When I was 18 I got my very first ever real job and starting earning an income for myself. I trained as a croupier and worked at a casino that had opened up in the city that I grew up in; to do this I opted to cancel my application to University.
The job introduced me to a lot of new things - a regular income, tax, national insurance, and new colleagues to form friendships with. That last thing was particularly impactful, because what happens when you start to earn money and make new friends?
You start to spend it on socialising.
Croupiers work unsociable hours - we sleep in the day and work when the sun has gone down - so we pretty much only have each other to fill the gaps between sleeping and working. Any money we earned would typically be spent on drinking or gambled away at another casino.
Yep - when croupiers finish work they often just go to another casino to play since those are usually the only establishments left open at that time. At least, that's what myself and my group did anyways. Obviously I could've just gone home to sleep but hey, I was 18 and "earning money".
This went on for about a year before I decided to re-enrol into University, and eventually I graduated with a degree in Computer Science. New shiny qualifications in hand - and absolutely no money despite continuing part time as a croupier - I went to London in search of a job. Fortunately it didn't take too long and I managed to get a graduate job in the city with a consulting firm.
New job, new city, new friends to socialise with - and earning quite a bit more than my time as a croupier. I was a young bachelor new to London, and considering I grew up in Wales the Big Smoke seemed to be filled with endless wonders and entertainment.
This carried on for about 2 years before I started "getting sensible". Fun as it was - and there are some really good memories - I began to realise that my money situation wasn't progressing that well, not if I wanted to achieve the financial success that I had in mind.
Plus, there was only so much "young fresh bachelor" lifestyle I wanted to live before making deliberate changes to set myself up for the future.
So, over the past couple of years I have been working on my own journey towards better personal finance and continue to learn and develop my knowledge every day. And while there isn't really anything to "regret", since I feel as though I'm doing quite well at the moment, there are a few things I would want to tell a younger me if I had the chance to do so.
1. Learn how to boost a jar of sauce
A massive drain on budget is the amount of money being spent on food and drink in a restaurant - you might feel like you can afford all those visits to Nando's, Byron Burger or whichever Indian Restaurant you take a fancy to but honestly, three or four visits in a week is way too much.
You learned some basic cooking skills back in University and most of these were based on using a jar of sauce - Bolognese or Madras, usually - but now it's time to understand how to increase its yield.
Instead of just pouring the sauce over meat and then adding rice or pasta, try breaking down some extra vegetables into the sauce while simmering it. Tomatoes, onions, spinach, bell peppers, even kidney beans are great choices.
They're cheap and nutritious and can really bulk up the amount of "sauce" you get from a single jar; instead of getting 2 meals out of a jar you'll easily be able to get 4. Obviously you need to apply portion control but this is only going to benefit your health in the long run.
More meals from one jar means less money spent on groceries without compromising on quality and nutrition - in fact, you've probably improved both. And since these additions make a meal even more delicious you'll feel less need to eat out, which is simply money saved.
2. Stop overthinking investing, you lose more money on stupid things anyway
Here's the thing - you're willing to spend £100 on a night out but you're worried about losing £20 in investments... how does that even make sense?
If you go out less often - because Monday night drinks and Wednesday clubbing was something you should have left behind in Uni (probably...) - you'll easily find some extra cash that you can invest.
You think that if you've spent the money on a transaction you've at least got something in return for it, some "value", but if you're down in investments then that's simply money down the drain for nothing at all. This problem is purely psychological.
I get it, a lot of your financial knowledge has a foundation on "saving" and "not taking risks" - but just think about all of the things where you were fast and loose with your money and didn't really get anything that beneficial in return.
If you take just 25% of that money you'll have a reasonable amount to invest each month, and though you might think it's small and insignificant it'll really become something by the time a decade or so passes by.
A decade sounds long but it will pass by, and you'll still be in your 30s.
Also, your impression of investing is all wrong. You don't have to get in at the bottom, or pick the company with the next revolutionary idea, or know the finer details of a company before you can invest.
There's something called an index tracker which means you take a piece of everything and trust that the overall economy will perform well over time. While some companies will fail, most will do alright in the long run. Safety and strength in numbers, it really is that simple.
3. The house always wins, so tie your success to it
You're worried about losing money in investing but you're absolutely certain that you're going to hit blackjack on the next hand - really dude?
You spent 2 years on the other side of this blackjack table and you saw loads of people lose thousands in a single night, because you're the one who dealt the cards!
How many people do you remember winning thousands? Not many right?
The casino days are behind you and you should know better than anyone else that the house always wins in the long run - you might win a few hundred one time but chances are you're going to lose. And if you keep chasing that win, you'll probably be in the negative overall by the time it happens.
Remember all those times a punter thought they were on top of the world because they walked away with £500 in "winnings"?
You thought it was amusing because you took a thousand from them the previous month and you knew you'd probably see them, and that £500, again soon. Nothing personal of course, it was just business.
Also you don't have as much of an edge in poker as you think. Each time the other player doesn't play the way you expected, and you get annoyed, just remember that you were basically hoping they'd do exactly as you wanted because you had no plan or skill to handle an alternative.
Keep your money and invest it into the index tracker instead. If the index represents the economy, and the economy is the "house", you'll soon realise that it essentially means your financial success is "tied to the house" itself. The house always wins.
4. Keep your style simple but have co-ordination and layering
You've always thought buying clothes were expensive so stop trying to have some sort of flashy or designer style. Nobody cares if you're wearing an Armani shirt or strutting around with an expensive leather jacket.
How many people do you actually remember where you've walked past and thought, for more than a few seconds, about the clothes they're wearing and then judged them (positively or negatively) for it?
