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Do Twenty-Somethings Have It Worse Than Ever? Tough Times Call for Smart Measures

03/06/2013 22:10 BST | Updated 03/08/2013 10:12 BST
Alam

I think now might be the worst time in living memory to be a young person.

But we don't get to decide when we're born - so here we are, in the wake of the 'Great Recession'; the first generation predicted to be financially worse off than our parents since the Second World War.

We face a mesh of misfortunes

There is a stack of misfortunes firmly sealing our fate. For starters, the job market is crumbling around us just as we're gearing up for financial independence. Nowadays, around one in five of us are jobless, and the ones who are employed have to deal with crushing levels of competition for positions, as well as lugging around the tiresome ball and chain of student debt for years to come. I can see a dark spectre of shrinking wages creeping upon us - a seemingly inescapable trend that threatens financial security for everyone.

News that the government is poised to freeze the minimum wage for 18 to 20-year-olds at £4.98-an-hour and that over 100,000 of us are now 'employed' as unpaid interns, only further serve as bad omens for the future.

When it comes to getting a foot on the property ladder it seems our outlook is even gloomier. It would appear that many of us are doomed never to be able to afford to buy a home (unless we save like crazy), and we have acquired a nickname to suit: 'Generation Rent'. With the average UK monthly rent now £714 (according to housing charity Shelter), those of us on modest wages are struggling to save enough to buy.

When I got my first job, my room in a flat share was so expensive it creamed off over half my take-home pay. Sainsbury's basics instant noodles were not optional, and in the opposite sense, neither was saving money.

So while tucking into one of my amazingly unsatisfying 9p noodle feasts, I was delighted to hear the average deposit you need to buy a first-time home has rocketed in recent years - sliding home ownership further out of reach. In 1995 the average deposit for a London home was less than £3,000, according to the Council for Mortgage Lenders. But now the average figure is £31,000, and the average London deposit comes in at almost twice this figure. When I was ten I wanted to be a part time astronaut/pop star. It seems my hopes for the future (buying a flat) might still be just as deluded.

But sulking silently will get us nowhere

These are sobering facts but desperate times call for smart measures. Sulking silently will get us nowhere. Times are tough, but they will improve, even if we have to stamp our feet and demand a better deal until we get it. The fact is the vast majority of us have the potential to dramatically improve our financial security (for now and in the future) by learning how to accumulate and grow money. Yes, it's harder for us to achieve this than it was for our parents, but our generation is wising up to money fast, and studies back this up.

Most of us don't actually know that much about growing money, though - mainly because we were never taught about it at school. But aside from working hard in our jobs, if there's one thing we can do to ensure our finances don't let us down in the future - it's learning how to use the tools which, if used wisely, will grow our money: saving and investing.

I created the Young Money guides to help you do exactly this. I wrote them for people in their 20s and early 30s who, like me, want to set themselves up with financial stability for life. (I never want to eat 9p noodles for dinner again.) They provide an introduction to some valuable tools that are must-haves if you want to meet your financial goals. These tools will help to you to:

■ Feel financially secure now

■ Build your wealth to its best potential so you can be better off in middle age

■ Make sure you never run out of money

But before you read them, I have a confession. I only know about financial stuff because I work as a money journalist. In the days before landing this job I was pretty clueless about money and this made managing it a bit nightmarish. I'm more in control of it now, though, and I can tell you from experience that nailing the basics of how money works is invaluable if you want to get your finances on track.

If you aspire to any of the above aims and you aren't quite sure how to achieve them - or why doing something about it now is important - then Young Money is for you. The first guide in the series is available below. Stay tuned for the second.

I hope you will find them helpful.

CLICK HERE to read the full guide for free