No matter how you feel about it, 40 is one of those big milestones that is hard to ignore. It is a “proper grown up” age. I remember at 16 when I actually thought 30 was middle aged and how far away it all seemed. But now I will be ticking the age box on surveys labelled “40-45”(ugh), am officially in the demographic for Plantur 39 hair loss shampoo and I’m only 10 years away from qualifying for one of those guaranteed over 50 plans with a free pen just for enquiring.
But do you know what? Other than those three rather frightening things, I’m pretty ok with turning 40. Life is far from perfect, but it is pretty good. For every negative, such as money being tight, there is a positive, such as working part time and having a far better work/life balance than I have ever had in my adult life. So what advice, financial and otherwise, would I give my younger self?
Get rid of the credit card and build up some short term savings / emergency fund
I have mentioned before how credit card debt was never really a problem for me as I would usually pay off the balance within a couple of months. But because of this I never had any day to day savings (I did have long term “untouchable” savings in stocks & shares ISAs etc), but what I could have done with is saving up some cash each month to pay for holidays and other expenses instead of whacking them on the credit card.
Collect memories, not things
I don’t regret any of the holidays, music festivals or nights out I spent my hard earned cash on, but I do wish I could return some of the clothes / cds / dvds bought on a whim. Have you ever had a clear out and winced when you remembered how much a practically unused item cost? Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a full price refund for these unwanted items – I dread to think how much I could get back but it would be in the £1000s! Shopping was definitely a hobby rather than a necessity. These days I am far more cautious and rarely buy any clothes for myself. I also wish I could tell the 90s me about Netflix and Spotify so I wouldn’t feel quite so compelled to buy every CD & DVD going!
Don’t compare yourself to others – financially or otherwise
One of Dave Ramsey’s well known sayings is “Stop keeping up with the Joneses – they’re broke.” To be honest, when I earned a lot more money I didn’t really try and keep up with anyone in that area, probably because it wasn’t an issue for me. However, as I was unhappy in my job and desperate to start a family I envied others in those positions – the ones pushing the prams and those who I thought had a much better work/life balance than me.
Of course, once I got those things, I realised they come with their own problems! A baby most definitely will not solve your problems, it will just bring with it a whole host of new ones. Looking after a tiny person is far more than watching daytime tv and going to coffee shops – who knew?! And a better work / life balance for me meant less money. Which I would definitely rather have, but it still sucks in its own way. It was only when money became an issue that I began to get miffed that we suddenly couldn’t do the things others around us could. Holidays abroad, new furniture, new cars – I have learned to live without, and I’m glad I’m not building up debt on these things.
Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone
This is easier said than done, especially as I spend probably 3+ years absolutely miserable in a job I had grown to hate. It’s easy to think just leave, but often in these situations (as it was for me) you are tied in financially, the job is all you know and all you have trained for, and you have no clue what else you can do without taking a massive paycut. I was very fortunate in that just as I hit rock bottom and decided I couldn’t carry on no matter what, I was offered a new role in my field. Obviously this didn’t just fall into my lap; I had to apply for it and go through the interview process and I think sometimes I forget this part.
My point is, sitting feeling sorry for yourself but doing nothing about it is not going to change anything. This is just how I felt again about the lack of money issue a few years later, but once I made the effort I was able to make over £300 on ebay and begin to make some spare money via Matched Betting. These are 2 things I would never have pictured myself doing a couple of years ago. You can read why here.
Focus on the positives in life and put problems into perspective
It is so easy to feel negative about the things that are not perfect in life and take for granted the good stuff. And by good stuff, I mean having job, a roof over my head, 2 arms and 2 legs etc. They are often the things we don’t even think about we take them for granted so much! As much now as any time in my life I need to stop and appreciate what I do have, as the good stuff far outweighs the bad! It’s easy to start stressing about the relatively small things such as needing a new washing machine or being in debt, but in this situation I try think to myself – as awful as it sounds – if something life threatening happened to myself or a loved one, would this matter? And if the answer is no, then I think it’s not worth stressing about. Of course, these little problems cannot be ignored, but put them into perspective in the grand scheme of life.
Is there any advice you would add? Whatever your age, what advice would you give to your younger self – money related or otherwise? Let me know in the comments!