I stumbled upon this question on Quora and thought I might give it a go. I think the 20s is the best decade to build some good habits that will set you up for financial success later in life. That’s not a hard thing to do, as long as you avoid some bad financial decisions.
That’s because our “early life” will usually set the pillars for our “later life” which is when kids and other obligations arrive.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s never too late to start thinking of financial independence. I keep getting emails from people in their 40s and 50s who do have early retirement in mind. There’s no problem with that.
But it’s much easier if you start ahead. So if you’re reading this and you’re in your 20s or in college, you’re in a very lucky position having the entire life ahead of you.
With that in mind, let’s see what are the top 10 financial advice to follow in our 20s.
1. Live like you’re in college for the first few years
This will teach you how to save and how to avoid lifestyle inflation. As a result, you will learn how to be disciplined and control your own life.
No, usually our life choices don’t belong to us. They are controlled by the advertising and the marketing industry showing us what to buy at each stage of our life.
Once you learn how to fight social pressure, you’re ahead already. Living within your means is one of the pillars of financial independence.
Learn how to resist spending your first year’s salary on a fancy car on finance and you have won your first battle. The battle of not copying what everyone else is doing. Having some money left over each month is the first great step to financial freedom.
2. Don’t take the first job just because it pays more
At the beginning of your career, the goal is to learn learn learn! Therefore, you should be focusing on jobs that teach you a lot rather than ones which offer comfort and sharp 9-to-5 rules.
If possible, go work for a small company or build your own. The goal is to get to do everything – from taking customer phone calls to sales to technical support.
One of my first jobs was at a startup, and although hectic I learned A TON of stuff which I then used to reach the £100k salary target in my 30s.
3. Avoid debt like the enemy
I have written about Good Debt vs Bad Debt before.
Good debt is when you take a loan to buy a house which appreciates in value over time. Bad debt is when you take a loan to buy a depreciating asset, something like a car or a yacht.
Over time, depreciating assets lose their value and you get back less than you bought them for.
Usually, in our 20s, we take on debt to buy depreciating assets because they are cooler. But who are we fooling?
Taking debt is simply borrowing from your future self.
Even worse, we need to pay back more than we borrowed thanks to interest. By the way, by
4. Go work for someone you admire for free
For free? “LoL,” I hear you say. But trust me, that will teach you much more than a £25,000 salary will. Soon enough, your experience will be invaluable.
That’s what Gary Vee advocates and I fully support that. I don’t mean go work for anyone without getting paid. But if there’s one person you admire, it’s worth approaching them with that proposition.
Some internships are like that and they soon offer a full-time salary.
5. Learn to invest and what compound interest is
Usually, people start investing by default because their employer contributes to their pensions. Some don’t even know this is happening or where the money is going.
But if you start investing from such an early stage out of your pension then you have a huge advantage compared to your peers.
No, the money that you put in is probably only a small fraction of what you’ll be able to invest later in life. But you’re building this small snowball that will hit you big later, called “Compound Interest”.
Basically, the money that your money generates will start working for you next year and the year after, and so on and so forth.
6. Avoid expensive cars
A car’s utility is to take you from place A to B safely. Buying an expensive car early in life is one of the biggest and most common mistakes
7. Embrace a cycling lifestyle
Using a car or transportation for short distances is not the best way to move around.
If you start cycling instead then you’ll soon experience the benefits of cycling such as better body, healthier lifestyle, mental balance, low stress and big money pockets thanks to the huge savings.
Seriously, I’ve been cycling on and off in my 20s and realised that whenever I cycle to work I’m happier and more awake compared to my previous self.
Our mood and our brain are very much dependent on what’s going on in our body. Exercise releases endorphins and our body
8. Take financial advice VERY carefully
Ironically, you don’t have to listen to me! Trust nobody with your money, only your education and market history. Read books such as Smarter Investing and The Four Pillars of Investing and others in the Financial Independence Resources list.
Take financial advice only from people that are qualified, eligible and charge very low costs (either a fixed-fee or a very small percentage fee. Less than 0.3%.). If you think financial experts have your best interests at heart, then Where are the customer yachts?
Usually, people who recommend a particular financial product are there to make a profit from you.
Stay away from expensive, “invite-only” deals and focus on building your wealth, simply and passively. How do you spot the difference? See step 9.
9. Read money books, learn about FIRE
FIRE (financial independence retire early) will teach you how to live within your means, how to invest your money for a profit and how to be happier in life by optimising every aspect of it. Little by little, one step at a time.
It’s a community that keeps growing and as a result, more people benefit from this movement.
And if you’re in London, UK, then why don’t you join the Financial Independence London Facebook group and come to our free social meetups.
Oh and yes, books. Personal finance books are awesome. They are the shield against all this nonsense BS financial advice you get every day from the media and from experts.
You can then laugh at others when you escape the rat race and retire in your 40s.
10. Stay the course
Life will throw all sort of things at you.
Financial crashes, you will lose your job and sometimes things will go left. But if you avoid all those bad financial mistakes early on, you’ve created a massive shield against all these. You’ve built your own luck.
You now just need to stay the course 😉