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  • We’re not adults until we’re 26

    At least in money terms. But is this a bad thing?

    Last Updated: 1 January 2003

    On average, we feel like an adult when it comes to money at the age of 26*. And surprisingly, around one in seven don’t feel grown up about money until they’re 40 or older.

    In this article we explore this and its consequences, but it isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure if a course of action is right for you, ask for financial advice.

    Why is this the case?

    The barriers to independence can feel impossibly high. More people tend to study for longer now, and in the process there’s a good chance they’ll run up debts that make it much harder to get to grips with everything else.

    Meanwhile, higher house prices and runaway rents have helped contribute to the fact we take longer to move out and buy a place of our own.

    Younger generations also have to get to grips with more aspects of their finances on their own than older generations who may have stayed in a job for life – or at least a handful of them.

    They may well have been building a final salary pension from day one on the job – so they were more likely to be on track by default. At present, anyone aged 22 or over, who earns £10,000 a year or more, will be automatically brought into a pension scheme at work, but it’ll be up to them to make sure it’s enough for the retirement they want.

    How does this impact us over the long term?

    If it takes us to our mid-20s to feel grown up about money, it isn’t the end of the world, but we need to take care not to build problems for ourselves in the interim. It means anyone who is regularly overspending, and running up debts, should draw up a budget, so you know what’s going in and coming out of your account each month. You don’t need to make the right decisions about everything all the time, but it’s a good idea to know what you’re aiming for.

    For the around one in seven who don’t feel grown up about money until the age of 40 – or the 7% who never feel grown up about money - there’s a real risk of putting things off that can’t wait – like planning for retirement. The earlier we can start to make sensible plans for the future, the easier it will be to save for the retirement we want – when we want it.

    The key is not to feel bad about the things we’ve not been able to pick up along the way. We just need to start asking questions, or finding support, so we can close the gaps in our knowledge and skills and start to feel good about what we’re learning instead.

    *Figures from a survey of 2,000 people by Opinium for Hargreaves Lansdown in October 2023.

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