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How can young adults improve their financial health?

Doctor holding a stethoscope up to a pink piggy bank
How can young adults improve their financial health? (Alamy/PA)

Football’s Adebayo ‘Bayo’ Akinfenwa tells us why we need to get our ‘game on’ when it comes to managing money.


Like lots of people, football’s Adebayo “Bayo” Akinfenwa says he learned about money management “the hard way” when he was in his 20s – living pay cheque to pay cheque and finding himself in debt when life threw a curveball.

Now, he hopes to help inspire the next generation of young adults to take better care of their own financial health.

The retired pro player has joined forces with credit information company Experian and ‘Young Money’ expert Iona Bain, as part of Experian’s United for Financial Health initiative.

The goal of the initiative is to offer financial education to empower young people to take control of their financial health, and promote financial inclusion.

Financial health
Bayo and Iona Bain have teamed up with Experian (Experian/PA)

Six in 10 (60%) of 18-24-year-olds believe physical fitness is more rewarding than getting their finances in order, according to Experian’s research – showing just how often money management can be overlooked.

Akinfenwa says his parents taught him the importance of a strong work ethic from a young age. “My mum was the best at making our money work, she was very strict about how we spent it,” he says, adding: “My dad would start work at 7am and not finish until 9pm to ensure we had everything we needed.

“When I started to became a bit more independent, my mum would still try to have a say on how I managed my money – she warned me about getting a car, as she thought I might struggle to pay for it,” he continues.

“And she was right – there was a massive ‘I told you so moment’ when I hit a tough patch.”

"In my early 20s, I thought nothing about living pay cheque to pay cheque" - Adebayo Akinfenwa

Aged 24, Akinfenwa broke his leg, and the lack of income meant he quickly got into debt.

“I learnt about money management the hard way, and my attitude towards it changed with key events in my life,” he recalls. “In my early 20s, I thought nothing about living pay cheque to pay cheque.”

He found himself quickly burning through his savings as the household bills came in, and juggled several credit cards to stay afloat.

“Then at 25, we had our first daughter. Being in financial difficulty while having a dependant changed everything,” says Akinfenwa, now 40. “I had to get myself in a better position and provide for my family. I ended up speaking to a financial expert, who gave me some advice and helped get things back on track.”

Looking back, he says it was only when he considered taking out a loan that he realised how important credit scores are, and how they can affect your borrowing options.

His money advice for younger generations is: “It’s not just about ‘saving for a rainy day’. It’s ‘preparing yourself for a storm’. You just never know what’s around the corner.

“We need to get our ‘game on’ when it comes to managing our money – we have to prioritise it, not hide our heads in the sand.”

Alamy Stock Photo

Just like physical health, financial health becomes easier when looking after it is a regular habit.

Personal finance author and speaker Bain says: “Making a plan for your money really helps. I find that sitting down on a Saturday morning really works for me, because I’m not distracted, I’m feeling generally calm and well-rested, before the weekend really kicks off.”

She says she checks “all the bits and pieces of my finances” for about half an hour to an hour. “I feel it’s a lot like exercise, it’s far easier to make changes little and often,” Bain adds.

Banking apps can also do some of the legwork, with several allowing you to split spending into categories, which helps with budgeting, or automatically deposit cash into savings.

For those with debt issues, Bain says if you’re already spending as little as possible and still don’t have enough to cover the basics, then speaking to creditors, checking entitlements to grants and benefits and contacting a debt advice charity are key steps to take. But if debt is more due to lifestyle-related spending, changing your environment may help.

“If you’ve got a million and one shopping apps in your phone; if you’re following celebrities on social media that bring out in you that urge to spend money; if you take your credit card out with you when you go shopping; if you have auto-fill on shopping websites; all these things will constantly create temptations to spend money and get into debt when it’s not necessary,” says Bain.

“Try to remove those temptations or keep your exposure to them limited.”

Consider other savvy ways to save a bit of money too. For example, if you’re heading to university this year, second-hand bargains could save you some cash. “I managed to get a really good refurbished laptop when I went up to university,” says Bain.

Social events can also pile on the pressure to spend and go beyond your budget. Bain’s suggestion for handling this?

“Be honest and make alternative suggestions,” she says. “Being the planner and being proactive can help fend off those expensive suggestions. I understand why people struggle with FOMO and that social pressure, but learning how to deal with it elegantly is one of the best life skills you can cultivate.

“For me, having good financial health is about getting to a place where you feel comfortable dealing with your finances, and if you have any problems, you don’t have any shame in talking to somebody about that.”


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