Oh to be young again. The world feels so easy to grasp…anything is possible. Adventures are everywhere and travel, for many of us, is just beginning.
And, hopefully, so is your investment account.
Before we jump into my strongly worded lecture about why you should start investing even if you’re a young, trouble-free traveler, a bit of background…
Joe and I took an extended trip around the world right after we got married, a nice, long honeymoon. We were in our late 20s, with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
We specifically chose places we thought would be harder to enjoy when we were older. So we opted for activities like hiking Mt. Rinjani (an active volcano in Lombok, Indonesia), squid fishing in Vietnam, and chasing waterfalls in Thailand.
We went for adventure, distance, and, of course, budget. We scrimped and saved for our trip around the world…every single penny we earned went into an account just for travel.
Including the dollars that could have gone into our employer matched 401K. Our first real opportunity to invest.
Employer matches are a fancy way of saying: here is free money. They just give it to you. And we just…didn’t take it…
In the years since, I am older. Wiser. Very mature. Super smart. Etc.
Or at least, I know slightly more about personal finance than I did before. I’ve spent the last few years pouring over books and blogs, reading up about money and what to do with it, how to make it, and then use it to grow more.
And yet…every travel influencer/blogger/writer I see is STILL saying to throw in the towel! Adventure! Don’t worry about it, who says you’ll get to retire anyway?!
So I’m going to go full, curmudgeon grandma here and offer some unpopular advice that no one asked me for: you need to invest your money even if you’re traveling. Even (especially) if you’re young.
ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE A FREAKING EMPLOYER MATCH!!!!! (Did I mention this is FREE money?!)
The Potential Loss For Waiting To Invest Is HUGE
Let me be perfectly clear: I do not regret our trip. To this day, I think it’s the best thing I/we have ever done. I’d never advise you to stay home…for the love of God take every trip/vacation/travel opportunity you are ever presented with!
This is not about regret when it comes to travel…this is different.
The truth is, we could have had both an amazing, long trip and saved for our retirement and/or continued investing. And I’d bet you can too.
If I had started by putting just $50 a month into my 401K when I started working in my early 20s, (with my employer match let’s say $100 month) and continued at that pace for 40 years…I’d likely have over $311,000 when I retired (that’s a conservative estimate).
That’s if I just invested $100/month for my working life.
By waiting 10 years? I’ll have $136,000.
Did you catch that? 10 years cost me almost $170,000…for no freaking reason.
This is where it gets interesting…
Compound interest, my friends, is your best friend…IF you start early.
We waited until our 30s to start investing and saving for our retirement…the potential loss for us throughout our lives by waiting?
Millions (yes, MILLIONS) of dollars.
That’s a lot of trips to Fiji.
(Psst. You can calculate your own potential earnings and losses using the Investor.gov calculator.)
Why Should You Invest Your Money?
I know, I know. We’re all vagabonds who follow our spirits.
But ESPECIALLY for those of us who love to travel, investing our money and saving for later in life is crucial. Do you really want to be watching old reruns of How I Met Your Mother in your apartment when you’re too old to work?
No. You want to be on a hillside in Tuscany. Or taking a road trip through Arizona.
And to do that, you will need money.
But what about now? Who knows if I’ll ever even retire? I don’t want to waste my best years working for the man in a (God forbid) cubicle.
Let me say it louder for the people in the back…
Why do we keep buying into this narrative that travelers need to be broke in order to be authentic? And that we can’t be intelligent with our personal finances while spending money on what we love most?
Consider this: How do you make money for travel? And wouldn’t it be REALLY cool if there was a way to make more money, faster…enabling you to travel more over the span of your life?
But Alicia, Isn’t the Stock Market Basically Gambling & Run By A Few Rich White Bros Who Can’t Be Trusted?
Gahhhhh. No. And yes.
I’m not going to explain the market to you because I don’t fully understand it and it actually doesn’t matter at all.
I’m a numbers person, however, and so here’s what I’ll say.
I don’t care that rich white men have traditionally gotten rich from the market. I care that everyone else hasn’t. As a woman, I don’t want to continue that trend. I intend to make money in the market. I implore other women, people of color, immigrants, anyone who hasn’t been served by traditional financial structures to do the same.
