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What to Buy (and Skip) in May

While you’re stopping to smell the flowers this May, you might want to admire some sweet sales, too.

From furniture to Star Wars memorabilia, here’s everything you should buy (and skip) during the month of May.

Buy: Furniture and appliances

May will be a prime time for making major purchases. That’s because Memorial Day is a great occasion to buy indoor furniture, patio furniture, appliances and even mattresses at discounted prices.

Last year, Maytag offered up to $750 by mail-in rebate with the purchase of select appliances. Sears discounted vacuums, floor care and kitchen appliances.

This year, Memorial Day is on May 29, but sales often begin at least a week earlier. In fact, some retailers are already gearing up. For instance, furniture giant Overstock is inviting shoppers to register their email addresses so they’ll be notified about Memorial Day deals.

Remember that some prices are automatically reduced but other sales require consumers to input a coupon code at checkout or complete a rebate.

» MORE: What to buy every month of the year in 2017

Skip: Home electronics

We suggest making electronics purchases in November, when prices on laptops, tablets, gaming consoles and other electronics are usually at their lowest, thanks to Black Friday events.

If you can’t wait until the day after Thanksgiving, July is just around the corner. In past years, retailers like Amazon and Best Buy have hosted Black Friday in July sales with discounts on electronics that rival Black Friday prices.

Buy: Small kitchen appliances

While you’re outfitting your home with a new sofa, chair or table at Memorial Day sales, check out the coffee makers, blenders and other small kitchen appliances, too.

In the past, department stores such as Macy’s and J.C. Penney, as well as home and kitchen specialty stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, have been known to offer savings on kitchen essentials.

Skip: Swimwear and lingerie

Victoria’s Secret sets the schedule for swimwear and lingerie deals, and May is one month too early for steep savings. That’s because the store’s Semi-Annual Sale happens each June, and other retailers follow suit.

In June 2016, deals at Victoria’s Secret included up to 50% off lingerie, up to 40% off loungewear, up to 60% off sport and over 200 swimsuit styles, $19.99 or less bra clearance and $4.99 or less panty clearance. Hold out a little while longer for similar savings.

Buy: Spring apparel

Clothing sales are a given each May. Now that warm-weather styles have been on shelves for a few months, you can expect retailers to bring down prices.

Our best advice for finding these deals? First, check retailers’ sale sections or clearance racks both in-store and online. Then register for your favorite clothing store’s email list — it might send you exclusive deals. Finally, fill your cart with sale-priced shirts and shorts while you’re getting that KitchenAid mixer and coffee table on Memorial Day.

Can’t wait until the end of the month? Stores like Old Navy and American Eagle Outfitters have apparel sales right now.

Bonus: ‘Star Wars’ Day

May 4 is “Star Wars” Day, and you’ll be feeling the force when you see the “Star Wars”-themed deals and discounts that come on this day each year. Whether you cheer for Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, you’ll see sales on merchandise featuring your favorite character.

Last year, we spotted price cuts on apparel, video games and other items inspired by the movie series. If prior years are any indication, expect savings at outlets including Amazon, Target, the Disney Store and more.

Bonus: Free food days

Every month is home to some sort of national food observance, and May is no exception. Mark your calendar for the following dates, which are likely to include deals and freebies: National Buttermilk Biscuit Day on May 14 and National Hamburger Day on May 28.

More: Hear what to buy (and skip) in May

In an interview with WDUN radio station in Gainesville, Georgia, NerdWallet discussed the products consumers can save money on in the month of May.

Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @courtneynerd.

Updated April 28, 2017.

5 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Food Truck Business

When aspiring food-truck proprietors call him for advice, Keith Hill asks a few questions, among them, “Do you watch Food Network?”

“Those lines [of customers outside food trucks] are TV lines,” says Hill, a barbecue restaurateur and food-truck owner in San Antonio. “In real life, you could do 50 or 60 for lunch or sometimes you could do one or two.”

