Paying off debt, starting a family, changing careers, buying a home, saving for the future -- these are all major financial milestones that 30-somethings face. And while they are certainly overwhelming, these challenges can be conquered with focus, determination and, of course, knowledge.
Skeptical? Meet three personal finance bloggers in their 30s, who have overcome career burnout, lifestyle changes and seemingly insurmountable debts to thrive today.
[See: How to Live on $13,000 a Year.]
Kate Dore, 32-year-old blogger for CashvilleSkyline.com
When Kate Dore started CashvilleSkyline.com, she didn't realize it would help her walk away from a low-paying but demanding job. "Toward the end of my 20s, I was completely burnt out," she says, having traveled constantly around the U.S. and Canada as a concert promoter. "I wanted to take a few months off to regroup but didn't have thre- to six-months cushion to help." Dore says this lack of savings had to do with both the pressures associated with her job and simply being young and careless.
"With the pressure to be constantly going out, attending networking events, nonstop travel, just being a young professional in the entertainment business ... I was spending everything I was earning," she explains.
Having enough money in savings to cover unexpected expenses is important for obvious reasons, yet many Americans find themselves in Dore's position. According to Bankrate's June Financial Security Index, 28 percent of consumers don't have any emergency savings. For Dore, not having an emergency fund left her feeling powerless. "No safety net at all made me feel like I was trapped in this job that I was really unhappy in," she says.
To build an emergency fund, Dore made big changes to her lifestyle. "I started cooking meals at home and stopped buying clothes for a while," she says. She also increased deductibles on all of her insurance policies to reduce her monthly premiums. These decisions helped her stow away 40 to 50 percent of her monthly income until she saved six months' worth of expenses and left her job in August of 2014.
[Read: 11 Ways to Boost Your Emergency Fund.]
Today, Dore works as a social media manager for a tech company and makes extra money from her blog and freelance jobs. The best financial advice she has received is from her parents, who encouraged her to continually invest in herself.
"[They] always just said bettering yourself will help you professionally," and they led by example: Both her parents have master's degrees. "I've done a lot of things to grow as a digital marketer with my blog, and these educational [classes] have helped me professionally," she says, referencing the design classes and online courses she's taken over the years to cultivate her craft.
Ryan Guina, 36-year-old blogger for CashMoneyLife.com and TheMilitaryWallet.com
Transitioning from military to civilian life has many challenges, especially when you're accustomed to things like paychecks and insurance being covered by the U.S. government. For Ryan Guina, leaving the military meant realizing how much he didn't know about certain areas of finance. "My situation is not that uncommon for people who are making a big life change," he says. "You don't know what you don't know."
Despite Guina's modesty, his situation was slightly more complicated than average, since he was also unemployed for six months, got married shortly after leaving the service and bought a house. "I had a big cash savings and unemployment benefits, so financially, I wasn't concerned about not being able to survive," he says. "It was just overwhelming to deal with the process of leaving the military, moving across the U.S., getting married and starting a new job after a few months and realizing all these things I had to learn about."
Guina turned to books and the internet to bridge the gaps in his knowledge. "Eventually I started my own blog to document what I was learning and [to] help people going through a similar process," he says.
Since launching CashMoneyLife.com, he's become well-versed in several areas of finance, including investing, and now has his sights set on achieving financial freedom. "Our only debt is our mortgage ... I started thinking, what would it look like to be financially independent?"
Guina's goal is influenced by the best financial advice he has received: Make your money work for you, not for other people. This means eliminating debts (where your money is working for someone else) and building up investments (where your money is working for you).
"What it really comes down to is having choices," he says. "I don't want to feel as though I have to do something for money instead of having the option to follow my dreams wherever they take me."
Aja McClanahan, 36-year-old blogger for PrinciplesOfIncrease.com
When Aja McClanahan got married, she knew she and her husband had issues with debt. "Two to three years into the marriage, not only do we have debt issues, we have debt problems," she says, referencing the couple's combined debt of $120,000.
McClanahan credits Dave Ramsey's "The Total Money Makeover" for motivating her to start aggressively paying down debt at the end of 2007. In 2013, she and her family became debt-free.
McClanahan says she read Ramsey's book within just a few hours. "I was so excited! [The book] really gave us a concrete plan, to have a budget, decrease expenses, increase income." She started a database consulting business from home to increase her income, which she says "helped us make a big dent in our debt payoff process."
Today, McClanahan and her husband are catching up on their savings goals related to retirement and their children's futures. "We put crazy money up in savings," she says, which helped them fully fund a home renovation, private school tuition and family vacations. "We just had the cash flow because we didn't have debt eating up our paychecks."
McClanahan can also afford to stay home and home-school her kids who have budding careers of their own: Both children make money from acting, modeling and voice-over gigs; they even have their own brokerage accounts. They know from their parents' experience to avoid debt at all costs. "I like them being very aware it's not the ideal way to finance things," she says.
Indeed, it's never too early to start being financially responsible, nor is it ever too late. Says McClanahan: "You're never 'too' anything; you can start being responsible today, right now."
Kendal Perez is a spokeswoman for CouponSherpa.com, a popular source for online, in-store and mobile coupons. She also blogs at Hassle-Free Savings and enjoys yoga, decluttering, craft brew and obsessing over her dogs.