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One of the things about writing for a media company that posts stuff that people share and like and comment on and, if we're lucky, read, on the Internet, is that you tend to get a lot of emails about stuff. A piss-stream of messages from people with various ideas and media tours and opportunities and apps, that the sender would like to publicise or publish or just 'have a quick chat' or 'get the message out there' about.
A couple of days ago, here at TheLADbible we received an email from somebody who was making a claim so audacious that we felt it was worthy of being brought to your attention.
Somebody was claiming that if 18-year-olds spent three years saving their earnings from working in a pub instead of racking up the debt involved in going through university, they would be able to use that money to become a millionaire.
I'd like you all to meet the man making this bold claim...
Image credit: LatestDeals
This is Tom Church, co-founder of money saving site LatestDeals. He's the author of the #1 bestselling book Money's Big Secret, and in 2014 he published How To Live For Free, which has been a #1 Amazon best seller for more than 18 months.
He refers to himself as a 'life hacker', which in his own words is 'someone who uses unorthodox methods to increase productivity and efficiency in all walks of life'.
Explaining his grand plan to make you a millionaire, Tom says: "Imagine you worked in a pub and saved £51,600 in three years. That's doable if you live at home with your parents. Invest that money into what's called an 'index fund', which is a very safe thing, and it can grow eight percent a year, every year. You wouldn't have to do a thing, and by the time you retire, you'd have over a million pounds."
Here's a handy infographic that Tom kindly attached to his email...
Image credit: LatestDeals
Part of me is sceptical. Now, don't get me wrong, judging from this picture, I'm sure Tom is very nice. I'm sure he has a girlfriend and a nice car and looks pretty sharp in a suit and has an ability to say no when his friends ask him to go to the pub for just one drink. And, in fact, unlike me - the sceptical author of this article - he probably isn't suffering, at this very moment, from a deep and almost uncontrollable desire to start drinking right here, right now, at his very desk.
But still something about this entire thing seems to me to be a little suspicious.
To be fair, though, I'm a cynical kind of guy. Maybe you were thinking about starting university next year, but now you're thinking that this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a millionaire. I mean, on the face of it, becoming a millionaire sure as hell looks like it could be a good opportunity.
So let's have a look at various aspects of the plan, which may or may not mean that said plan is bullshit...
£51,600 Over Three Years
Get saving, lads. Credit: PA Images
One of the first things that struck me as a bit suspicious about this whole thing was that Tom seemed to believe that it was possible to work in your local pub and save £17,200 each year for three years.
See, I just so happen to be the son of a landlord. I don't know what kind of pubs Tom has been drinking in but at my dad's pub I'm 100 percent sure that the bar staff are getting paid close to, if not bang on, the minimum wage. Which currently works out at £6.70 per hour.
I did the maths on this and if you were being paid £7 per hour and working a standard 40 hours every week, you would be earning £14,560.00, or £13,068.00 after tax. So, the first problem seems that the most you could possibly be earning from your pub job is £39,204 over those three years.
This makes for a total shortfall of £12,396 - which you could make up by working for an extra fourth year, earning a grand total of £52,272 in earnings - but even then it would mean with all that saving you'd be left with a grand total of £672 spending money over four years. That, clearly, is not a lot to live off.
Which brings me on to my next problem with the idea...
Your route to being a millionaire? Credit: PA Images
Tom seems to have assumed that working in this pub and living with your parents between the ages of 18 to 21 in order to save up all your money is something which is a) do-able and b) desirable to do.
I'm sure there are some 18-year-olds out there who are perfectly willing to work in a Victorian workhouse style situation. That means working in a low-paid minimum wage job, while living with their parents. At the same time they won't be spending any money other than buying bags of Smartprice oats to make their daily portion of gruel, while refusing all night outs and cutting all contact with their social life as a result of having no money because they're saving.
But consider for a second that while this hypothetical gruel-eating forgoer of university is living his/her miserable, money-saving existence, the other hypothetical person who went to university is getting to spend their time learning, meeting new friends and getting pissed. They are essentially doing what any 18-year-old would do, whether at university or not.
Given that binary of options, what life would any rational, non-anti-fun person choose?
Which happens to raise another point...
Live Slow, Die Rich
A visual representation of what you could potentially become were you to avoid university. Credit: PA Images
Let's just think about what this guy is basically suggesting. He's suggesting that it is a good idea to spend three of the best, if not the best, years of any person's life working and saving so they can become a millionaire when they're old and decrepit and libido-less.
The thing is, though, if you ask any 60-year-old, even any 40-year-old millionaire whether they would give away their money to go back to being 18 again, most of them would take it. That is because being young and free and without responsibility is, at its very essence, sick.
This demonstrates the entire problem with saving generally and the mindset of people who seem to sanctimoniously preach saving and investment. At the end of the day, why would you waste the best years of your life worrying about how your worst, old years will be?
You're sacrificing fun now for the hope of money and fun when your back has gone, you can barely hear and you seem to be pissing a near-constant stream of urine.
Maybe I'm in a minority, here, considering that The Department of Health has previously released figures which revealed a continued decrease in drinking, drug use, smoking and pregnancy among young people compared to previous generations. But it seems to me a bit ridiculous to be worrying about saving to be a millionaire when you're old and not enjoying life, like Tom is suggesting we do.
Surely when you're 18 you should be living your life, not saving for your retirement, even if it's hard to quantify that enjoyment in pounds sterling?
In fact, one of the main problems about this plan is that it seems to assume there is no intrinsic value to anything beyond what can be gauged monetarily.
Which brings me on to my next point...
Education's Just About Money
Two students enjoying their education. Credit: Facebook
Apparently it's controversial to say it nowadays, but maybe it is possible that education and gaining a greater knowledge of - for instance - the makeup of the universe, or the nature of the human condition, or historical geopolitical conflicts that have bear an eerie resemblance to now, could serve some greater or more important aim than getting you a graduate job in PR or IT or STEM or whatever acronym else. And that, therefore, it's ridiculous to judge an education - whether you agree with tuition-fees or not - purely in monetary or 'employability' terms.
Don't get me wrong, university isn't for everyone - and there's plenty of valid reasons to choose not to go. But the idea that working in a pub for three years, saving your money and not enjoying your life is better than getting an education and enjoying all the potential enjoyment that university can offer, is frankly ludicrous.
If you're forgoing university because you're career minded, or not into education, or personal circumstances mean it's impossible to go, or you have a very definite idea of what you want to do in life, then sure thing... avoid university.
But saving for the point of saving seems to me to be a pretty pointless endeavour.
So all in all...
Is This Plan A Good Idea?
I can't know for definite is that's true. However, having looked at it more thoroughly, I can only say this: if you're 18 and you reckon it's a good idea to not go to university and work into a pub and save all your money so you can become rich when you're older, then good luck to you.
But what's the point in being rich when your older if you can't buy Jägerbombs now?
Featured image credit: PA Images
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