Inflation is a thing. Meaning every year your money sits in a savings account it’s worth less than it was the year before.
Stock market returns (on average) will net you somewhere in the range of 8-10% if you throw your money in there long term and DON’T TOUCH IT.
It’s not emotional. It’s math.
Quick Guide To Investing For Beginners
A few simple things that help me when it comes to investing:
*Disclaimer: This isn’t real investment advice and I am not an expert. Ask people who are real experts (see #1) and don’t sue me.
- Choose a couple of people you trust and take their advice. Not your uncle. Not the guy who owns the bar on the corner. Not me. Ask millionaires. Successful entrepreneurs. Read their books. Follow them on Twitter. Buy a course or two of theirs. I like Ramit Sethi’s book for beginner investors, I Will Teach You To Be Rich. It’s how I got started and I could have done nothing else other than what he said in that book and I would be fine. Be careful with who you follow of course, and if the advice doesn’t sit well with you, trust yourself. But ultimately, this has been the most beneficial thing I’ve done for my financial life. Here’s a couple of women around our age that I lean into for financial advice on the gram as well: @herfirst100k and @webravelygo.
- If you do nothing else, meet your employer match if you have one. It is free money. They just give it to you. Life hack: Don’t ever turn down free money.
- CPA’s are more helpful and much less expensive than financial advisor’s for most beginner investors who don’t have a lot of money.
- Doing anything (mostly) is better than doing nothing.
- If you have a retirement account (401K, Roth IRA, etc.) you are an investor. You don’t need to do anything fancy to start making money in the market as an investor.
- Don’t day trade. Or try to time the market. Or any other stupid quick rich scheme. Just, don’t. Unless you’re already rich. If you are rich…IDK why you’re reading my post. Do what you want with your money, you def know more than I do.
What if I really don’t have the money?
I’m not going to deny the very real wealth gap in this country or claim that I have any idea how to be helpful in that area.
So, I won’t really address that here.
This post is intended for the younger “me’s” of the world who do have some extra cash, but think they don’t need to invest it or they think it’s risky to do so.
I wish someone had told me this stuff when I was younger. Money wasn’t valued in my house growing up, so my parents never explained any of this or what to do with it, why it’s helpful. We had enough but never a lot. We thought people with money were snobs.
I don’t feel that way anymore. I think that narrative is what propels the myth that women are grateful to earn $0.82 to the $1 that every man earns (and the much, much wider gap when you start to look at women of color).
If we constantly teach our middle class, lower middle class, and people living in poverty that money is evil…well, I think we know who loses and benefits in that scenario.
It’s also not true.
Money is extremely useful.
Even if you pack only enough to fit in a daypack and wear the same pants for weeks at a time when you’re on the road…
Even if you only fly red-eye’s and flights with 4 connections to save a few dollars…
You can still be an investor.
Money = more travel opportunities (and opportunities in general)…and that’s not something I take lightly.
So Travel…But don’t forget about investments.
Back in my 20s, if I had $25 left in my bank account (not uncommon for me at the time) I’d choose a bus ticket.
This attitude gave me a wonderful, youthful decade filled with more memories and stories than a lot of people amass in a lifetime.
I’m eternally grateful for my “Give No F*cks” spirit that gave me those memories.
BUT, it’s not black and white. It doesn’t need to be, at least.
You can do both. Not “Either/Or”…but “Yes/And”
If I had $25 left in my account now, I’d take $5 and put it towards a ticket, and $20 to invest.
Yes travel, AND yes to my future travels. The actual percentage is personal. Split it how you want, in a way that works for your lifestyle. That’s up to you.
And definitely travel…always choose travel.
Just, don’t only choose travel if you want your travels to last a lifetime.
Thank you, Alicia, for this home-hitting post. I’m in my late 30s now and, while I was happily contributing to my Thrift Savings Plan as a federal government employee in my 20s, I since left the sector for consulting and have NO employer match. No regrets, and I have a totally different investment strategy now (read: hustle and make a sh*t ton more money). Also, a Roth IRA is totally where it’s at for anyone – tax free! Happy travels and happy investing : )
Yes! For what it’s worth, I’ve also adapted the I’m going to make as much money as possible approach at this stage. Glad you were able to take advantage of those early opportunities too! So freaking important.