If you’re thinking of starting a food truck, you probably already have a cuisine in mind. But that’s not enough. Before you quit your day job, here are five questions you should ask.

1. Why on earth do you want to start a food truck?

2. Do you have the skills to run a food truck?

3. How often will you operate your food truck?

4. Do you have support for your food truck from your family and friends?

5. What’s the long-term plan for your food truck?

1. Why on earth do you want to start a food truck?

When things go wrong and the kitchen gets overwhelmed with orders, it’s said to be “in the weeds.” Imagine the restaurant chugging around town on four wheels. You could be prepping ingredients one minute and changing a tire the next.

In other words, a food-truck owner should be comfortable smelling like food and exhaust, says Shane Coffey, owner of a food-truck business in Cincinnati.

“If you’re just starting a food truck because you watched ‘Chef,’ don’t do it,” he says.

But if you’re a jack-of-all-trades problem-solver with an unflappable will to succeed and a tolerance for uncertainty, that’s a good start. Throw in a passion for food and a drive to put out a tummy-pleasing product, and this might be the life for you. [Back to top]

2. Do you have the skills to run a food truck?

Conceiving of dishes and cooking them are great skills to have, though they’re only part of the work.

At various times, you’ll also have to be a finance guru, a mechanic, a marketer, a manager, a trainer, a social media expert, a negotiator, a talent recruiter and an IT department, among other roles.

“You have to be able to multitask,” says Hill, putting it lightly.

Having experience leading a kitchen can go a long way in this regard. [Back to top]

3. How often will you operate your food truck?

This may seem like just a small detail, but it’ll shape your entire experience of running a food truck.

Some trucks play what Coffey calls “small ball.” They operate most days of the year, hitting many different locations. They might never rake in tons of orders, but if they pick their jobs right, they come out ahead.

Going this route gives you lots of opportunities to test new ideas. The trade-off: Your income may be inconsistent, and you’ll have to scramble for sales.

Some owners would rather not park somewhere and hope that people come, so they focus on big events, such as food fairs or summer music festivals. This offers predictability, but each event is inherently risky. What if it rains? You’ve spent $7,000 on food you can’t sell.

Neither approach is hands-down better than the other. The right one for you depends on the uncertainty you’re willing to bear and the time you want to commit to operating your truck. [Back to top]

4. Do you have support for your food truck from your family and friends?

If you have a significant other, friends or relatives who expect you to be in their lives, make sure those people are supportive. To go full bore into the food-truck life, you’ll likely be working six or seven days a week, and normal days often stretch beyond 12 hours. It’s busy.

It also can be an emotional roller coaster, given all the aspects of the business that must be managed and problems that must be solved. The stress could make you an unpleasant person to be around.

“It’s all about that positive mental attitude,” Coffey says. “It’s easy to curl up in a fetal position after a night in which you thought you were selling 100 [orders] and you only got 10.” [Back to top]

5. What’s the long-term plan for your food truck?

It’s good to have a long-term plan when you start, because it’ll influence how you set up and run your truck, almost out of the gate.

When Coffey started his first truck in 2015, he deliberately chose a name — Street Chef Brigade — that didn’t specify a dish such as burgers because he planned to eventually showcase a range of foods.

So while his first truck focuses on sandwiches, bowls and salads, the second truck will specialize in fried chicken.

“I definitely had a long-term plan,” Coffey says. “My idea was not to do just one.”

Insider tips: Sign up for our monthly small-business newsletter.

Want to start a business?

NerdWallet has rounded up some of our best information on starting a business, including structuring and naming your company, creating a solid plan and much more. We’ll help you do your homework and get started on the right foot.

Read our Starting a Business Guide

For related information, visit NerdWallet’s guide on how to start a business.

Andrew L. Wang is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: awang@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @andrew_L_wang.

