taking stock of where I am currently and using that information to make plans for the rest of the year made me feel — well, pretty grown up. Creating actionable paths forward in my life is a pretty good way to celebrate turning another year older in my book.
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