How I Delayed My Earning and Saving Ability

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Earning and Saving Ability

The following is a contribution from Karen, from Makin’ the Bacon. If you’re interested in contributing to Frugal Rules please see our guidelines and contact us.

For as long I can remember, I have never been a positive person. When someone talks about the power of positive thinking, I usually just roll my eyes. Where people would view me as a pessimist or even somewhat cynical, I consider myself more of a realist. The reality is that no matter how much I push forward and plan for the future, I can’t help but think back to the past and dwell on it from time to time.

Looking Back to Move Forward


I dwell on the money mistakes I have made. I ruminate over how I should have started saving aggressively and investing in my early 20s, rather than in my mid/late 20s.

However, what I dwell on the most is how I delayed my earning and saving ability. It had nothing to do with student loans or consumer debt, but rather on a variety of things.

I blame this delay on several factors: spending five years in high school versus four, not really knowing what to study in school, switching programs in school, not landing a job right away upon graduating, not bothering to take any job while I searched for one to jump start my career and jumping from job to job without having another job lined up right away.

My College Degree Didn’t Increase My Earning and Saving Ability


I received good grades in math and sciences, thus I thought I should apply for engineering. I didn’t really know what else to apply for. I never really thought about what professions would be high in demand once I graduated or what professions would be secure and have decent starting salaries.

I ended up not liking engineering and switched into the sciences instead. Having been afraid of delaying my graduation even more, I automatically chose the sciences.  The more sensible thing would have been to take some time off and really think about my career options.

Looking back at it, I’m not even sure why I chose the field of science anymore. I actually don’t like working in a lab or doing research. Perhaps I chose it because it sounded impressive on a diploma and on a resume.

Rather than feverishly applying for jobs during my last year of university, I was feverishly planning my backpacking trip around Western Europe.  It was a trip that was amazing, something that everyone should do once in their life if they can. I had absolutely no regrets about it.

What I do regret is that I had no plan to land a job or even get an interview lined up when I got back. It was a good six months before I landed a professional job. Those were six months I could have easily spent working a retail job or as a barista to have some sort of cash flow.

Alas, I had too much pride and thought I was too good with an Honors Science Degree from a prestigious university to be working a job that paid by the hour.

After that job, came some sporadic job hopping with nothing lined up right after. I had spent a lot of unemployed time looking for jobs that I wasn’t even sure if I wanted, but was desperate for anything that could resemble somewhat of a career. During the recession, I swallowed my pride and worked a year in retail.

The job didn’t even come close to giving me full-time hours. However, it was somewhat of a steady paycheck. I then tried my hand at personal training only to get frustrated after eight months of doing most of the work for free. I was working more hours than I was at my retail job, but earning a lot less.

What I’d Do Differently Today


Looking back at it now, I had a lot of unemployment gaps in between jobs, thus having a lot of gaps in my earning and saving ability. I feel that all the time I had spent not working or job hopping had cost me a lot of time. Time in my 20s that I should have spent working and carving out my career path.

I’m now in my early 30s and feel as if I’m still at the start of my career. I can’t help but be jealous of my peers’ earning and saving ability as they are now more established in their 30s, because they worked to that level starting in their 20s. I get frustrated from time to time after reading articles that specify how much you should have saved by the time you are 30 or how much you should be earning by the time you are 30. It frustrates me because my savings and my current salary don’t match those numbers.

I know I’m still relatively young and have quite some time ahead of me.  I also know that I shouldn’t compare myself to others because everyone’s situation is different. But I can’t help it. It’s just in my nature to compare. It can be a good thing, because it makes me want to push harder.


Do you feel as if you are trying to make up for lost time in terms of earning/saving ability? Why or why not?


Photo courtesy of: Tax Credits


About the author:

By day, Karen works for the federal government and by night, she is motivating people in group exercise classes. She blogs about personal finance, travel, life and everything in between at MakintheBacon. You can follow her on Twitter @MakintheBacon1. When she’s not blogging, she can be found baking, biking, reading, or obsessing over her finances.


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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.