How I Ditched Debt: Active Budgeting Pays Off

Save When Moving Without a Little Help From Your Friends

Moving is a real pain — which is why it usually takes some amount of enticement for your friends and family to schlep your worldly possessions from one place to another. Eventually, though, you might find that the proverbial beer-and-pizza bribe isn’t enough, and you’re stuck moving on your own. Hiring a moving company is much more expensive, but there are still ways to keep your moving costs low.

Plan it

The biggest thing you can do to keep costs down? Plan ahead. There’s no way you’ll be able to get everything done at the last minute; unless, of course, you spend extra money. The more time you have, the more you can do yourself.

» MORE: How to build a budget

Clean out

For instance, you can start cleaning out your house right away. Get ruthless with unwanted and unneeded belongings: Sell or donate anything you can, and dispose of the rest over time in your regular garbage and recycling pickup. This way, you’ll avoid an expensive trip to the dump or paying for a junk removal service.

Give away any larger furniture to friends and family. The only price? They’ve got to transport it themselves. Especially keep an eye out for younger people and students; they’re often happy to take free furniture.

Vet your movers

Next, check out moving companies in your area, vetting either by online reviews or personal recommendations. Check out sites like Yelp.com for other customers’ reviews (taken with a grain of salt), or the more reputable Better Business Bureau, which rates and accredits businesses on how well they deal with customer complaints.

Collect at least three quotes and compare them. If there’s a company that seems the most reputable, use your less expensive quotes to negotiate their price down, if possible.

You’ll want to get estimates in writing. If you’re moving to another state, you can make use of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s pamphlet that goes more in-depth on the different types of estimates a mover can give you and your legal rights.

Don’t pay for packing

Generally, the most expensive part of hiring movers is the hourly labor costs. The more people you have moving your stuff and the longer it takes, the more you’re going to pay. So do yourself a favor and pack your own things. Most moving companies will happily do this for you, and charge accordingly, but since you planned ahead (right?) you’ve got more than enough time to DIY. Plus, this way you can pack your valuable and fragile possessions to your exact specifications.

Of course, you’ll need boxes to pack. But make sure you don’t pay for them. See if you can cut a deal with a business in town that ends up with leftover boxes: grocery stores, liquor stores, bars and restaurants. Or just cruise the alleys behind your local big box stores to scavenge any of their boxes waiting to be recycled. You can also check Craigslist or any other local sales site.

Try to freecycle your packing paper, too. Old newspapers are commonly recommended, but use these only for items you don’t mind getting ink on. You could also use napkins, clothes or that big box of plastic bags you store under the sink. You were saving those for a reason, right?

Set yourself up for success

Since you gave yourself so much time to pack, you’ll be able to accurately label all your boxes so you know what goes where. Designate a box or three to hold the essentials you’ll need right away in your new place, especially kitchen stuff. Unpacking can be a glacial process, and you might be tempted to order dinner or eat out while your kitchen is still packed up. If you’ve got an easily accessible box with kitchen basics, you can cook dinner at your new home while reaping the savings.

Stephen Layton is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: slayton@nerdwallet.com.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today.

Allowances Don’t Teach Kids About Money — You Do

Many parents tell me they feel guilty about allowances.

They aren’t consistent about when and how they give their kids money. They wonder if allowances should be tied to chores. Even how they dole out money can be a problem. Cash is easiest, but much of what kids want to buy — downloads of a favorite show, a toy on Amazon, a realm in Minecraft — requires plastic.

I’ve used our daughter as a guinea pig to test all kinds of allowance systems and apps, starting when she was just 3.

We started with divided piggy banks that had sections for spending, saving and sharing. (Money Savvy Pig and Moon Jar are two options.) We moved on to apps when more of her purchases moved online. We used iAllowance; other trackers include Bankaroo, PiggyBot and Allowance & Chores Bot.

But then she landed a steady customer for her pet-tending business and at 13 was old enough to have her own bank account. Now she earns and manages her own pocket money. She uses our accounts for iTunes and Amazon purchases, as they require a credit card, but I transfer money from her account to ours once a month to cover them.

Along the way, she learned to make choices, delay gratification and save up for stuff she wanted, including a laptop. I’m not certain, though, that we can credit the allowance.

Research indicates that parents’ behavior — the example they set — and the discussions they have with their kids about money are much more important in shaping their future financial health.

Watching what you do

One 2015 study for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which reviewed research in developmental psychology, education and consumer science, found parents were “critical” in fostering financial well-being in children.

Parents don’t have to be money experts to talk about the importance of delayed gratification or the difference between wants and needs, says report researcher Elizabeth Odders-White, associate finance professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

“You don’t have to sit down and do some crazy complex financial calculations with your kids,” says Odders-White. “You just need to talk about the decisions you’re already making. ‘We need to buy this, we want to buy that.’”

Your behavior counts, too. A recent T. Rowe Price survey found that when parents had at least three types of savings accounts — for example, an emergency fund, a college fund and a retirement account — their kids were:

  • more likely to have savings of their own
  • less likely to spend money as soon as they got it
  • less likely to have lied to their parents about how they spent money

By contrast, parents who had more than $5,000 in credit card debt were more likely to have kids who spent money as soon as they received it. Their kids also were more likely to expect their parents to buy them what they wanted.

“Your behavior is noticed by your kids, and it does rub off,” says Roger Young, senior financial planner for T. Rowe Price (and father of three teenagers).

It’s the conversation, not the cash

Allowances, by contrast, seem to be a much less effective tool for teaching positive financial behaviors. Unconditional allowances — those not tied to chores — may be the worst.

Chores certainly contribute to children’s character development and future career success, according to various studies by Harvard University and the University of Minnesota. Some child behavior experts say chores should be unpaid to teach the importance of contributing to the family.

But financial literacy expert Lewis Mandell has found in his own studies and reviews of others’ research that kids who receive no-strings allowances knew much less than others about saving, spending and credit, and they had a worse work ethic.

The value in an allowance comes from the interaction between parent and child about financial matters, Mandell says. When paying for chores, the parent has to monitor whether the work gets done, and the payment is a type of feedback. When there’s no allowance, the child has to initiate and justify requests for cash, which leads to a money discussion.

Without those interactions, the allowance becomes an entitlement that implies money doesn’t have to be earned or managed, Mandell says.

So if you give your kids an allowance, explain the rules (such as “when it’s gone, it’s gone”) and ask what they’re learning (“Are you happy with what you bought?” or “What do you want to save up to buy next?”).

If you decide against an allowance — or forget to hand it out half the time — you should still talk about saving, making choices, planning for the future.

And don’t stop. Even into young adulthood, your kids pay attention, researcher Odders-White says.

“They’re making some of their first independent decisions, but they still look to their parents for advice,” she says.

Liz Weston is a certified financial planner and columnist at NerdWallet, a personal finance website, and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: lweston@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lizweston.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

Trump’s Tax Plan: Big Changes, Big Unknowns

President Donald Trump proposed big changes to the U.S. tax system on the campaign trail, but Wednesday’s announcement of the White House’s new tax plan may mark the start of where the rubber meets the road for many Americans and their tax bills.

What does it mean for you? Here’s a guide to what is (and isn’t) in the plan.

What’s in the plan

The proposed changes would affect virtually all taxpayers in some way, though the impact would depend on your individual situation.

CURRENT BRACKETS Taxable income (married filing jointly) Tax rate $0 to $18,650 10% $18,651 to $75,900 15% $75,901 to $153,100 25% $153,101 to $233,350 28% $233,351 to $416,700 33% $416,701 to $470,700 35% $470,701 and up 39.6% PROPOSED BRACKETS Taxable income Tax rate Range TBD 10% Range TBD 25% Range TBD 35%
  • Eliminate almost every individual tax deduction: Except those for mortgage interest and charitable contributions. The plan specifically preserves those. A big one here would be the elimination of the ability to deduct state and local taxes, a move that could hurt residents of high-tax states such as California and New York.
  • Double the standard deduction: The IRS offers this deduction on a no-questions-asked basis. It’s subtracted from your adjusted gross income and lowers your taxable income. The standard deduction in 2017 is currently $12,700 for joint filers and $6,350 for single filers. The new plan proposes to roughly double that amount.
  • Relief for families with child and dependent care expenses: This is notable as a plan priority. Some tax benefits already exist for child and dependent care, but during the campaign Trump proposed tax deductions for child care and elder care expenses, a child care spending rebate to low-income parents and deductible contributions to Dependent Care Savings Accounts. Specifics of the new plan have not yet been given, however.
  • Repeal the alternative minimum tax: The AMT is an alternative method of calculating federal income tax that runs parallel to the ordinary method. Currently, taxpayers have to calculate their tax liability two times, once under each method, and pay whichever amount is higher.
  • Repeal the estate tax. This tax is levied on assets passed on to your heirs upon your death. In 2017, up to $5.49 million of an estate is already exempt from federal taxation. A repeal likely would affect only people who expect to inherit large estates.
  • Repeal the Affordable Care Act net investment income tax. This is a 3.8% tax some people must pay on their investment income, introduced to help pay for President Obama’s health care law. Couples with combined incomes above $250,000 could get a reprieve here.
  • Reduce the corporate tax rate to 15% and extend it to certain small and medium-sized businesses. Freelancers, the self-employed and other companies could get a tax break, though the details will determine how much.

» Read the White House’s full proposal

What details weren’t provided?

Lots of them.

Without knowing the size of the tax brackets, for example, it’s hard to determine which taxpayers will come out ahead in the shuffle between losing certain itemized deductions and moving to a lower tax bracket.

It’s unclear what would happen to the tax treatment on retirement contributions, such as to a 401(k) or individual retirement account, although National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn — who along with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced the plan at a press briefing — said “retirement savings will be protected.”

It’s also impossible to know what sorts of new or different tax breaks will be available for child care or elder care.

» MORE: Calculate your tax burden

What’s next?

The White House said it plans to move quickly, working with the House and Senate to flesh out the fine print and draw up a bill. Any change in tax policy or rates must be approved by Congress.

Tina Orem is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: torem@nerdwallet.com.

Student Loan Holders Catch a Home-Buying Break

For many of the 44 million Americans with student loan debt looking to buy a home, qualifying for a mortgage just got a bit easier. Housing giant Fannie Mae this week issued new guidelines about how lenders should evaluate mortgage applicants who have student loans — particularly borrowers on income-driven repayment plans.

The changes are a response to anxiety among student loan borrowers that having student debt takes homeownership off the table, says Jonathan Lawless, vice president of product development and affordable housing at Fannie Mae.

Of student loan borrowers in repayment who aren’t homeowners, 71% believe their student debt has delayed their purchase of a home, according to an April 2016 survey by the National Association of Realtors and American Student Assistance, a nonprofit that helps students pay for college and repay student loans.

Owing student loan debt can impair your ability to qualify for a mortgage, says Jerry Kaplan, senior vice president of capital markets at Colorado-based Cherry Creek Mortgage Co. Student loans increase your debt-to-income ratio —  the amount of total debt you owe relative to your income — and you won’t qualify if that percentage is too high.

Still, student loan borrowers can get mortgages, and the new policies give those borrowers more choices, Kaplan says. Fannie Mae backs one-third of all homes in America, Fannie Mae spokeswoman Alicia Jones says.

Fannie Mae’s changes are already in effect, although some lenders might take time to ramp up, Lawless says. Here’s what student loan borrowers need to know about the updates.

