Is it all avocado on toast for millennials or is there a real financial quarter-life crisis?
Australian tycoon Tim Gurner once infamously blasted millennials for spending $19 on smashed avocado that they could be saving towards their first home. That spendthrift reputation appears to be backed by a survey by the UK’s First Direct Bank, which claims more than half of millennials spend more than they earn each month.
But research from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Generation Y spend a huge 13 per cent of their income on rent and prioritise healthy foods and education more than older generations do - while Facebook claims that this canny cohort is redefining financial success, with half trying to become debt-free.
Dubai blogger and teacher Zach Holz, 34, calls his a “debt-ridden generation”, hit by the ballooning costs of education combined with fairly stagnant wages – with, he adds, the best jobs tending to be in cities with exorbitant costs of living.
A study released last week by UBS found Dubai was the third most expensive destination for expats in the world. However, despite being pricey, it's pretty affordable when it comes to millennial must-haves with a handful of avocados only setting residents back $4.85 compared to $8.27 in Switzerland. An iPhone in Dubai costs am average $1,212 compared to $2,242 in Argentina. But do not buy a coffee in Dubai - it comes in the most expensive in the world at $5.70.
UAE millennials also have no government pension to fall back on, says Mr Holz, and risk walking away from their time in the Emirates with nothing thanks to the high-living lifestyle.
With these types of concerns, there is huge demand for (free) millennial finance advice for the under-35s. Blogs, says Mr Holz, offer fast advice and are “less intimidating” than finance books. Here are 10 of the best:
Half Banked (US)
A personal finance blog for “millennials that want to manage their money and still have a life” by Desirae Odjick, who managed to cobble together a $20,000 down payment for a house and put together an emergency fund for herself - and one for her “expensive” dog too. A low bar, she admits, but she had previously always raided her savings “to the dollar” so a definite improvement. A professionally designed and well-written blog with lots of millennial speak thrown in - so it’s no surprise to learn that Ms Odjick is a marketer by profession.
Blog highlight: What You Need To Do Before You Earn More Money. People saying that they will only be able to save or budget when they make more money makes Ms Odjick "cringe" – just save and set goals now.
Twitter followers 6,000
The Happiest Teacher (UAE)
Zach Holz is a Dubai-based American teacher who has been blogging about teaching and investing for just four months. He says that so many posts written by teachers are "angry" - as they are "frazzled, near-destitute and just deeply negative" - that he wanted to provide a "counterpoint". He also decided to get on the financial independence train after seeing a talk by retired expat teacher Andrew Hallam in Dubai. "It seemed a lot of the other blogs were being told as a retrospective," he says. "The authors had already achieved financial independence. I wanted to show the journey from a fairly new standpoint, as I'm only two years into investing." This blog is good for covering UAE-specific issues - like having to pay rent in one cheque.
Blog highlight: How do you save money? A simple system. Mr Holz discusses how he reaches his $20,000-a-year savings target by saving Dh8,000 a month, for nine months of the year, with his discretionary spend limited to Dh150 to Dh270 a day.
Twitter followers n/a
The Financial Diet (US)
This four-year-old blog by Chelsea Fagan invites guest posts from other Generation Y writers on setting short-term goals, money, career, college, living and travel. Ms Fagan really hits the millennial issues head-on although, with so many guest posts, it’s now hard to find her content. The author of several books has her own small section on the site: Ask Chelsea Anything. One post here focuses on what to do when your partner is terrible with money; another on the finances of being sick. The clickbait headlines certainly kept me engrossed.
Blog highlight: Minimalism Is Just Another Boring Product Wealthy People Can Buy. How decluttering has turned into a consumer competition to spend the most on the smallest capsule wardrobe.
Twitter followers 22,600
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Millennial Money Man (US)
Bobby Hoyt has some simple tips: live below your means, don’t finance stuff you don’t need and work really hard - then make your money work hard too. He paid off $40,000 of student debt in 18 months on a teacher’s salary. Mr Hoyt, who now blogs full-time, claims a million annual readers, so his story has proven quite the draw. Let him help you “attack your debt, make more money and create an awesome life”.
