Back To The Future: My Advice To A 16 Year Old David

My name is David, and I’m a late retirement saver!

***Warning. The following article contains alcohol, terrible fancy dress, hangovers and dancing of a finger pointing nature *** 

Hands up. Who spent their 20’s partying and not giving a single thought to their retirement fund? Well I did, and if I could go back in time I would have much to say to my 16 year old self.

I turned 16 in 1997 and spent the following 18 years pretty much dancing my socks off and wasting an insane amount of money in the process. Why worry about tomorrow when it’s not even here yet, right?



Wrong! I had it so unbelievably wrong, luckily enough my epiphany moment came just in time.

I’m playing catch up but I’m not too late, only because I have a strong plan. In fact, I have become so focused on retirement that I plan to bring it forward by 18 years. Retirement by 50 is the aim, but with this sort of planning from a younger age I could have already realised the dream of travelling the world as a digital nomad.

This is the advice I’d have given myself at 16 years old.

Know the difference between acquaintances and real friends

Yes, believe it or not, those five hundred people stored in my mobile, and the several hundred others I saw weekly in my favourite watering holes at the time were not all real friends. You know the ones who ‘love’ you and ‘can’t bear the thought’ of arriving at the club and not seeing your skinny, drunk ass tearing around the dance floor like a Tasmanian Devil?

Barring four of them who went on to be my closest friends, and a handful of others that I am in contact with on Facebook and are still good friends I see every now and again, these people are now a distant memory. We loved each other so much that we are no longer in any sort of contact and I can’t even remember such details as a surname to trace them on Facebook. I can remember at the time the sort of pressure I used to feel to be out every week to keep up with them. And for what? Blurry, hazy memories of a night out and huge bags under my eyes!  I want to be clear, they were all very nice people (to me anyway), but in hindsight they were no more than a clubbing acquaintance.

I spent so much money on booze, and with booze came the chain smoking – I could easily go through three packs of twenty on one night out. When I think of the amount of money that was spent on nights I had barely any memory of the next day it makes me feel ill. But not as ill as I felt the morning after the night before on this particular trip to Blackpool…


Yeah, I’d definitely love to my 16 year old self that bad boy!

If I could go back and speak to my 16 year old self I’d say, still go out and enjoy yourself, but there is no need to be out five times a week, every week. Cut down the nights out and spend more time with your grandparents as you won’t have them for much longer. Save the money you would have spent.       

Save Before You Spend

This is an easy one. As you can see from above I wasted a shed load of money. I was always that person who tried to save after I’d spent. I can tell you from experience, it really doesn’t work. If I could go back I would tell myself to live off no more than 60% of my wage and save the rest.

Invest What You Save

What I saved I’d have advised my self to invest in property. I am the definition of a millennial and I was, rather annoyingly now, in pole position to get on the property ladder and see my assets sore. Turning 18 at the start of the century, the world could have been my oyster back then property wise. Instead of getting my head down planning for a life of early retirement and travel, I was down the pub or busting moves on any dance floor I could find.


Properties that were selling at the time for £60,000, had risen in value to £200,000 and above inside the next ten years. I was an idiot not to get myself a slice of the pie. If I’d have had the mindset I have now, I’d be retired like my inspiration Mr Money Moustache!

If only I could speak to myself at 16 I would advise to invest everything I saved into property.

Open A Retirement Fund At 18

I’m ashamed to say I only started to save for my retirement this year at the age of 34. I was advised by a financial advisor at 28 I was already too late to start saving, I very stupidly left it another 6 years to act. A lot has changed this year, the biggest one being my mindset.

I would advise 16 year old David to start his retirement fund at 18. Even if it was a few pence, it still would have put me in the routine of saving towards retirement regularly. The money would have been out of my bank and into a retirement fund and I wouldn’t have noticed the difference.

The Party Needs To End At 20

Life was pretty much one big party from the age of 16, right through to about 30 for me. Even though the clubbing days did slow down eventually, I still continued to waste money in the pub and the pub lead to take-aways.


In no way would I advise myself to live like a nun, it’s unrealistic and not who I am. I have always been a bit of a social butterfly and I wouldn’t change that. What I would change is the frequency of my madness. I’d sit a 16 year old David down and tell him straight – the party ends at 20! Enjoy your nights out, just not daily!

Don’t Let Other People’s Negative Mindset Affect Yours

This is probably my biggest regret. Between the age of 17-21 I was in an extremely abusive relationship. My partner at the time refused to work, which meant my wage had to keep both of us. Life was one big fight, I became consumed by their negative attitude towards life and it sucked away any ambition I had to progress professionally and get myself further on in life.

Life quite frankly consisted of work and getting smashed in the house, followed by the inevitable fight of course. It was no life at all and if  I could change only one thing in my life it would be that I got out of that situation quicker. I let someone else’s negative, aggressive attitude ruin my positive outlook.

If I could go back and speak to 16 year old David I would tell him, never let anyone else’s bad, negative attitude derail you from your goal. Set a target and keep your eyes on the prize. If other people disagree with your mindset, they are not the type of people you should be surrounding yourself with anyway.

Back To The Future

It’s not all doom and gloom. I’m late saving for retirement, but I have a plan that I am fully committed to seeing though. If you haven’t started saving yet, get the ball rolling. Don’t do tomorrow what you could have done today. I can tell you from experience, tomorrow never comes. I’m just glad I opened my eyes in time.


If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?


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David Naylor is the editor of the Thinking Thrifty blog. After a striking realisation about the direction his life was heading he set himself a 15 year plan to achieve total financial freedom. Join the journey!

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2 thoughts on “Back To The Future: My Advice To A 16 Year Old David

  1. David, I think I would tell my younger self many of the things you wrote. I would also tell myself to treat people well at all times, as it is one thing we can always choose to control. I was a jerk to a lot of people in my teens, and I didn’t really figure it out until I reached 20. Mrs. Superhero still tells me that I am learning in this area. 🙂

    1. Yes, often we let our mouths rule our head when we’re younger, I was no different. All part of growing up my friend, and now Mrs Superhero is around to keep you in check!

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