Gemma Styles: 'Is The Internet Ruining Our Retirement?'
The Debrief: I've never been a wild spender - I started saving for a house deposit when I was 13 - but even I've given up on saving for the future...
Photograph by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
You are probably spending too much. I know this isn’t what you want to hear on a Saturday morning but the news (alternatively delivered to me via a digital medium, of course) is not good – although apparently we’re more likely to fritter away our monthly income on an iPhone contract with unlimited data than do something about it…
I’ve never been a wild spender; mainly because my worrying and pangs of anxiety have always cut into the spending time. My mind always goes to ‘but what if something awful happens and I end up on my own and I can’t look after myself and I fail as an Independent Woman and Beyonce is ashamed of me?’ When I got my first weekend job at around 13 or 14, I started saving – for a house deposit. You’d think with over a decade of preparation under my belt I should be laughing… but then I grew up and found out what things cost and (LOL) moved to London sooooo – safe to say that’s not happening any time soon. Ah well. May as well spend my money on hilarious cat toys and find happiness that way instead. Apparently, I am pretty typical of someone my age.
Being your classic millennial, I finished uni and entered the job market just as every news outlet in the world was screaming that we were all doomed and had wasted thousands of pounds on our years of education. I feel like I’m being naively optimistic when I buy home wares, or God forbid, furniture – because as a renter, chances are I’m going to have to move again before too long and what if the next place is furnished or stuff won’t fit?
According to Rebecca Taylor, director at the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments, today’s 25-year-old’s (hello, by the way, that’s me) need to save about £800 a month for the next 40 years to retire at 65 with an annual salary of £30,000. Which, in 40 years of inflation, probably isn’t going to amount to very much anyway. Insert wide-eyed emoji of shock and terror here.
Feeling a bit set up to fail…? So are the rest of us – and that’s one of the reasons why we’re saying ‘OH, SOD IT THEN’… and buggering off on holiday instead. According to the Financial Times, the 18-30 bracket is prioritising short-term spending over long-term saving – a.k.a sticking our heads in the sand going ‘la la la’ and trying to enjoy our lives while we can, before our financial future hits us like a mushroom cloud. When you read the numbers, this seems daft – but is it any wonder?
I’ve spoken before about how the internet, and social media in particular, throw rose tinted specs on everyone else’s lives. Nobody on Instagram is posting their worried face when they realise they’re going to be flat broke at retirement age (although maybe a representative cat meme…) – instead all you see is friends and strangers having nights out and holidays and buying expensive candles that look good with a Gingham filter thrown on top. And if everyone else is then why shouldn’t we?
I watched Up the other day – that old man spent his entire life saving up for a dream holiday with his wife and then had to blow it on sensible things right up until she died and it was too late. Dramatic? Yes. But given the unenviable choice between ‘having no money in about 50 years’ or ending your life with regrets for the things you didn’t do when you were young – I know what feels more actionable now. I’ve seen enough Facebook memes to know it’s how you live your life not how much money you make. Click bait links are all clamouring to tell us the number one regret from people on their deathbeds and you can be bloody sure it’s not paying more attention to their pension funds.
So what's the answer? I really don't know - I don’t really have any fantastic advice on this one. If you can get it together enough to start investing in that pension fund, you'll probably be in a far better position than the rest of us in 45 years time. Just maybe don't turn down too many nights out in the process.
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