In the last week, social media was  filled with commentary about kids who were born in 1991 turning 30 this year. On one hand there was schadenfreude from the older ones “you thought you’d never grow old, see your life now”, and on the other hand, anxiety about the 30s. This tweet  captured the economic anxiety many who turn 30 are feeling, especially this COVID year:

Reading the posts, some of which I responded to, I thought to share a couple of things that will encourage the newly minted 30-year-olds, and also help you set yourself up for success this decade.

First, it is a birthday like any other

You do not magically age when you turn 30. Your knees do not start to hurt right the day after, and this is not the end of life like you knew it. Those of us who are later into our 30s can attest to the fact that in many ways, life really began in our 30s. The 20s are often tumultuous. You are trying to figure who you really are, and there is loads of change happening. This can rob you of self confidence. With the 30s comes a kind of settling down. You won’t figure it all out in your 30s (I doubt anybody ever figures it all out), but there are truths you will settle into about yourself that will give you stability. This all however, does not happen automatically, as I shared with Kaluhi. It comes as a consolidation of the work you have been doing on yourself till now, and what you continue to do.  The 30s can be crisis years if you do not take time to introspect and determine who you really are and what you stand for.

An aside, my knees would hurt really badly when I turned 30, but they no longer hurt – I had been treating them badly by running tens of kms per week. The 30s can be the years you get into your best physical shape too, you just need to make up your mind and work for it.

Do not be too hard on yourself if you are not earning what you thought you would be earning by the time you turned 30

When I finished university many years ago, I had one goal – to be CEO by 27, and to be my own boss before 30. I did make CEO by 28. My 30th birthday however found me burnt out and on temporary heart meds. After that, I was away from work, earning zero and burning through my savings as I tried to be a farmer. While I had done well for myself in my 20s, my 30th birthday found me far far away from where I thought I would be. I was my own boss of losing money 🙂  After a couple of years of trying, I got back into employment with no savings, and a child who needed school fees. I am still employed today. I have no plans of being my boss, unless in the business of rest and enjoyment. My goal has changed from running my business, to retirement i.e to work for other reasons but money.

All this is to say, be alert to the opportunities that are around you, and seek to do your best at your work or business today. Keep learning, and adjusting your goals to your reality.

Finally, we are operating in truly shitty times. If you are in Africa, our economies are taking additional beating from COVID and poor governance. So do not look at your parents as the metric for living a successful life – if they had achieved more than you have financially, it is probably because those were better times for them. If you have gotten into your 30s without a steady income, be kind to yourself.

Always remember that personal finance is personal. It is about your habits, but also the circumstances you find yourself in, some of which you cannot control. Realize early that you are running a race that is like nobody else’s. All you need to do is to make it your best race.

Consolidate your learnings and know what you are really good at

Your 30s in many instances are the years that come with the most opportunities to earn money. But for you to take advantage of those opportunities, you have to be confident about what you are really good at, and put yourself out there.

Take some time to do an inventory of all the things you tried out in your 20s and the skills you have accumulated:

  • What did you most enjoy doing?
  • Which of your skills can make you the most money?
  • Which areas have most potential for growth?

The intersection of these three things lies the things you should do that have the highest chance of maximising your earnings and growth opportunities. What if you have to choose? I want to say do not leave number 2 out. So either go with something you love to do that can make you good money; or something that has potential for growth and can make you good money.

Money is good, and it is also useful.

Work with the income you have today, not the income you hope to get

This is one piece of advice that young people hate to hear, but please keep reading. It is great to be ambitious about your potential to earn money. It is fantastic to work towards earning big and becoming a millionaire. Dedicate 99% of your brain capacity to these efforts. However, spare me 1% for some good old boring realism. Plan your finances for the income you have today, and not what you hope to get.  This will not stop you from becoming a millionaire, but it will be your safety net should your plans not work out.

Do not approach your finances with a big pay day in mind – there’s a chance this pay day will not come. Instead, learn from primary school teachers who earn really little, but by thinking long-term are often able to accumulate assets many times more than their income, and retire comfortably.

Plan for a comfortable retirement, while working to be a millionaire.


It is not too late to start

Life does not end at 30. If you have never saved money, if you have not invested a single cent, start today. Don’t read another blog post, do not say you will start at the end of the month. Start today. Put aside some money in your M-Shwari Lock Savings account. Do not stress about where you will invest it and what not. Just set it aside first. Then start thinking about your goals. A good one to start with is to build an emergency fund. Another good one is to draw a “get out of debt” plan. I have written about these things, but I have deliberately not added the links here because I do not want you to click on them and get lost in the links.

Like I said before, be kind to yourself.

Now, shut the browser, turn on your mobile banking / M-Pesa app and save some money.

Photo by Robin C Samuel from StockSnap 








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Angie Byrd