Blog highlight: Signs you are Living Beyond your Means. This includes not saving 10 per cent of income, paying the minimum balance on your credit card or taking out a loan to pay for a vacation.
Twitter followers 17,500
My Fab Finance (US)
Break the cycle of living pay cheque to pay cheque, says Tonya Rapley, because understanding money “isn’t as hard as we assume it is”. A blog that is quite hard to follow visually - and there’s a lot else going on here too, from a downloadable e-book to a ‘debt elimination’ course and a private community. Money is not the only focus from this millennial consultant: there’s also professional development, entrepreneurship and lifestyle.
Blog highlight: 10 Ways to Reduce Monthly Expenses without Much Effort. Stick to reusable water bottles and keep your air filters clean to keep your bills down.
Twitter followers 17,700
Cait Flanders (US)
Cait Flanders has shut down her original Blonde On A Budget blog (started in 2010 when she was 25 and had $24,000 of debt) in favour of an eponymously named one. While she is still both blonde and on a budget, the name began to feel too "young", she says. Her main message is about conscious consumption: Ms Flanders embraces minimalism and gave up shopping for two years to live on 51 per cent of her income and save a third. It's something almost impossible to imagine in the consumer-focused UAE but resulted, for her, in a book earlier this year - The Year Of Less. Not an easy blog to dip into, as the archives follow the old-fashioned monthly blog categorisation of posts.
Blog highlight: Why I Stopped Tracking Everything and Started Making Intentional Decisions. Ms Flanders, historically an ardent tracker of spending, steps and food intake, went "cold turkey" in favour of a more intentional way of living.
Twitter followers 12,700
20something Finance (US)
After graduation, GE Miller was making just $30,000 per year working 50 to 60 hours a week at a job that “did not require a college degree” - so he started “hacking” his finances by downsizing his house, cycling to work and becoming vegetarian. Eventually he was saving 85 per cent of his earnings, “21 times the average US savings rate of four per cent”. Mr Miller focuses on lifestyle finance, early retirement, frugality and investing.
Blog highlight: Our Cheap Wedding: 7 Steps for an Awesome $2,500 Wedding. The average wedding costs upwards of $35,000 but Mr Miller spent under a tenth of that - less, in fact, than he did on an engagement ring.
Twitter followers 2,700
The Young Money Blog (UK)
This blog was set up by freelance journalist Iona Bain to teach young people about money. A “youthquake” is needed in personal finance, she says, as millennials are often poorly educated about and disengaged with money, while failing to hit milestones (marriage, house, children) at the same predictable ages baby boomers did.
Blog highlight: What young folks are REALLY doing with their dosh. From starting businesses or working more flexibly to finding more creative ways to get on the housing ladder.
Twitter followers 4,000
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Making Sense of Cents (US)
Here’s a blog to make you sit up and pay notice. Former financial analyst Michelle Schroeder-Gardner reached financial independence before she turned 30 and makes $100,000 a month from this blog, with 300,000 monthly readers. She is now a ‘solopreneur” and full-time traveller, currently touring North America in a camper van. Her goal is to work less than 10 hours a week - something we can all aspire to.
Blog highlight: I'm a Female Breadwinner! I Earn Much More Than My Husband – So What? Ms Schroeder-Gardner says she is the breadwinner but her husband does the cleaning, meals and household management - and he makes sure she looks after herself too.
Twitter followers 18,900
Young Adult Money (US)
Some fairly standard advice from David Carlson on using the debt snowball to reduce your debt (pay off one loan then attack the next with the amount you would have been repaying on the first). There is also a 52-week saving challenge (saving $1 in week 1, $2 in week two, $3 in week three up to $52 in week 52), as well as advice on starting an emergency fund and meal planning.
Blog highlight: Should You Invest When You are in Debt? The answer is not a straightforward 'no' but a thoughtful look at the type of debt, interest rate and your attitude to having debt.
Twitter followers 10,500