At a Glance

When you’re first entering the job market, things seem daunting pretty quickly, don’t they? You know you’ve got to plan for the future, but being responsible with your money gets tricky when you’re out on your own for the first time. Do you have to skip going out with your friends today to ensure you’ll have a house in 10 years? Is there any time to have fun with your money, or do you need to buckle down ASAP?

There’s no one answer to this question, as your financial situation will be different depending on your age, location, and income. However, you can have the best of both worlds if you play your cards right and use your money strategically. If you want to have a cushy life in your thirties, here are four moves you can make now that won’t completely drain your paycheck.

Move 1: Learn how to utilize compound interest

Money probably feels tight when you’re in your twenties since you’re just starting out and are probably getting entry-level jobs that don’t pay a ton. But you’re in such a sweet spot for getting your financial foundation built because of that sweet “free” money move: getting compound interest.

If you’ve never heard of it, compound interest is when your money grows over time because of the interest you’re earning on top of the original amount. If you put $100 into a savings account that pays 2% interest, your $100 will grow to $102 after six months, $104 after a year, and so on. Obviously, that doesn’t seem like a big gain, but when you put money away in an account that you don’t touch, like an emergency fund, you’ll start seeing that compound interest really pay off, and you’ll be glad you had that extra cash when you need it.

So if you’re not investing now, you’re definitely losing out on some serious growth potential down the line. And it doesn’t have to be complicated – just start with a simple online account and watch your money pile up over time.

Move 2: Start saving for retirement

A good rule of thumb is to start saving for retirement as soon as possible–whether through a 401k at your job, an IRA account, or even just contributing regularly to a savings account. If your employer offers 401k matching, take as much of it as possible since that’s free money that’ll accrue compound interest, making even more.

Retirement contributions tend only to take a max of 5% of your paycheck, so it’s a small expense now that adds up to big money later.

Move 3: Knock out your student loans ASAP

You’re probably not thinking about your student loans right now, but they’re still a big financial burden. If you can manage to knock them out as soon as possible, that will help relieve some of the pressure when it’s time to apply for a mortgage or if you fall on tough times where money gets tight.

There are many different repayment options out there, so you can figure out what’s best for you. Just make sure to start paying off your loans as soon as possible to have more freedom to choose how you live your life.

Related: How student loans impact your life

Move 4: Start a side hustle

You’ve no doubt seen the economic problems Millennials have faced due to unstable job markets. Many of them have learned how crucial it is to diversify their income streams, and you should really do the same. Gone are the days when you spent 40 years at the same employer who then took care of you in retirement with a pension. Nowadays, you’ve got to ensure you’re never reliant on just one employer because if that job goes away, you’ll end up scrambling quickly.

There are so many opportunities for entrepreneurs of all ages, so start exploring what’s available and what you like to do. Finding a way to make some extra money while you’re still in your twenties will help ease the financial pressure when you reach your thirties.

The bottom line

It’s rough for those in their 20s trying to find their way in an unstable world. Start with just one of these four money moves and build on each habit as you go. The sooner you get started, the higher likelihood your 30s will be more comfortable.