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Turning the clock back
If you could go back in time and make different decisions to those you made, would you? That’s the basic premise of Saving Ninja’s latest thought experiment:
The year is 2030, you’ve just spent your life savings on purchasing a ticket to ‘reset’ your life. You’ve gone back in time to your first-day of school. You have a chance to live your life again. You have all of your current memories. What would you do differently?
Would I actually buy that magic ticket?
The premise assumes that in 2030, I would be desperate enough to want to go back in time and meddle with my past. The current me is honestly quite happy with my life trajectory: I’ve built up a semi-decent career in a field I’m passionate about. My latest mini-retirement allows me to explore the world and experiment. I have a loving partner, friends around the world, and I’m close to family. What’s there to change?
But 2030 is twelve years away, and who knows what the world will look like then, and what will be needed to survive the growing global challenges. In an ideal world, Caroline Lucas would be Prime Minister, we’d have real action on climate change and inequality, and people would generally be happier and get along. But with the way things currently look with rising nationalism and xenophobia, and common sense and rationality going out the window, I’m not sure 2030 will be a pretty place.
In the less positive scenario, I would want to have greater power to influence the outcome: to be in politics (behind-the-scenes), working for a progressive and influential think tank, or perhaps more grounded in a community, running a social enterprise or charity. I would want to be financially independent, so that I could weather the economic storms, and be free to dedicate myself to social justice, without having to work a routine 9-5. I’m working towards the above in any case, but there are some things I would change…
What I would do differently
The key element of Saving Ninja’s thought experiment is that we could go back to the first day of school with our current memories. Going back with what I know now, I would go through life with more confidence and purpose. I spent a lot of time unsure about what I was doing, and feeling stuck. I was also digging myself into a financial hole in my 20s until I discovered the concept of financial independence.
This is what I’d do differently:
I started working for money from a young age, working in the supermarket, bakery, and other jobs in and outside of school. I would do the same if I could go back, but work a few more hours a week and save at least 75% of my wages. A lot of my spare time after school wasn’t dedicated to homework anyway: I’d be listening to the radio catching up on all the latest cool bands, reading the NME, and going to gigs. I love that I was such an indie music geek at school, but I would dial down my obsessiveness a tad, and instead spend more time and effort to build a solid financial standing.
When I was 18, I was putting my money into a cash ISA, but it never stayed there long. Going back, I would put my savings into both a Cash and Stocks and Shares ISA. The Cash ISA would be useful for funding my Masters and other life decisions down the line, and the investments in the S&S ISA would continue to grow to a very healthy amount by 2030.
In all my subsequent jobs, I would continue to save and invest the majority of my salary, and open a Self-Invested Personal Pension as soon as possible. I’d also do a lot more research into ethical investments, instead of lazily opening an expensive pension with Legal & General’s crappy so-called “Ethical Fund” – which is what I have now.
I would take my education a bit more seriously with my career goals in mind. So I’d do Economics for A-Level, instead of wishy-washy Business Studies. At university, I’d pursue International Relations, Political Science, Economics, or something similar, instead of Spanish. I would still do a Masters in International Development, but I would make sure I had enough money to do it full-time without also having to work part-time.
My non-paid work experience at school was with Tower Records and the NME. I spent two years working on-and-off in fashion. While that was all fun, going back I’d be much more focused on developing skills and a network in the international development sector.
So for example, instead of using my summer holidays working for minimum wage and frittering it all away in the pub, I would take on internships with NGOs in the UK or abroad. This would save me years in trying to get a foothold in the NGO sector after I graduated, and would get me a decently-paid first proper job. I would probably also specialise a bit more, perhaps getting into policy work.
I would dance more
Life is not all about career and finances of course, and I do have one more change to make: Going back, I would dance more.
Unlike my school friends, I never took dance classes as a child. As a teen, I’d sneak out to Garage and Drum N’ Bass nights (London clubbing in the early 00’s was pretty incredible), but I always found the actual dancing part a bit awkward.
It was only after I went to Mexico as a student and embraced the rhythms of Latin America that I started learning how to dance: hiphop and salsa classes at the university, and lots of after-hours freestyle in the clubs until the early morning. I continued going to weekend classes in London, taking up jazz and more street dance, but somehow felt I was too late to actually get really good. So as a young school kid, I’d somehow take up dance.
On reflection, is the ticket still worth it?
I realise by writing the above that while there are lots of things I would have done differently, none of them are so important that I would necessarily trade all my life savings to go back and tweak things.
I may have taken a meandering path in my career, and I’m not quite as far as I’d like. My finances could look much, much better. But if everything went perfectly from day one, I’m sure there’d be other things my life would be missing: the life-long friendships I forged when arguing about music; or the partner I met while studying my useless Spanish degree.
While my career would have taken me abroad, it may not have taken me to Thailand, and I’d be missing all the incredible experiences, friendships and travel opportunities I’ve had while out here.
If anything, this thought experiment has helped me think through what I can achieve between now and 2030, financially, and perhaps career-wise. And although I’ll never be able to dance like Shakira or Beyonce, it shouldn’t stop me from trying!
Thanks to Saving Ninja for posing this thought-experiment. See how other bloggers have answered, check out the following:
What would you change, if anything, if you could? Comment below!