I am sure you have seen it — the new TikTok trend “I’ll make the money back, but I’ll never be in my 20s again travelling to [insert destination]”, which features videos of individuals embarking on magnificent adventures around the world — swimming in secluded beaches in Hawaii, walking through the streets of Paris, hiking up volcanoes in Bali or camping in Iceland.
This new trend on TikTok encourages viewers to spend all their money to travel and create unforgettable memories. While previous generations may have felt pressure to spend money on expensive vehicles and clothing because of their neighbours and friends, Gen Zers and millennials may be tempted to spend more because of social media influencers and celebrities. Sentiment like this comes and goes regularly. In 2015, a viral article titled “If you have savings in your 20’s, you’re doing something wrong”, attracted a lot of criticism.
Travelling around the world and swimming on secluded beaches sounds like a dream, however with inflation at a 40-year high and only increasing, record student loan debt, interest rate hikes and rent prices skyrocketing across the country, it’s hard not to view all these glamourous trips with some scepticism.
So, to spend or not to spend all your money? Is it really one or the other?
Most people in their 20s believe that they will never have so few responsibilities again and be able to travel carelessly, which is true. Before you know it, you have a stressful and life-consuming job, are getting married and have your first child. Most people, therefore, decide to “take the trip” after university, before starting their jobs, which certainly is smart timing. However, many should acknowledge the privilege they have to be able to take their trip to their exotic bucket list destination and have a job lined up for when they come back. In this case, they will make their money back after their first paycheck.
One issue with this is that most social media platforms promote fear of missing out mentality. Viewers now believe that it is normal for 20-year-olds to travel six times a year, and they feel compelled to do the same as it becomes normalised on social media. According to a 2019 Credit Karma survey, nearly 50% of millennials said they spent money they didn’t have, just to keep up with their friends, with most overspending on food, clothing and travel.
Should we really be spending all our money on trips rather than saving or investing it? Is it better to take that dream vacation while you’re still young and able to do so?
It is a myth that you only have two options when it comes to money in your twenties: either you’re firmly devoted, frugal, and saving for your future, or you’re YOLO-ing your way through life, accumulating priceless experiences (and probably debt) and planning to become more financially prudent later. Good news, you can save for the future while swimming in exotic Bora-Bora waters or eating pie on a train through the Lake District in the UK. The key is to think strategically about your money and your goals, that is, setting goals and sticking to a budget that will allow you to meet them. Being accountable of your cash flow and creating a spending plan can help you prevent volatile financial swings between always spending or always saving — there is a sweet spot. Instead, you can set yourself up for a life of stability and choice.
Back to “I will make my money back” — as mentioned earlier, this is probably true. Through the course of your life, you will get promoted and have salary raises. It is however important to remember that as you progress in life, your expenses grow too — your future self will want to buy a home, have a wedding, take expensive trips, go to lavish restaurants, have a child, buy nicer clothes, and take a break from work to avoid burnout. Last but not least, you might want to support a loved one and build an emergency fund. The key, therefore, is to be intentional. If you want to achieve financial freedom and be able to take a long vacation to your bucket list destination, put money aside for it. How? With a spending plan. This starts with writing down your income, essential expenses, and monthly portion of saving. If your monthly income is still in a surplus, you can freely decide how to allocate this surplus. This can be the new designer bag you want to buy, that show you want to desperately see, or the vacation you want to take — the key is, it is still within your means. In this surplus, it is also crucial that you allocate some part to investing, as overspending or not investing has long-term consequences, because it prevents you from saving for something arguably more important. The longer you wait to invest, the more you will miss out on compound interest.
Most young people, in addition to wanting to take their dream holidays, have goals such as “I want to be a millionaire by the time I’m 30” or “I want to be debt-free when I turn 40”, which often causes disbelief or perplexity. With the right strategy, you can become a millionaire, while also enjoying life.
If you want to be a millionaire by the time you’re 40, you’d have to invest $200 per month over the course of 17 years, beginning at the age of 23, assuming a 30.8% annual return with One-Signal. If you waited another 5 years to begin investing, you would need to invest $750 per month to reach $1 million by the time you’re 40. This means, that your monthly investment would have to be nearly 4 as large if you waited 5 years to begin investing.
If you would invest in the S&P 500, with 8% return per year, adding $200 each month, it would take you 45 years to make your first million. If you waited another 5 years to invest, you would need a contribution of $450 per month to make your first million. Effectively, your monthly investment would have to be nearly three times as large if you waited 5 years before investing.
This demonstrates the importance of investing your money regularly because time in the market is essential to building wealth.
So, while it is in fact possible to travel to dream destinations while also saving money for your future self, planning is an essential part. So yes, go and take that trip of your dreams, just be mindful about what the future will hold.