Income-driven plans and homeownership

Under the new guidelines, lenders issuing Fannie Mae-backed mortgages can calculate your debt-to-income ratio using your monthly student loan payment on an income-driven repayment plan, Lawless says. Income-driven plans cap your monthly payments at a percentage of your income.

Previously, lenders had to calculate a higher monthly student loan payment for mortgage applicants on income-driven repayment plans, Lawless says. That meant mortgage lenders were evaluating those borrowers based on a higher debt-to-income ratio than they actually had. At the time, Fannie Mae felt that lending to borrowers on an income-driven plan was riskier, Lawless says. “We’ve gotten to understand these programs better,” Lawless says, citing that better understanding as the reason for the policy change.

Fannie Mae-backed lenders still have to calculate a monthly student loan payment to use in determining your debt-to-income ratio if you’re in a deferment or forbearance. That monthly amount will be 1% of your outstanding student loan balance or the amount needed to be on track to pay off the loan within the remaining loan term.

Help for co-signers and those not paying on loans

If someone such as a parent or employer is paying your student loans, or you’re a co-signer on a loan that the primary borrower is paying, you now have a better shot at qualifying for a Fannie Mae-backed mortgage, Lawless says. The student loan payment won’t count toward your debt-to-income ratio if you can provide paperwork, such as bank statements or voided checks, to prove that someone else has been making the monthly payments for the last 12 consecutive months.

Refinancing for homeowners with student debt

Fannie Mae began piloting what it calls a student loan cash-out refinance in late 2016 with SoFi, an online mortgage and student loan refinance lender. Now, any Fannie-Mae-backed lender can offer it.

Here’s how it works: You take out a new, bigger mortgage that’s equal to your existing mortgage plus some or all of your outstanding student debt. Your mortgage lender will pay off your lender or student loan servicer and waive a risk-adjustment fee that’s applied to traditional mortgage cash-out refinances. With mortgage rates still low, a student loan cash-out refinance can be an appealing way to lower your student loan interest rate.

But there are risks in using your mortgage to refinance student debt. You’ll be trading an unsecured debt (student loans) for a secured debt (your mortgage) and increasing what you owe on your home. If you can’t make the higher mortgage payment, you could lose your house. You’ll also likely pay more in interest over time because mortgages terms tend to be longer that those on student loans.

Alternatively, consider refinancing your student loans with a private student lender to get a lower rate and shorter loan term while keeping your student and home debt separate. However, there are risks there too. For instance, you’ll lose access to income-driven repayment plans when you refinance federal student loans.

Before you take out a new mortgage or refinance an existing one, talk to a financial advisor or tax professional to get personalized guidance, Kaplan says. You should also compare mortgage lenders to find the lowest rate you qualify for based on your financial situation.

Teddy Nykiel is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: teddy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @teddynykiel.

How to Manage Money in Your 30s

Your 30s can be an exciting but challenging decade. While you may be advancing your career and earning more money, you’re also likely juggling more financial responsibilities.

Many in this age group are married, given the median age at first marriage is in the late 20s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Parenthood may also be a reality, since the average age for women having their first baby is around 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. And don’t forget the house — the median age for first-time home buyers is 32, according to the National Association of Realtors.

How to handle all of this financially can be a bit overwhelming, says Brian McCann, founder of Bootstrap Capital LLC in San Jose, California.

“The bigger the life challenge, the more likely that we have not been trained for it,” says McCann, a certified financial planner who works primarily with clients in their 30s and 40s.

Beyond building a budget for yourself or your family, experts recommend 30-somethings take these steps to successfully manage their money.

Invest beyond your 401(k)

Save for retirement. You hear it over and over because it’s really important. And with the benefit of compound interest, the earlier you start, the better. You may also have heard that if your employer offers a retirement plan, you should take advantage of it. But beyond that?

