Is working hard in your 20s to save up to have a good life by 30 worth it?

In this blog I will list some of my top Quora answers for the last few days, which focused on many interesting subjects.

In the answers shared today I focused on:

  1.  Is working hard in your 20s to have a great life in your 30s really worth it?
  2. What do people need to do at 18 to have a good life by 30?
  3. What are the advantages for expats to live in Asia as compared to Europe?

If you want me to answer any questions on Quora or YouTube, or you are looking to invest, don’t hesitate to contact me or use the WhatsApp function below.

Is working hard in my 20s to save up to have my life ready the way I want it in my 30s worth it?

There are two separate parts to your question:

  1. Working hard in your 20s
  2. Saving up in your 20s

Let’s deal with both

Working hard, and also smart, in your 20s makes a lot of sense. It has the following benefits:

  1. There is no sacrifice between your health and hard work. In your 20s, you should be able to work hard, have a good social life and remain healthy, as long as you don’t take things to the extreme. That changes even in your 30s.
  2. It will reduce your regrets later on. If you take chances and go for it in your 20s, you won’t regret it later on even if you fail. Most people have this loss aversion. They are worried about trying things in case they get nothing in return, but you won’t regret it.
  3. The benefits are bigger compared to later on. Let me give you a simple example. Let’s say between the ages of 21–25, you work twice as hard as most people (80 hours a week vs 40 hours) or for that matter read, listen to podcasts and useful YouTube videos about business and work 40 hours a week. You could have the average experience and knowledge level of a 30-year-old at the age of 25. That could really help your earning growth, and allow you to find what you are good at. If you are older, you can’t as easily double your knowledge relative to peers. That doesn’t mean you should stop working hard and smart later on though.
  4. It allows you to take calculated risks. Assuming you don’t have kids in your 20s, you can do things like start your own venture, earn little money for the first few years, and play the long game. That gets gradually harder over time. A lot of the people that are doing well in their 30s and 40s took more risks in their 20s.

That doesn’t mean working hard is the only component of success in the digital age.

Working smart and leveraging technology can yield even better results, but people that have a good work ethic are more likely to stumble upon ways to work smart as well.

One thing that stops people from working hard in their 20s is this idea that they will regret it later on – “don’t waste your 20s working hard”.

There is this myth which many people believe in, that younger people are happier, and if you don’t spend your 20s partying and enjoying yourself, that you will regret it later on.

So, you may as well spend all your money because you will feel old and tired in your 30s, 40s and especially 50s and 60s.

It stops people from delaying their gratification and playing the long-game. Yet when we look at the research, it just isn’t true.

This book looks at some cognitive bias’ people have. Teenagers assume that people in their 30s and 40s can’t have a good time like younger people.

People in their 30s often think what’s the point in being rich at 60. Yet a lot of people get there and feel better than ever, and have higher rates of satisfaction than younger people.

However, coming to your second question, “saving up” doesn’t make sense, in an era of 0% interest rates.

It is far better to read about investing or outsource to somebody who has – an advisor.

You don’t need to invest that much to get rich slowly from investing if you start early.

It also reduces your risks a lot too. Investing for 3 years is risky. Investing from your 20s until 60s isn’t risky at all.

What do you need to start doing at 18 to live well at 30?

The main ones are:

  1. Avoid any major commitments until your 30s. That means marriage, kids etc. Even if you find somebody you love, for most people, it makes sense to delay commitments like that until 30+.
  2. Avoid any peer-pressure. That includes thinking that you “need” things like a property, car, marriage etc. Stay true to yourself.
  3. Linked to the last point, don’t take yourself too seriously or care about the views of most people. You don’t need to impress many people in life and most people aren’t even thinking about you in the first place. One older friend of mine told me a great quote a few years ago. At 20, you carewhat everyone is thinking about you. At 40, you don’t give a damn what people are thinking about you. At 60, you realize no one is thinking about you. Some people think it was first opined by Winston Churhcill. Others deny that. Whoever said it though still made a great point.
  4. Look after your health even when you don’t need to, especially in this age of working on laptops. It will help your posture and health in your 30s
  5. Start investing now. Even if you can only afford tiny amounts, just put tiny amounts in from the part-time job. Then increase in your early 20s once you have a full-time job. The reasons are compounded returns and habit formation. Getting into good habits in general is key and avoiding bad ones, as the quote below says.

6. Play the long game. When you are 18, you don’t need to care about monetizing your talents as much as at 30. Many of the 30-year-olds who are making a lot online started out in their mum’s bedrooms when they were 18. If you want to do something like become a YouTuber, as one example of many I could give, you can beat 80% of the competition by being persistent. Older people that need to pay bills are more likely to give up. Younger people are even more likely to give up because they don’t see the long-term.

7. Linked to the last point, take calculated risks. If you are 18, and don’t need the money a part-time job gives because of your consumer loan, why not try out doing your own venture or getting paid on performance rather than time.

8. Read a lot. Read beyond your core studies and major.

9. Avoid consumer debt.

10. Don’t feel entitled to anything. I have noticed a trend. At 30, many of my peers who were anti-free markets, anti-capitalist, blamed the rich etc are now either doing worse than average, or they work for the government. That is unless they grew out of it. In comparison, people who are positive about the world, positive about capitalism and making money……tend to eventually make money! This quote sums it up Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch youractions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. The quote has been attributed to countless people including Thatcher and others. Regardless of who said it, the point is simple. If you believe, from a young age, that the world is unfair and “rigged”, why bother starting your own company? Why bother emigrating to take a chance? Why bother getting paid on performance rather than salary to help those “evil capitalists” who want “free” labour? You get my point. People’s thoughts and beliefs can dictate their actions People’s actions and decisions influence their results and life.

I have found the last point is especially the case when adversity strikes. I graduated just shortly after a bad recession.

I noticed that most of my peers struggled in the first 2–3 years, including myself to a certain extent.

Those people with a positive attitude to adversity, markets and so on have done much better.

Those with negative attitudes often spent their lives going on marches, giving up or other mainly pointless activities.

What are some advantages of living in Asia as compared to the West (especially Europe)?

Of course, it depends on whether you are speaking about developed Europe vs developing Europe, or developed Asia or developing Asia.

When most people think of this question, they are thinking about developed Europe vs developing Asia.

In that case, the advantages of moving to Asia are

  1. Reduced costs. It is more expensive than before but there is no doubt that large parts of SE Asia are cheaper than Europe apart from some parts of Eastern Europe. Cheap taxis and maids can also ensure you can live a good lifestyle. Even hiring a driver isn’t seen as an elitist thing.
  2. Lower taxes in the main.
  3. Enhanced opportunities. Developing countries are less competitive than developed ones. When I lived in Cambodia many years ago, I saw many business owners succeed in a way they didn’t in more developed economies.
  4. Feelings of optimism. If you live in a country where you always hear the sounds of construction at night, and keep seeing a changing skyline, it can do wonders for your mentality.
  5. The ability to learn new things, languages and culture (business and personal culture). Those lessons can help you if you move to another country or come back home as well.
  6. “Luxuries” like cheap air conditioning which still isn’t prevalent in the West in places like the UK.
  7. Less hostility towards wealthier places. In the West, apart from many Eastern European countries perhaps, “rich” and “wealthy” are seen as dirty words by some, even though most people want to get wealthy themselves! In comparison, many Asian countries have been dirt poor in the last 2–3 generations, often because of extreme hostility by former regimes. These days, then, more people are seduced by these ideas.
  8. Less coronavirus-related restrictions. This is only a 2020–2021 point perhaps, but it is a fact that South Korea, Taiwan and some others have never locked down and still did quite well. These economies have been more resilient as well, so there are less anxieties about 2021 and future tax rises.

Of course, most of these positives are for developing Asia. In developed Asia (Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan to name the main ones), many of these positives don’t exist.

What does exist is lower taxes. Singapore has a low-tax regime across the board.

South Korea and Japan aren’t low tax for locals or if you live there for decades as an expat, but they charge 0% tax on overseas income if you live there for less than 4–5 years out of 10 tax-years.

And that is assuming that the income is sourced overseas without being bought into the country.

Nevertheless, the laws do allow many business owners and freelancers to live close to tax-free for up to 5 years.

You can’t do that anywhere in the West apart from Monaco perhaps, which is super expensive.

With these countries as well, the level of organization is far better than most developed Western countries, apart from places like Switzerland perhaps.

Of course though, there are negatives. As an expat, getting private medical insurance is an added cost that you usually need, unless your company provide it.

Some food and drinks stuff is more expensive if it needs to get imported, and if you are a salaried worker or business owner, you get fewer advantages compared to locals in many industries.

That is one reason many Western firms partner with a local company.

Further Reading

I am often asked questions like this by readers, clients and followers:

  1. Is $1m enough to retire in the UK, the US, Canada and most developed countries these days?
  2. How about if you have $5m or $10m invested or saved up – is it enough for a luxury retirement?
  3. Is $300,000 enough to retire in a place like Thailand, Cambodia and other countries in South East Asia?
  4. How much do you need to retire early and is it a good idea to begin with?

See how I have dealt with these questions in the article below:

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