I should begin this article with the disclaimer that I’m pretty bad with money. Or maybe I’m pretty good, considering I’ve never really had any and somehow I’m still alive and a semi-functioning member of society. Saying that, I can’t tell you which industries to invest in, how to earn a passive income, or what a 401k actually means.
Still, I have managed to learn a few simple but important things along the way. And whenever I do learn something I always think - “well shit, why didn’t anyone tell me that ten years ago?”
So here they are:
Money can, in fact, buy you happiness
Of course it’s possible to be rich and miserable, Theresa May’s face is all the evidence you need of that. But the truth that nobody wants to admit is that a lot of life’s problems can be instantly solved if you have money. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that money buys you freedom, and freedom brings you happiness.
If you had a couple of loving and supportive parents like I did, they probably told you that it didn’t matter what you did when you grew up, as long as you were happy. That’s nice and everything, but I think if I was speaking to my younger self now, I’d say, “try banking or insurance. If after a few years you find it’s too soul crushing then you can quit with a fat wad of cash stashed away and your student debt already paid off.”
Debt doesn’t go away when you ignore it
I spent a few years feeling so sick whenever I thought about money that my best solution became to simply never think about it. This is a mistake. When the thought of checking your bank statements is giving you panic attacks, that’s when you really need to check your bank statements. Remember that no matter how hopeless things seem, there is usually a better way out of debt than complete denial.
Being frugal will ultimately not save you
Another lie we’re used to hearing is “if you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves.” And sure, when you find yourself struggling to make ends meet, a bit of belt tightening can help. It’s definitely a good way to make it through university, and your first couple of internships/horribly underpaid jobs. But being frugal is not a long term solution to anything. Take it from someone who’s been buying off-brand cereal, cycling everywhere instead of paying for public transport, and refusing to turn on the heating every winter for years. Eventually this kind of scrimping is not going to help that much, and you’ll also be bloody miserable.
Don’t waste money on things just because everyone else does.
Sometimes the people around you will overspend on certain things and after a while, it becomes kind of normalised. But whether it’s phone bills or nights out, when you stop to think about how much you spend on some of these things it makes no sense at all, and there’s almost always a cheaper option.
Student loans are another thing that we think, just because everyone has them, are no big deal. But in reality they are a giant frightening presence, and it is also possible to tackle them with a strategy for saving if instead of accepting debt as a part of life we put a plan into action.
Hard work does not guarantee financial success
I don’t want this article to be too much of a downer, then again it is about young people and finance so you know, it’s sometimes hard to put a positive spin on things. Like most of us, I always believed that hard work was the most important thing when it comes to success, and I stand by it. But sometimes hard work alone is not enough. You also need luck and the right contacts, and the good news is both of these things will present themselves, while you’re busy working hard. So try to recognise good fortune when it comes along.
Pursuing careers in creative industries might not be the stupidest thing
Following a career in the arts is a good way to ensure a lifetime of hardship and poverty. At least that’s what we were taught. And sure, the statistics are not on your side here, with the average arts grad in the UK earning around only £15,000. Then again I have to acknowledge that the most successful and wealthy people I know are artists, musicians and creators of one kind or another.
Industries that used to be thought of as safe are now not looking so secure. When almost all of our jobs become automated, those of us with creative careers might be the safest. It will at least be a while until the robots are composing pop songs and writing irreverent online listicles. . . right?
And if you're looking for a bit of help with managing your money, download Loot here. The app lets you create budgets and set money aside so you can spend your cash how you really want to.