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Getting Ahead In Your 20s Financially Nearly Impossible On Just A Salary

19 December 2010 11 Comments

Building up net worth in your 20s is very difficult, impossible for many.  For many, their 20s is just trying to climb out of a hole of debt built up by irresponsibility and student loans.  To break even by 30 for many is a major achievement.  Unfortunately, breaking even means you’re essentially at zero.

So, how do you amass some significant wealth by the time you reach 30?  You can be frugal and save, but you’re not likely to hit it big to any certain degree.

Simply put, your salary won’t get you very far in your 20s, because frankly, most 20-somethings don’t earn that much.  Getting wealthy from a salary is difficult enough when you’re making decent money, but it’s nearly impossible with entry level positions.

So, who are the 20-somethings I know that have hit it big?  I don’t know many, but the ones I do all did something on their own.  They created a business that either became very, very profitable or they created a business and sold it for a nice chunk of change.

While this isn’t necessarily something easy and something you can do over night, it’s worth asking if you’re moving towards this end to any extent.  Are you positioning yourself to start and build a business?  Are you making contacts, building skills that can help you do this?  How are you spending your free time?  I hope the answer to that isn’t watching television.

Take this opportunity to do a self examination of where you are financially and where you are in the process to starting something on your own to hit it big.  If you haven’t even started that journey, it’s time to take the first step.


  • andrewbpaterson said:

    The wheels are in motion for me to get started on this, and I plan to get going early in the new year.
    Thanks for the extra motivation!!!

  • Shawn said:

    I think the assumption that you can't do more than break even on a salary alone is dead wrong. Getting ahead on just your salary simply means living below or within your means. You may not have the life you want or dream of by living this way, but it will definitely prevent you from digging yourself a bigger hole. I think your advice should be to first live within your means given your current salary, and if that is not the life you want for yourself, then look to offset your salary or start your own business.

  • Josh said:

    You can get ahead on just minimum wage if you want to (of course most people with any form of motivation will make more than that). It's all about living within your means, not going into debt, and not feeling you are entitled to anything.

  • Amanda L Grossman said:


    I definitely think you can get ahead…but not at the rate I would like:). I am 28, and my husband and I have a healthy networth.

    The annoying thing is that everyone says that saving money in your twenties is worth a lot more to your networth later, but that is also the decade when potentially a lot of big things happen (i.e. could cost money), you find yourself, you start to build a career so are not making a ton…and so it stinks that when you should be banking as much as possible you can't necessarily do so.

    Either way, my husband and I save roughly 30% of our take home pay. Woohoo! I'd love to get that up to 50%…..

  • Laura said:

    I'm 25, single, and living in NYC (where I spent 46% of my take home pay on rent alone when I was just out of college; now, I've gotten enough raises to bring that down to 30%). I paid off all my student loans last year and my current net worth is about $26k. It's REALLY not that hard if you just stop blowing money on things you don't need and make it a priority to pay off debt and build up savings.

  • Alex said:

    Great Post!

    Take it from me, I started my own business at 19, today we are doing about 5M annually and the answer wasn't saving more but working harder, many late nights while my friends were at clubs, I worked. But I'm looking now at retiring around 28 maybe 30 if I get greedy 🙂

    I seldom agree with the investing advice at 20smoney but I do appreciate the writing and what you're trying to accomplish. Keep it up.

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  • marketing tricks said:

    That's very delightful writing. I have just finished my graduation and started my career as an engineer. It really is very difficult to survive let alone making a good fortune at 30. So to be wealthy I guess I have to move in business. But this is great writing anyway and some what the same as my situation. Good day and keep up the good work.