Why “Save Money” is the Most Important Advice of your 20s
I recently came to an important realisation that I want to pass on. It’s linked to the old adage that you’ve probably heard before:
“When you’re young, you have time and energy, but no money. When you’re middle-aged, you have money and energy, but no time. And when you’re elderly and finally have time and money, you no longer have any energy.”
Despite how long ago I may have started this blog, I still consider myself firmly in the first category of ‘young’ (!) and I definitely agree that money is the main barrier to most things that my friends and I desire to do in our youth. We’re still commitment-free and conscious of how much freedom and flexibility we have at this (pre-children) stage of our lives. But we’re also an impatient generation, who aren’t convinced that waiting decades is the best recipe to the long-awaited treasure troves promised in the proverb above.
ln light of all this, my key realisation was this: I owe so much to my younger self for starting to save money early! My ability to take a 6-month unpaid sabbatical from work in 2016 and to now spend 2 years studying for a Master’s degree is the direct result of lots of little actions I took over the last 4 years, saving up little pots of my salary and not frittering it all away on pay day sprees. I can only praise my younger self for her infinite wisdom of managing to save all that money!
Back when I first graduated in 2012, lots of grown-ups around me (read: my parents and aunt) warned me about the importance of saving early for retirement and opening a pension pot, etc. But now I realise that the real wisdom was not in saving for my retirement (in a zillion years’ time), but in saving money to give me freedom of choice now, while I’m still in my youth.
During the 4 years I worked in between my two degrees, I managed to save the equivalent of 30% of my salary (aside from the pension contributions that I can’t touch for a zillion years). That 30% came mainly from: (1) religiously putting aside some of my salary every month, (2) transferring my annual company bonuses straight into savings accounts without spending a penny, (3) payments for blog-related work and competitions outside of my main job, (4) living in a free company flat in Madrid for 6 months and transferring the equivalent of my London rent into savings rather than spending the extra cash, (5) spending very little on my main hobby (travel) thanks to seizing opportunities to travel for free through my blog.
(For more details, see my 2015 blog post: How To Find Money for Travel (& the Secret Behind How I Afford to Travel So Much))
Little did I know at the time what exactly I was saving money for. The typical thing to save for in your 20s is a house deposit, and I did spend about half of my savings on buying a flat with my sister in 2015. But I wouldn’t advise spending all your savings on property, as you’re then left obligated to work eternally to pay off the mortgage for said property and you can never afford to be salary-less. A financial advisor once gave me a golden nugget of advice: he told me never to put all my assets in one place, and to instead diversify the risk. I.e. to spend half my savings on an investment like property, and keep the other half for a rainy day or another future opportunity. And based on the path my life has taken since 2016, I would seriously recommend that approach to everyone else!
If I hadn’t been saving up over several years for a rainy day, then I would still now be sitting at my desk in London, working in an unfulfilling job, complaining at the lack of travel involved, lamenting my annual leave restrictions and always dreaming of the greener grass on the other side. But I actually don’t regret any part of the 4 years I spent working at that company, as it’s that very job that allowed me to save up money and therefore afford to pursue two of the very best decisions of my 20s: to take a sabbatical and to do a Master’s degree. I was recently asked by a few readers about how to fund a Master’s degree and it reminded me of how ridiculously grateful I am to my younger self for saving up so diligently, as I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have received the same advice about saving that I received from my parents and that financial advisor.
Financial advice is definitely a topic that isn’t discussed enough in the context of millennials. One brilliant UK-based blog I’ve followed for a number of years is Iona Bain’s Young Money Blog and basically everything I know about money has come straight from her!
It’s also been a long time since I blogged about money – which is obviously a pretty essential requirement for most travel! As I’m currently a student, I spend even more time and effort than before on seeking out the cheapest flights, calculating airmiles and not getting ripped off when I travel (and I’ve recently been to Norway for goodness sake, so I know a thing or two about needing to budget!). So I have a few other money-orientated posts coming up in the near future: one full of tips to save money on travel, and one on how to finance a Master’s degree. Is there anything else money-related you’d like to read blog posts on?
What’s your opinion on that quote about time, energy and money at the different stages of our lives? Do you agree with it, or do you think it’s outdated in the current financial climate? What would be your golden nugget of advice for your 20s?