“The majority of my younger clients know contributing to their 401(k) or company-sponsored plan to at least receive the company match is a great idea,” says Sam Farrington, a financial planner in Omaha, Nebraska, who writes about money and minimalism at the blog Add By Subtraction. “But many are unsure of what to do after that. Should you completely max out your 401(k) or instead invest a portion in a Roth IRA?”

Farrington advises investing in some combination of 401(k), traditional IRA and Roth IRA accounts. Money put into the latter is after taxes.

One approach Farrington recommends is to first ensure you receive the full company match on your 401(k), and then contribute as much as you can to a Roth IRA. The annual maximum is $5,500 for those who fall within the income limits — currently $118,000 for those who file as single and $186,000 for married couples filing jointly. If you are over the IRA limit, divert your contributions back to the 401(k).

» MORE: Are you on track for retirement? Use this calculator to find out

This approach assumes you have a company-sponsored plan at your disposal. If you’re among those without one, open an IRA on your own via an online broker. Robo-advisors like Betterment and Wealthfront use an algorithm to build and manage your account, automatically investing for you based on your age, retirement goals and risk tolerance. That tolerance should be high in your 30s, when you’re still a few decades off from retirement.

Regardless of your plan, contribute what you can afford and bump up the amount as your income increases — adding a percent or two each time you get a raise — with a goal of setting 10% to 15% of your annual income aside for retirement.

As you earn more, set priorities

In addition to increasing your retirement savings as you make more money, be sure to keep your spending in check.

The average monthly budget for those 35 to 44 years old is $5,445, compared with $4,339 for those 25 to 34, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data by Bank of America.

Don’t fall into the trap of spending more just because you earn more. Instead, be intentional about your spending. Work with your partner, if you have one, to determine what is important to you and your family.

“Come up with five or six things that are really important,” McCann says. “That makes setting up your finances easier. There will inevitably be trade-offs, and you can always bounce them off your values.”

A certified financial planner can help you set up a plan that takes into account your financial priorities.

Savings should be among those priorities. If you don’t have an emergency fund, start there.

It can take a while to fully stock your emergency fund, so work in increments. Aim for $500, then $2,000 and eventually build it to cover three to six months of living expenses.

This will help you focus on other goals, like saving for the down payment on a new house or for college if you have kids. You should do this while also saving for retirement.

“When you get into your 30s and 40s you need to juggle multiple financial goals, and that’s really tough to get your head around,” McCann says.

He recommends using separate accounts for each goal. So an online savings account for your down payment or home repair fund, another for a new car and a third for your dream vacation.

“You can measure progress against a specific goal,” McCann says. “It’s great positive reinforcement.”

Try to kick college savings into gear as soon as you have kids, using a 529 plan or other tax-advantaged plan. With an IRA, for example, you can take out money for qualified education expenses without penalty.

Like retirement savings, the sooner you start the more time your money has to grow. So contribute what you can, without sacrificing retirement savings, to get the most mileage out of your savings. Remember: Your kids can fall back on student loans if necessary; your retirement can’t.

Evaluate your insurance coverage

No one wants to think about the worst-case scenario, but planning for it can make life a little easier should it occur. That’s where insurance comes in.

“I think the biggest thing is the disability insurance for someone in their 30s,” says Tracy St. John, a financial advisor and founder of Financial Avenues LLC in Kansas City, Missouri.

Most disability insurance offered by employers pays 60% of your base salary if you are too sick or injured to work. For many people, that’s not enough.

To figure out what you need, St. John suggests evaluating current income and future financial goals. Then, look at what your current disability plan would pay. If there’s a gap, consider purchasing additional coverage now.

“As you get older it’s going to cost you more,” she says.

Purchase only what fits within your budget, but choose a plan that allows you to adjust coverage as your income increases.

Adding life insurance can also be a smart move in your 30s, even if you have coverage through your employer, St. John says. Like other policies, life insurance gets only more expensive with age.

Kelsey Sheehy is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ksheehy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @KelseyLSheehy.

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