Let's put it like this - what was your best friend or one of your colleagues wearing the last time you saw them? Do you really care?
I'm not telling you to walk around in rags but at the same time you don't need to be overspending on clothing. If a plain basic t-shirt isn't from a designer brand, but happens to fit your body shape well, then what's the issue?
Does your underwear really need to be from Calvin Klein? What are you expecting that to do for you?
Even now, as your future self, I've never had a conversation where someone has judged me for where I got my clothes from - because I simply don't socialise with those types of people - but I have received comments that my clothing fits well.
Solid colours and patterns with good co-ordination can help you turn a few items into numerous "outfits", especially if you know how to use layers. A white t-shirt for example can be worn by itself on a sunny day, or beneath an open shirt, or as an underlayer for your jumper when the weather gets cold.
A navy shirt can be tucked in, unbuttoned (with a t-shirt underneath obviously), sleeves rolled up, buttoned up with sleeves rolled down, worn with dark jeans, or worn with chinos.
Pick out the basics that fit you well and look after them, and learn how to combine them to make your wardrobe more extensive without actually needing more items.
The amount of money you'll save is phenomenal.
5. Don't get a tailor made suit (yet)
One, you don't have the money.
Two, your body is still changing slightly - especially if you're hitting the gym (Do this if you aren't).
Three, who are you trying to be anyway? Harvey Specter?
I've also read that article for "the successful man" where it tells you to drop an entire month's salary on your suit - but don't buy into it. It's the same type of marketing ploy that will tell you to spend three month's salary on an engagement ring.
These were "rules" made by the companies selling the suits and the rings themselves!
I agree that you don't want to wear a bad suit but at the same time if you need an expensively tailored suit to gain someone else's notice or respect, you probably didn't deserve it from them in the first place.
And if they gave you the attention purely based on a suit then their recognition might not be as valuable as you, or they, want to believe.
Instead, find a decent suit that fits relatively well off the rack and take it to a tailor to make adjustments so that it fits your shape even better - this is a much cheaper alternative and can give you the confidence you're looking for when wearing a suit.
Remember, the man makes the suit - it's not the other way around; and people can tell.
6. Don't bother with expensive first dates
Yes, it's nice to be able to enjoy a really posh meal and to go for cocktails, or to go to a theatre show, or doing something cool like climbing over the O2 - but do you really need to do these things on the first date?
You can't buy romance and if you think you need to spend a lot of money to impress then really, you're just lacking in self confidence, or you're kind of boring.
Save these types of dates for when you're actually in a relationship, or at least when it looks like there might be something worth pursuing longer term. Right now - on a first date - you don't even know if you like them yet. What a shame to waste that money if it turns out you don't!
London, or wherever you end up living, has loads and loads of options that are either free or low cost. Museums, Art galleries, walking trails, parks, historical sites just to name a few.
Use some of your spare time to explore hidden gems by yourself so that you have some interesting locations up your sleeve that cannot be found on any dating guide. And figure out where there might be boutique cafes or bistros that aren't going to rinse your wallet for a small piece of meat on an oversized plate.
First dates aren't about showing off your money - which you don't have anyway. It's about seeing if the person you've met clicks with you and if there's any bond that can be formed so that you're both willing to meet up for a second, or third, or hopefully more dates.
If it looks like it's going well, then you might want to consider treating the two of you to something a bit nicer than usual; but even then, don't make a habit out of it.
By the way, going for low cost doesn't make you cheap - and if the other person thinks so then let's be honest, they probably weren't the kind of partner you were looking for in the first place.
Save your money for someone who's actually special.
7. Keep spending on your education
Just because you've graduated from University or left school it doesn't mean you should stop your education. If you went to University then you've already paid tens of thousands for your degree, so why not keep spending some of your money to buy books?
In terms of cost it's like one or two pints less a month - hardly going to affect your social life.
Reading is a great way to continue your own development as it allows you to dive into the perspectives, experiences and knowledge of the author. You get to consume the distilled information in a fraction of the time it took the author to discover it. Talk about return on investment!
You don't even need to stick with financial topics for it to translate into more earnings; history, philosophy, politics, strategy, business, leadership, biographies, science, design, sport, even fiction can all expand your thinking which can help you become more effective and more competent in life and work overall.
There's almost no way for it not to help you push your career and earning potential forward in some way, shape or form.
The only type of reading that's unlikely to convert into more earning potential is the one that's focused on social media. Really, you don't need to scroll down that wall for an hour every day.
While I've written this in a manner as though I was speaking to a younger version of myself, I think the advice can and should be applied to the present version; and I do continue to practice these things as I push myself forward in my journey towards financial independence.
At the same time, I think that many people out there could also benefit from seeing some of this advice - and it doesn't just apply to people who are young.
There are many things that we wish we could have done better in the past, and most of us have probably been asked at some point "what would you do differently if you could go back?"
While it's nice to hypothesise and imagine the benefits we'd be reaping in the present day, it's impossible to change what has already come to pass. But what isn't impossible is making a positive change today so that a future version of ourselves can benefit.
If you find yourself wishing you could go back in time to give a younger version of yourself some advice, perhaps you want to tell yourself to start investing sooner, then don't lose hope - because today's version of yourself is a younger version of a future you.
Look at the past to learn and improve - but never forget to look forward because that's where we'll see the effects of our actions.
Hey - just one final word before wrapping up - Getting the first £100k is always the hardest, and apparently when you get to £250k you're "halfway to a million". The cause of this is of course due to compounding returns and I found a really nice little article by Four Pillar Freedom who shows the workings at a basic level.
My mission is to help people understand their money by making financial scenarios or concepts easy to understand.
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