Don’t Waste Your 20s Aspiring for Financial Independence

There is more to life than money

Laura is writing....
The Post-Grad Survival Guide
4 min readDec 30, 2020


Photo: Yogendra Singh/Unsplash

I was 30 when I discovered the F.I.R.E. (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement. However, I was aware of the frugal ways of Mr. Money Moustache, and through my travels, I had met a few people who were financially independent already. I had met a man who had inherited a house in London — nothing fancy, but it had enough bedrooms to create a monthly income of around £1,500-£2,000. There was a digital nomad who had bought a popular website domain and was living off ads, referral links and an ebook sold on the site. And I once had coffee with a Dutch girl who, in her own words, had worked non-stop for 10 years to pay off her flat, and at age 34 was now finally traveling around the world. I’m not sure she was enjoying the trip that much, and I remember her saying she felt somewhat lost for purpose and unsure of what she would do work-wise when she went back home.

I’m also so glad that I didn’t discover it at 20, for I may have sacrificed some of my most important life forming years of learning and exploring for the pursuit of money instead.

Fast forward 2 years, and I feel like I have read a thousand stories about Financial Independence. I’ve listened to various podcasts on the subject, Youtuber’s throwing ridiculous income numbers around as clickbait, and picked apart countless blogs and ran the numbers many times.

At the time of writing, I am still about 20 years away from F.I.R.E. — 15 if I really cut back and move into a smaller apartment or out of London. In the U.K., it seems harder, as our salaries are lower, and the taxes and living costs are higher than in the U.S. It’s not impossible, but I feel like I would be better spending my energy finding a career I enjoy enough for it not to feel like work or one that gives me enough time to pursue the things that I would do if I were to retire early.

A Decade of Discovery

I’m glad that I have discovered the F.I.R.E. movement, and I’m thankful to have learned a lot from the community. But, I’m also so glad that I didn’t discover it at 20, for I may have sacrificed some of my most important life forming years of learning and exploring for the pursuit of money instead.

In my twenties, I tried different jobs and worked in different industries. I traveled a lot, wrote books (including one about moving abroad in your 20s), started a blog, and stayed in amazing hotels, and I met so many different people from different walks of life with unique life stories. I didn’t become financially independent, but no amount of money would be able to buy the experiences I had. I also feel if I had just lived and worked in London, I would be no better off than I am now, perhaps worse so, because I wouldn’t have been exposed to so many different ideas and ways of life.

Even within the F.I.R.E. community, most people don’t start aiming for Financial independence at 20, but rather around 30 when you know more about what you want and how you want to live your life. Our Next Life bloggers started at 28 & 32 and managed to become financially independent by 40, but they regularly discuss the idea of spending on what you value and don’t focus on frugality. Afford Anything’s Paula discusses with a friend their bad decisions and missed opportunities when it came to prioritizing saving over experiences in their 20s, and how they would pay anything now to have the chance to live those experiences out. There is a whole thread on Reddit of people who are quite happy that they didn’t aim for F.I. in their 20s. Before you can aim for F.I.R.E., you need to learn about yourself and figure out what you would do with your time if you were able to retire early.

Be Smart With Money, Be Smarter With Time

While I believe we should always prioritize experiences, learning and exploration over maximizing savings, I do think younger people should educate themselves about money as early as possible. It’s essential to avoid bad financial decisions and debt and instead use what they are earning to invest wisely in experiences and themselves as much as possible. For example, blogger J.D. Roth focuses more on education and getting rich slowly than achieving F.I.R.E. as early as possible. It seems while Americans have higher salaries than Brits, they also have bigger debt problems, so perhaps the journey to F.I. should include a decade of debt avoidance/repayment.

Your 20s are about learning who you are and what you want from life. If you are only focused on achieving financial independence and early retirement, then at 30, you may not have to work anymore, but you will have to start a whole new journey to find out who you are and deal with years of wasted experiences missed.

Instead, aim to be smart with money, but also with your time — you only live once.



Laura is writing....
The Post-Grad Survival Guide

Passionate about personal development, journalling, planning and goal setting. Founder of