In case you missed it, the internet kicked up a bit of a fuss over an oddly specific piece of advice from US-based financial commentators MoneyMarket.
Their ‘experts’ said that by the time you’re 35, you should have twice your salary stashed away in savings1. This benchmark was quickly turned into a meme2.
Twitter users responded to the headline with jokes like ‘by the time you're 35 you should have saved at least half your sandwich for lunchtime instead of noming (sic) it at 10am’, and ‘By age 35 you should run into friends and say ‘WE SHOULD HANG OUT SOON!’ twice a week. You’ll never hang out. You'll just scream this at each other until one of you dies.’
The positive side was that the article got people talking about what’s reasonable. Especially around that age, when lots of people are getting married, buying homes, starting families, or starting their own businesses. But the consensus was a long way from ‘twice your salary by 35.’
The truth is …
… This headline was kind of a trick question (sorry). There’s just no one way your finances should look by the time you’re 35.
It’s natural to want to compare yourself to other people, especially your peers. We all do it. But this leads to reframing really personal questions such as ‘what are other people doing?’, not ‘what should I be doing for myself?’
Comparing yourself to other people is rarely useful, and it’s only really possible when all those other people are in the same boat as you. When it comes to finances, this means same income, same opportunities, same expenses, and so on. Which, let’s be honest, basically never happens. Everyone’s different.
Working it out for yourself
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have goals and benchmarks. Having goals helps you make plans and take action that results in a happier, more secure you in the long run. You just need to work those goals out for yourself. Start by having a bit of a daydream about what you want your life to look and feel like in a year, in ten years, and even when you’re retired. Then start putting dollar figures and time frames on those dreams, and work back from there.
It’s all part of the S.M.A.R.T3 goal setting process, no matter which side of 35 you’re on.
1 https://www.marketwatch.com/story/money-milestones-this-is-how-your-finances-should-look-in-your-30s-2017-05-18. Accessed 31 July 2019.
2 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2018/05/22/by-age-35-you-should-have-saved-up-enough-despair-to-understand-this-meme/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a01a49aadcb7. Accessed 31 July 2019.
3Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely