Finance: Advice for my 20-year-old self

PHUKET: I know most people in their twenties are typically not interested in planning financially for their futures. Often, they are not very interested in planning for anything other than Friday night – I remember the days when I thought the same way.

What advice would I give myself now if I could go back and make decisions based on the lessons life’s experiences have taught me?

One thing this thought process does is make me feel quite happy with some of the tough decisions I made early in life.

The best one was moving to Thailand while still a young man. Surprising to many, Asia has always felt like more of a land of opportunity than my home country ever did.

I encourage all fresh graduates from university to get some international living and working experience as soon as possible.

In fact, when it comes to university, I would probably do the entire thing part time while working, if I were to do it again. Maybe I would try to find a company to help pay for it, or transfer credits from a cheaper university to a degree at a more expensive one.

The return on investment in lifelong earnings from a university is in a steady downward trend, and many programs already have a negative net present value. In layman’s terms, they’re not worth it.

I would also have tried starting side businesses at a much earlier age. I think that developing entrepreneurial skills will become an increasingly important factor in determining success in the future, as knowledge gradually becomes commoditized.

A piece of paper from an educational institution doesn’t mean what it used to in terms of the security of your future.

The most important thing I would have done differently is recognize the power of long-term compounding. I would have set aside 10% of everything I earned in my life and put it into an account (interest bearing or investments) specifically for retirement.

If I had followed this strategy fresh out of university – even given the crazy ups and downs of the markets and the financial crises we have been through – I would be so much better off.

It is now unpleasant to think about the opportunities I have wasted.

To summarize, the four most important things I would advise someone in their early twenties to do are as follows:

1) Work during university to gain entry-level work experience and reduce the cost of education, which is increasingly becoming a bad investment
2) Experience life abroad
3) Gain entrepreneurial experience
4) Begin saving for retirement

There is no holy grail amongst these simple recommendations. However, if taken together and followed seriously, I believe that they can significantly increase the amount of happiness you experience over the course of your life.

Plus, you will reach your retirement in a much better financial situation.

David Mayes MBA resides in Phuket and provides wealth management services to expatriates around the globe, focusing on UK pension transfers. He can be reached at or 085-335-8573. Faramond UK is regulated by the FCA and provides advice on pensions and taxation.

— David Mayes

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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