How you could grow your money in your 30s and 40s

MoneyPlus Features Team

Things I thought I would have by now: a thriving career, an amazing social life, an impressive pension plan… Reality: not quite there yet.

1. Do it your way

With your 20s behind you, you’re all grown up now. If you’ve happily hit every conventional adult milestone – perhaps you’ve got a partner, children, nice house, blossoming pension savings and a savings account – that’s great.

And we say keep it up, especially the saving for the future bit – because stuff has a way of happening.

If you’ve not hit all (or any) of these milestones, or they’re not even your milestones anyway, there’s still plenty of time. Take control of your finances, boost your earnings, build your wealth and shape your future.

Action list:

  • Take an honest look at where you are financially and get guidance to help you. The Money Advice Service is really useful
  • Think hard about where you would like to be
  • Think about your savings too – your pension, rainy day savings and things like an ISA and bank savings accounts should be on your radar
  • Do your research and start to create a solid plan (one that doesn’t rely on lottery wins!)

2. Set some grown up goals

Now’s the time to start to set goals that matter to you.

A big 30-something life stage is getting out of ‘generation rent’ and onto the property ladder. ISAs and Lifetime ISAs could be a great help when it comes to saving. With a Lifetime ISA the government tops up your savings with a bonus. Depending on how much you save this can be worth up to £3,000, as long as you meet certain criteria.

You do need to apply for a Lifetime ISA before you’re 40, so if you’ve said goodbye to that particular milestone, you might want to look at other ISAs as a way to save, which we explain in What are ISAs, who are they for and when should I consider one?

3. Budgets don’t have to be boring

If you want to get good with money, the first step is to have a proper grip on the money going into your account and the money rushing out.

Budgeting software (we like and smart bank accounts ( and can honestly make budgeting fun.

When you have a budget, bills, car repairs, dance classes, holidays and so on should all be less of a juggle.

You’ll know how much money you have, where it’s going, and you’ll likely be motivated to stick to your plan.

Action list:

  • Check out budgeting software and smart bank accounts
  • Your bank account may have budgeting tools
  • Or, use a plain old spreadsheet.

4. Get to know your pension

Even if retirement feels like a faraway dream, make time to start focusing on your pension.

If your pension is ticking along but you don’t know much about it, find out by asking your employer if you’ve got a workplace one, or checking how your plan is doing online. That way, you’re helping set yourself up for the kind of future you have in mind.

Many people with a pension (including self-employed people) get extra money added in by the government as tax relief, so your savings can grow much more quickly than you might think, although as an investment, your pension can go down as well as up in value.

If you take a career break but are still on the payroll, you may want to keep saving into your pension to benefit from contributions from your employer.

What’s so good about a pension? Read more in our recent article.

Action list:

  • Find out where your pensions are. If you lose sight of any, track them down and consider bringing them together into one to make life simpler – if it’s right for you. Just make sure you aren’t giving up any valuable guarantees by transferring
  • Make the most of your workplace pension and any extra money your employer may pay in
  • Consider bumping up payments into your existing pension plan.

5. Manage any debt

Apart from setting up a ‘rainy day’ fund and putting money into your pension, think about ways to manage things if you have debts, loans or credit cards running at double-digit interest rates.

There’s sensible advice about clearing debt here:, or contact Citizens Advice.

Action list:

  • Check the interest rates on your loans. Could you move to lower interest-rate cards or loans?
  • If you’re worried about debt, there’s lots of great help and advice available. You could start here:

6. Get financially smarter every month

If you want to re-mortgage, get a better loan rate, find a new car deal, learn about investing, tackle life insurance… and even write your Will – don’t get overwhelmed!

Make a plan to learn and deal with one area every month. Start small. Do pensions one month, your Will the next, and so on.

We love and for their down-to-earth information. And of course, get inspiration and tips from MoneyPlus, including our jargon buster.

Action list:

  • Make a checklist and set time aside every month to learn about – Wills, pensions, ISAs, investments, better loan rates and all that other important adulting Just one at a time…
  • Get your life admin sorted, including setting up a Will so that your loved ones are looked after should anything happen.
  • One really important thing is understanding your pension savings aren’t normally covered by your Will – you need to nominate who you’d want to benefit on a pension beneficiary form, which you get from your provider. You can normally do this online. You can read more here.

7. Plan for those next big life milestones

Weddings, honeymoons, babies, new homes, new kitchens, family holidays, career breaks, university degrees, start-up businesses…

It’s better for you and your finances if you can achieve your milestones on your terms and to your budget.

Spend time researching the costs and look before you leap. Don’t be afraid to scale back to keep costs realistic for you. An off-the-peg wedding dress can look as amazing as one that’s bespoke. Will baby notice your brand of pram? Could the bathroom be fixed instead of replaced? There are so many amazing ideas online to help you trim all kinds of costs. (Thank you Pinterest!)

And remember, Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest men, lives in a modest, suburban house.

Action list:

  • Research ALL the costs involved for those big steps
  • Set up your savings: ISAs or Lifetime ISAs could help save for those milestones
  • Saving for your children? 6 smart ways to give children’s saving a boost has some good ideas
  • Review your pensions and benefits and take advantage of any employer matching scheme where they pay in more when you do
  • Keep it real

8. Put yourself first

It’s natural to want to help your nearest and dearest – but do think carefully.

Your own financial security is your first priority. And sometimes it’s best to help people solve their money problems in a more creative way than by writing a cheque.

For parents, the pressure to give your children everything they ask for is huge. But earning pocket money, having a part-time job and taking on manageable student debt is part of the learning curve for your children. If you can teach them good money habits, they’ll have them for life.

Yes, we know we mentioned this before but pay attention to your pension! It can take time to build that nest egg up to help make sure you’re well provided for in the decades ahead when you might not want to be working as hard as you are now – or at all.

Action list:

  • Put your financial future first – and save for it
  • Help your loved ones to become more financially independent
  • Encourage them to learn valuable lessons about money.


The information here is based on our understanding in November 2019 and should not be taken as financial advice. Tax and legislation may change and your own circumstances will have an impact on your tax treatment.

Pensions and stocks and shares ISAs are investments and their value can go down as well as up.

Standard Life accepts no responsibility for the information contained in the websites referred to in this article. These are provided for general information only.