Let’s talk about money… One of my goals for the year is to gain more confidence when it comes to financial matters. In general, I find anything relating to numbers and banking super boring. But I’m making an effort to get curious – because I truly believe that knowledge is empowering. And one person who is making this process a lot more fun is Emma Edwards, founder of The Broke Generation.
Emma set up her website and Instagram feed with one goal in mind: to help other young women learn how to be financially fit.
I’m so inspired by Emma’s work, so I asked if she’d chat to me about her path to financial savviness. This is a long post, but one you should definitely make time for. So grab a coffee and settle in for an in-depth chat about money….
Okay Emma, first things first, why is it so important to be “financially fit”?
Emma: Being smart with money has always been important. It’s not a new concept, but we live in a world that’s so starkly different to the one that our grandparents grew up in. Fifty years ago there wasn’t the same level of consumerism that there is today. Sure, families went on holidays and bought toys for their kids, but there wasn’t the same pressure to BUY BUY BUY like there is today.
Nowadays, being financially fit is pretty much the only way to handle the selling overload that our brains experience on a day-to-day basis. Not to mention, the only way to attempt to afford a property in a booming market, on salaries that aren’t budging.
“If you put away £10 a week for 40 years of your working life, you’ll have £50,000 at the end.”
I – like many other young women – get SO overwhelmed by all of the terminology around finances. It’s confusing, and no one really teaches you how to manage or understand your finances at school.
What advice would you give to anyone out there who also feels overwhelmed by financial jargon?
I completely understand, and it’s such a shame we weren’t taught these things in school. Investing, mortgages, comparison rates, offset accounts, taxes… it’s a lot to learn, and it’s very complex. That’s why financial advisors have a job, I suppose.
I’m not a finance expert. I’m just a girl who works in marketing. You don’t have to know everything, but developing a working knowledge of key areas can make a huge difference.
The basic things I personally think everyone should make sure they’re clued up on are:
How much they earn and how the tax system works.
How mortgages work. Things like what a 4% interest rate really looks like (read: A LOT OF MONEY), and how you get a home loan.
And, finally, pensions and retirement savings.
Are you getting the most you can from your employer? Have you got random pension accounts from old jobs? Are you saving for retirement at all?! It’s SO boring and it feels like a lifetime away, but the earlier you start, the better.
I’m also a big believer in having long term savings that are designed to be for retirement, but aren’t in an actual pension. Pensions can be hard to access before you hit retirement age, so having access to money can be helpful if you need it. And it doesn’t have to be much. If you put away £10 a week for 40 years of your working life, you’ll have £50,000 at the end.
How did your own journey to financial savviness come about? And what was your motivation for setting up The Broke Generation?
It’s still a work-in-progress! But, long story short, my boyfriend is Australian, and we’re currently living in Melbourne. To be able to move there to be with him, we had to pay for a visa that cost $10,000 (around £6,000). We saved up pretty quickly – despite the fact he was still a student and I was scratching about for work as a foreigner – because we had no other choice. If we didn’t save the full amount within eight months, I’d get deported.
Saving for that visa taught me important money lessons. But immediately afterwards I returned to my usual shopaholic tendencies, and went financially off-the-rails again. I’d transfer money out of my savings account multiple times a day because I wasn’t planning properly. I’d move money out of my savings to buy a coffee while I was in the queue!
It was when we decided to buy a property that it really kicked into gear. We had to get hard on saving, and also apply for a mortgage (which was a million times more complicated than I ever thought possible).
I was frustrated that nobody really tells you what happens when it comes to buying property, so I decided to be that voice for young people who felt as lost as I did.
“One salad won’t make you thin, so saving £500 really quickly won’t make you rich (or financially stable, I should say). It’s about tweaking your mindset and your lifestyle so that you naturally spend less than you earn.”
You’re a real cheerleader for saving, and one of your key goals with TBG is to help women live the lives they want, whilst still being able to retire with enough money in the bank. What tips would you give to anyone who wants to get into the habit of saving for the future?
The key is exactly that – habits. It’s kind of like healthy eating: one salad won’t make you thin, so saving £500 really quickly won’t make you rich (or financially stable, I should say). It’s about tweaking your mindset and your lifestyle so that you naturally spend less than you earn.
Top tips to get into the habit of saving would be:
– Track every transaction for an entire month. It’s eye opening to see how £3.59 here and £12.21 there suddenly adds up to a whole lot of expenses with nothing to show for it.
– Start small. Set a small goal and do everything you can to achieve it really fast. Whether that’s to have £100 left in your bank at the end of the month, or not buying takeaway coffee for a week. Make it small and make it achievable. You’ll get a buzz when you achieve it, and it’ll spur you on to make more changes.
– Follow @the.brokegeneration on Instagram. LOL kidding (kind of). But what I mean is surround yourself with motivation. Whether that’s buying a finance book or writing a money journal, or having a money date with a friend. Surround yourself with financial positivity, and cut back on all the vices that derail your progress.
For Millennials and Generation Z, there is this belief that we’re totally f****d whatever we do. Because the economy is broken and we’ll never be able to retire (and we’re buying too many avocados)…
I know that a lot of my peers question whether there’s any point investing into a pension or saving for the future. So if someone reading this is totally unprepared, how should they adjust their mindset?
It’s a tough one, and the media doesn’t help. There’s a lot of scaremongering, and it’s causing a lot of withdrawal among our generation.
But to put it frankly, we will have to retire at some point. So, the way I see it, we have a choice. We can either decide that its too hard and spend all of our money now; or we can start putting small, regular amounts away and tweaking our money mindset to prepare us for what life will be like when we do get to 65… or 85!
It’s important to think about the bigger picture. I’m all for living in the now, but that only works when you have an income. Once you retire, or become unable to work for whatever reason, paying rent might not be possible.
It’s difficult, because I understand that a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to save much money. Raising kids on a low income, falling ill or getting divorced can mean there simply isn’t the space in your income for savings.
If you don’t have the opportunity to save, that’s one thing. But so many young people are making pretty good money at work and spending it all on boohoo.com. I know that because I was that person! And I honestly believed I had no money. I’ve never earned a ‘good’ salary, but looking at my wardrobe, I must have had some money at some stage!
A lot of the time, the money is there, it just comes down to making small lifestyle adjustments, and putting a very small percentage of your cash in the right places.
“So many young people are making pretty good money at work and spending it all on boohoo.com. I know that because I was that person! And I honestly believed I had no money.”
For anyone reading this who is feeling well and truly broke, right now, what are some small and practical things that they can do this week to feel more in control of their situation?
For starters, try not to worry too much. The fact that you’re worrying is actually a good thing, because it means you’re ready to take action. My least financially anxious years were my most naive – I spent all of my money on clothes and vodka and believed I’d sort it out when I was older.
To feel in more control, face up to your finances. Sit down with a glass of wine and write down how much you’ve actually got in your account(s), how much you make, and how much your expenses are. My free Budget Babe in 7 Days course actually takes you through these key tasks and sets you up with a budget that works.
For most young people, they’ll actually find that they actually make more than they think. Then comes the ‘where the hell is all my money?’ question. But that’s a good thing. It means the money is there, and you’re ready to do something positive with it.