SuperMoney Series: Adam Piplica About Investing and Personal Finance for Millennials

Adam Piplica is a Diploma Qualified Paraplanner in a Chartered Financial Planning firm and founder of MagicalPenny.com, a personal finance website that inspires and teaches about money concepts and ideas. We recently caught up with Adam to hear his thoughts on investing for millennials and avoiding excessive debt.

Tell us a little about your investing journey. Why did you decide to start a blog?

I didn’t have any background in investing when I started getting curious about the stock market. I didn’t have any money either! I was a student studying history and politics and planning to start a job in marketing when I graduated. But the internet opened up the world and its information, so it didn’t take long to fall down the rabbit hole of internet research and follow my curiosity about the stock market and investments.

Soon, I was ordering investment prospectuses to my university dorms and poring over the graphs. But I still didn’t have any money to invest. That changed when I got my first job out of university. The salary was modest, but by embracing frugality ideas like avoiding getting a car straight away and not spending money on drinks on nights out with friends, I was able to fit investing into my budget. I began with a hundred pounds a month invested using a Stocks and Shares ISA. After gleaning so much information about investing from blogs and websites written by Americans, I wanted to share a British perspective with the idea of teaching my friends how to invest too. MagicalPenny.com was born!

What do you say to young adults who feel that they don’t need to worry about investing right now?

Being a young adult is hard because there are so many priorities competing for our money; even just getting by month to month on a modest starting salary is hard enough. However, saving money and investing it in the long term can have a powerful impact on your future. There’s also more subtle benefits of feeling in control and the warm feeling that comes from knowing you’re looking after Future You! Just getting started is the hard part.

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When it comes to investing vs. saving money, what are some of the guidelines that you recommend?

The big one is to make sure you have some money saved in cash before you start investing in the markets. You don’t want to be forced to sell because you need the money for an emergency; it might not be a good time in the markets and you could be forced to sell when the price has gone down.

Next is to not look for “sexy” investments you don’t understand. Start with simple ones like a simple FTSE tracker “index” fund that simply buys a bit of everything from an index. And use a Stocks and Shares ISA to hold the investments, as the gains will then be tax-free when you eventually sell your investments. New platforms like Nutmeg.com and Rplan make it easy to build a portfolio, but in the early days it doesn’t really matter where you start – even your bank could help you.

Do you feel that debt is more of a problem for millennials than past generations? How do today’s young adults view amassing and/or reducing debt?

Debt is a much bigger problem because it’s more available. Credit card debt is the most dangerous form of debt because the interest rates are high. Some people get credit cards thinking they are building their credit rating; but if you don’t pay off the balance each month, the interest will get very expensive, very fast.

Often, credit card debt builds when you’re trying to live a lifestyle that doesn’t fit your income. It’s hard if your salary is low and all your friends have more money, but credit card debt is not the answer. If you have credit card debt, don’t start investing until it’s paid off because the interest you are paying is more than you will be able to make with investments over the long term. It’s also easy to get into debt with expensive car payments that can rob millennials of the opportunity to save for tomorrow.

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Name one thing that people can do today to lower their spending or get more value out of the money they are currently spending

Look through your direct debits and standing orders in your bank account; it should be easy with mobile banking. Are you spending money automatically on something you no longer get value from? My message is not, “Spending money is bad, saving money is good.” Instead, my message is, “Make sure you are only spending money on the things that are meaningful for you, so you have more to put towards longer term goals.” Not quite as catchy, but it works!

The word “recession” terrifies a lot of people. Could you talk about some of the myths and/or opportunities associated with economic recessions?

Recessions are simply when the economy contracts for two consecutive quarters. One big myth is that recessions impact everyone. You shouldn’t use a recession as an excuse for not getting a pay raise or being short of money. You have more power than you might think to improve your financial destiny. Work hard, add value and make an effort to save at least something every month. You are not limited to only earning money at your day job. What else can you do to earn extra money?

Secondly, if you’re many years away from retirement, the big opportunity in recessions is the buying opportunity in the stock markets. Recessions help investors buy investments at reduced prices. That’s what I did during 2008, and the gains I’ve made since then have been great.

Finish this sentence: “The most important personal finance-related advice that young adults need to embrace is…”

Don’t feel like you must follow a set timeline for your life such as “I must buy a home by the time I’m 30” or “I must have nice things now that I’m not a student.” Everyone is different, and if you try to force yourself into set deadlines, you could make a costly mistake or trap yourself in a life you don’t want. Certainly, you should have goals and work towards them; but don’t try to rush things because your emotions could lead you into making a poor financial decision.

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What are some of the financial stressors or issues that you foresee today’s millennials having to deal with in the future?

The world is changing so fast and the rate of change is getting faster. millennials need to keep improving their skills or run the risk of falling behind in their careers and not being able to consistently command the salary they need to meet their financial goals.