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I got my first job at a paper round at 13 years of age. I was earning £12.50 per week. Monthly income about £56. Annual, £672.

I got my first ‘real’ job as a part-time shop assistant at 16 earning about £7 an hour. I worked about 16 hours a week, sometimes did overtime. Monthly income about £504. Annual, £6,048.

My first ‘real real’ job after graduation was as a consultant at 24. My take home was about £1,300 per month. Salary, £20k per annum.

The next big role I took was as an analyst (fancy title for generally checking spreadsheets). I was 29. It netted me about £1,800 per month. Annual salary, £29,000. By the time I left a few years later, I had increased that to £2,600 per month (£45,000 pa) taking on different positions.

At 34 I took on a role paying about £3,100 per month (£55,000 pa).

At 35 I took on a short term role paying about £4,500 per month (£107,000 pa)

Here’s a more visual of those figures (all figures are close approximations). As you can see there’s a steady rise until 30 when there’s more of an acceleration.

Net pay vs Age

And the data:

Salary vs Age Timeline

I share all of that to say this: although that may look like a somewhat normal / desirable trajectory for an average person with a standard education and opportunity, at 34, despite being on £55K salary with at least ten years of reasonable earnings, my net worth was about minus £15,000. Despite earning a reasonable salary throughout my life, I was in debt.

Meaning, after about 20 years of reasonable earning, all I had to show for all that income was minus £15k.

Something had gone wrong. Terribly wrong.

I’ll tell you what it is. I was terrible with money – spending more than I earn. I still am in a way. I’m trying to be better and that’s what I’m exploring in these pages. How on earth do you do that? How does one with my proclivities become better with money? How do I develop better habits around earning, saving, investing and spending that will help me avoid the mistakes of the past and make better decisions in the future? I put it all down to three things.

  1. Education. You can’t change what you don’t know and can’t do better if you don’t know what better looks like. This is about gaining an education in money that I never had over the past 20-something years.
  2. Decision-making. Once I have knowledge and motivation to do better, I need to make better decisions and make those better decisions habitual.
  3. Discipline. You can only make good decisions if you have both the knowledge and self-possession to do so. A lot of debt has come from spending what I don’t have, not having the patience to budget and plan for things, or choose less than ideal options. I’m not naturally frugal. I like quality things so it will take some discipline to really understand what my real priorities are and make financial decisions based on them—rather than on impulse or on short term goals.

No matter what stage you are with your money journey, I’m sure almost everyone could be better with money—whatever that looks like. I know I certainly need to be.