How to save: An inquiry into wealth generation for young adults

How often are millennials ridiculed while on quests to discover themselves in Europe or eating at the latest plant-based cafe on Pakington Street?

Better yet, how frequently do millennials get fired up at the mature-age know-it-alls who dare try to point out why their savings account isn’t exceeding triple figures?

I’m sure everyone can recall a family dinner where a Generation Y member of the clan was thrown under the bus for their multiple smashed avocado purchases, but interestingly enough, millennials are doing better financially than ever before. According to an article published in the West Australian three months ago, “Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data show that, in 2016, Generation Y Australians had higher incomes between the ages of 25 to 34 than the preceding two generations — about 18 per cent higher than those born a decade earlier”. Cry me a river, Baby Boomers.

Earning more but spending more. Australian Bureau of Statistics Household Expenditure survey 2015-16

Here we are faced with what could be described as the biggest financial debate of the 21st century. While both perspectives can be validated, I’ve gone out on a whim and ducked into the Planwell Financial Group office in Geelong to meet with financial planner Lesley Duncan. I’m hoping to find some answers for those young folk who feel like they don’t know where to begin in formulating a budget.

Lesley Duncan. Image courtesy of Planwell Financial Group

Ms Duncan is a certified financial planner, a member of the Financial Planning Association and is the Chair of the Geelong Chapter. Ms Duncan is also a Certified Practising Accountant and Fellow of the Institute of Public Accountants. She has been working for the Planwell team for eight years and her wealth of knowledge about money is exceptionally intimidating to a 22-year-old student whose Monday to Sunday mantra is ‘treat yourself’.

Ms Duncan informs me of a simple approach to spending:

– Make considered decisions on your spending
– DO think twice when making purchases
– DON’T spend money on an impulse or buy something just because your friend is
– Aim to save about 10 per cent of your income to keep for a ‘rainy day’ emergency fund if you can. That way if something goes wrong or something unforeseen occurs, you have a buffer

Seems simple enough, right?

Watch D*Scribe’s exclusive interview with Lesley Duncan below.



Though saving money is easier said than done, Ms Duncan suggests if you invest time in thinking about where your money is going, you can equip yourself with the skills to prioritise and delegate your income.

“It’s important to schedule some time to look at your needs and wants. Use a spreadsheet, online budget tool or pen and paper to get figures down and work out how you’re going to prioritise them. Stick to paying your essentials first and further down the track you can review whether or not your strategies are working,” she says.


Ms Duncan also believes an individual’s attitude towards money plays a significant role in their ability to save.

“It’s hard to learn, but respecting money leads to considered decisions,” she explains.

“If you have a mobile phone plan, should you pre-pay or post-pay? Be careful about locking yourself into a contract. If you are in a share house, have regular meetings with your house mates to ensure you are all pulling your weight and you have a fair way of paying bills – for example a cash kitty or shared bank account. Similarly, have ‘date nights’ with your partner to discuss finances.”


While she was offering an abundance of practical advice on how to save, Ms Duncan kept revisiting a key point; do not open a credit account.

“This is money you do not have. Once you have debt on a credit card, it can be a never ending process to pay it back,” she stresses.

“You need to know the value of money and understand how to budget, ensuring that credit cards are paid off each month with money already saved. Often university students have not acquired this concept at this stage of their lives yet. The best type of card is a debit card – this uses funds already in your bank account, and can be used for purchases similar to a credit card.”

Though I learned a lot from Ms Duncan, I couldn’t help but explore the topic further with others in the finance industry. This is when I turned to finance expert, Shane Black. Specialising in wealth generation for young people, Mr Black knows too well the struggles young people encounter when trying to plump up their savings account.

Finance expert: Shane Black

“If you have a problem with money at 25 and you don’t fix it, you’re going to have the same problem at 50,” he says.

Mr Black goes on to explain his ‘cash-flow management’ tips.

– Get into the habit of saving first, spending second
– Start investing as soon as possible
– Take the time to sit down and map out your money goals
– Automate where possible e.g. direct debits
– Keep track of where your money is going

I ask Mr Black if he would recommend credit cards to university students.

“Credit cards are powerful when used properly but they can be problematic when used incorrectly – it can lead to a debt spiral. When you start paying interest on a credit card early on in your life then chances are it’s a habit people maintain,” he answers.

“When you’re in university I think there’s more important things to be focussing on, more fun things as well.”


While Mr Black poses a plausible argument, many university students are find it stressful to achieve a work-life balance. How they can find the time to save money while studying? Being time-poor calls for compromise, and compromise certainly isn’t easy.

Twenty-four-year-old full-time university student Beck, who asked for her last name not to be published, made the decision to work full-time and save for a home with her partner before taking on an academic workload. Beck was able to purchase a home in January 2017, however she firmly believes this wouldn’t have been possible if she had have been both working and studying full-time.

“Now that I am at uni studying a bachelor of criminology and psychological science, my work is compromised because I’m unable to work full-time hours as a full-time student,” she says.


Beck went on to explain that without the security of having her partner’s income, she wouldn’t be able to cope.

“If I didn’t have a partner and his second income there is no way I could survive,” she tells D*Scribe. “If you don’t have a partner or parents supporting you to make up for what you can’t earn, you can understand why university education does not have equal opportunities.”

It’s no wonder university students feel like it’s a struggle to maintain a steady savings account. The cost of living in many Australian capital cities is rising faster than the rest of the world, making it even more difficult for young studying Aussies to embark on those in-your-face overseas getaways.

Luckily for us all, there are indeed three lessons to take away from this inquiry:

You may think we’re (Gen Y) freeloaders, but we’re not. The cost of living is only rising, our study workloads are increasingly demanding and we are making serious sacrifices to get our degrees. Yes, our taste in breakfast items may be extravagant, but we’re working our butts off to ensure our success. Give us a break and let us eat our grilled halloumi in peace.

FOR THE YOUNG KIDS: No matter how small your income may be, it’s important to save a portion of it. Use these handy tips from our experts to evaluate your circumstances and formulate a budget that is targeted specifically to your needs, not your wants. Beck mapped her study timeline around her ability to achieve her main financial goal – spend some time considering whether or not this is something you should be doing. Ms Duncan recommends Australian Securities and Investments Commission website Money Smart for further information.

FOR ALL: ABBA have been trying to warn us for 42 years that we will have to work all night and work all day to pay the bills we have to pay… ain’t it sad that we’ve only just realised?

Disclaimer: This article contains information that is general in nature. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. You need to consider your financial situation and needs before making any decisions based on this information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *