10 Things You Should Know Before Turning 30

The big 3-0 has heft: Most 20-somethings fear it, 40-somethings miss it and 60-somethings realize that they’re way wiser than they ever were back then.

We don’t think you’re defined by your age on a calendar, but this turning point in our adult lives sure seems to hold mystique; at the very least, you had a lot to say about our roundup of  30 bad habits to ditch by 30.

By the time we embark on our fourth decade, there are a few things we should all know: life skills to help us manage our money, maximize our talent and make the most of where we are.

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1How to Budget

Whether you’re looking ahead to your 30thbirthday or are smirking from a place of divine wisdom, check out these 10 things everyone should know by 30—and tell us what you think.

According to a nationwide survey conducted by LearnVest and Chase Blueprint®, only 38% of people have a monthly budget, and fewer than half are aware of what’s available each month for discretionary spending. This varies little across the gender, age or income groups.

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It goes without saying that LearnVest prizes the power of budgeting. After all, a budget isn’t intended to limit you, but free you: Once you know how much you need to set aside for certain goals, you learn how much you have at your disposal to spend on the things you want, the life that will make you happy.

To get started with your budget, check out the LearnVest Money Center, where you can see exactly how much you’re spending and saving each month. For awesome budgeting action on the go, try LearnVest’s new iPhone app.

2How to Cook a Signature Dish

Living off nothing but pasta and canned tuna is all well and good when you’re fresh out of college or still embracing your inner bachelor, but at a certain point, your palate should mature—without your wallet picking up the slack.

We know not everyone is born a culinary wonder, nor wants to become one, but with at least ten cable channels devoted to food, you can pick a culinary idol to emulate and a signature dish or three that will do more than simply sustain you.

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Why? Cooking at home is healthier for your waistline and your budget, not to mention for family bonding time. Here are some healthy food ideas for you, and here are all our easy, quick and delicious recipes.

3How to Write Professionally

Sure, you speak and write English, but when occasion calls, can you draft a cover letter, résumé or email that commands attention? Your career could depend on it.

Writing professionally applies not just to official memos to your department head. It also comes in handy when you want to negotiate a bill with customer service, or even write a thank you note. Even in less formal contexts, you’ll be remembered by the emails you send—and they form a permanent, written record of your work.

4How Not to Part With Your Hard-Earned Cash

Sure, your 20s may be the decade of impulse buys, but with age should come fewer occasions for buyer’s remorse.

Here’s an easy rule of thumb anyone who’s spent three decades on Earth should consider before plunking down a wallet: Ask yourself whether you’ll be glad in a month that you own this purchase. Then think about what else you could do with that money. Would you rather have this thing, or that lump sum?

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To help you figure out whether the purchase is the right one for you, LearnVest built The Purchase Appraiser, an interactive tool to help you nip bad spending decisions in the bud once and for all.

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5How to Change a Flat Tire

Changing a tire in the cold by yourself sounds way less than fun, but this adult skill can save you in a bind, both in terms of money and safety. Read: You don’t have to pay for a tow truck, and you don’t have to sit by a sketchy roadside for hours waiting for AAA. Want to learn how? Check out this video.

6How to Look Up Your Credit Report

Your credit is one of the most fundamental building blocks of your financial life. Solid credit enables you to do everything from getting a mortgage to taking out an auto loan. Good credit also means you’ll be eligible for credit cards with better perks and lower interest rates.

Certainly, a big part of maintaining good credit is paying all your bills on time, but there’s another component people often forget: checking your credit report to make sure there are no errors. Credit reporting agencies screw up surprisingly often, and no one is going to make sure they’re doing right by you, except you.

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So, by 30 (really, well before), everyone should know how to check her credit report. And hey, what do you know: LearnVest even has a step-by-step checklist to help you do just that.

7How to Manage Your Money…Digitally

You shop online, have made the transition to going paperless (after all, seven years of bank statements eat up a lot of filing space!) and, if you’re a responsible money manager, by now you ought to have made the leap to knowing where your money goes while you’re on the go.

In fact, that’s why LearnVest created our new iPhone app. These days apps can help us do everything from save on groceries to  organize our desktops, but there’s nothing more useful than seeing where every cent you earn or spend goes … in real time. Of course, this isn’t just for people over 30, but we know it’s the future, so it’s best to get on board now!

8How to Swim

Although swimming may not feel like a core life skill when you’re living and working a day job, we think it’s something everyone should know. On the most basic level, it will keep you safe whether you’re ever caught in rough waters or ice skating on a frozen pond.

This becomes even more important if you’re ever around kids. Whether you have children, plan to have them in the future or occasionally hang out with people who do, you’ll surely want to feel empowered as a trusted adult by the pool when little ones are playing.

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Don’t know how to swim? No shame! Taking classes doesn’t have to be pricey, either. Try the local YMCA or community center.

9How to Move On

We mean this in the broadest sense possible, whether it’s moving on after you didn’t get the job you wanted, after learning that the mortgage for the home you loved is way out of your price range, and, okay, sure, getting over old relationships.

The sting of disappointment is no less sharp, whether you’re 13, 30 or 300. But wisdom means having the tools to recognize which battles are fight-able, and when you need to get on with your life. (In other words, don’t keep harassing the hiring manager weeks after you’ve been turned down from a job.)

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Healthy approaches to moving on: talking to your friends, doing a little yoga to relax, looking for the new chapter to follow.

Unhealthy approaches: drinking away your pain, taking your credit card to the mall to buy your way out. (Here are 8 top spending triggers to watch out for—and how to thwart them.)

10How to Strike a Balance Between Work and Life

How much time do you spend thinking about how you spend your time?

One of the hottest conversations in America is the perennial one about work-life balance: From moms too busy to take maternity leave to more women than ever burning out in the workplace by age 30. Some experts have argued  that the key is less about work-life balance than work-life purpose, or prioritizing what’s important to you and fitting it into a composite of who you are, and what you do with your time.

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Whatever this means for you, don’t wait until you’re decades into a career you don’t love, before making changes. Start now, by thinking about what makes you tick, and what your long-term goals are. Not sure where to start? Here are eight of the best ways you can use your time to lead a richer life.

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