  • Jen says:

    If I could go back and change my spending and savings habit, I definitely would. But the past is the past and there’s not much you can do about so I focus on the future instead. The main thing is that you ARE saving. Go ahead and compare yourself to others if it’ll make you work harder. Sometimes we just need some motivation to reach our goals.

    • Karen says:

      If I only I had a time machine like in the Back to the Future movies, then it would be perfect. ๐Ÿ™‚ I have to keep reminding myself that regardless of what stage I am in, in my life there will always be people better off than me and people worse off than me.

      I think I compare myself to others in everything. I can be so judgmental. Even waiting in line at the grocery store. LOL.

  • moneystepper says:

    At university, I was on a four year masters course, but did not achieve a first in my second year, which meant that I automatically got placed on a three year bachelor degree. Whilst I was upset at the time, in hindsight this has been good for my career as a masters would have added very little, but an extra year on the ladder is worth a fair bit of money.

    Investing in your late 20s isn’t as good as early 20s, but if you are seriously investing in your 20s, I would say that you are still winning!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Karen says:

      Thanks! I think getting started in investing in your 20s is the main thing. While you are figuring out life, travelling, trying out jobs, friends, relationships, whatever- just put a bit of money aside each month while you do so.

  • Marie @ 4HWD says:

    I can feel you, I’m already on my late 20’s when I realized that I really need to save more and having an investment. I know it’s kinda delayed for me, but I’m really trying hard to become financially stable.

    • Karen says:

      I think going back to live with my parents after graduating university and landing a job made me feel too comfortable. The fact that they spoiled me and refused to let me pay rent didn’t help too much either. I think the “REALLY” saving part didn’t hit home until they told me I needed to get my own car.

      Better now, than later in regards to becoming financially stable!

  • Michael Solari says:

    hindsight is always 20/20. I got a job right out of college, literally a month after graduation. I wish I took some time off that summer to travel Europe. To me experiences like those are more important than money in the bank.

    • Karen says:

      I almost feel like travelling in Europe is some sort of rite of passage before you enter the professional working world. If I had the time and money to do that again, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Although now that I’m older, I probably would opt for hotels versus hostels. It wasn’t always fun sleeping in a room with 5 other people and having them constantly come in and out of the room while you’re trying to sleep.

  • Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says:

    I’m in a good position now, and I worked full time throughout school so I don’t think I delayed my saving/earning ability. The job I had 9 months before graduation is the job I still am in, so I didn’t have any gap period between graduating from college and finding a job.

  • Lauren May says:

    I can really relate to this. I spent my 20s doing a lot of traveling and having awesome life experiences, but I didn’t figure out what I want to do, career-wise. I recently turned 30 and feel I’m coming to a crossroads. I do get bummed out when I read about how important it is to invest in your 20s because I know I missed the boat on that, but what can you do? You just have to keep pushing forward, keep learning, and make choices that help you get to where you want to be.

    • Karen says:

      I felt a little bit panicky when I was 29. I was already freaking out about my life before I even turned 30.

      My mom did bug me to start investing in my mid-20s, but I guess I felt I was too busy with my career and enjoying having a salary to even bother. I wish I had listened to her sooner.

  • Grayson Bell says:

    I am trying to make up for my lost savings that I didn’t do when I was in debt. While I saved some, most went to debt repayments. I consider myself a pessimist as well ,or realist if you will, but I don’t dwell on the past. I do use those events to give me insight into what I should do though.

    • Karen says:

      Having a mortgage is a HUGE reminder for me to not just quit jobs and not have a back up plan or an emergency fund.

      I tend to be more optimistic for other people, rather than myself. I don’t know why. I guess it seems easier.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    There are tons of things I’d do different and I kick myself because if I’d really tried hard to save at the beginning of my career, I could probably be “retired” now. BUT, I am so glad I figured it out before I was 60 or lost a job or something worse. Going forward is always more important than looking back.

    • Karen says:

      It’s easier said than done right? It would have been really sweet to be on the road to early retirement, but since I’m working for the government, I’m building up my pension with my years of service.

      I know some people have no choice for whatever reason or maybe they choose to do so, but I personally don’t want to have to go back to work at a minimum wage job when I’m a senior citizen.

  • Raquel@Practical Cents says:

    I think as we get older we always look back and reflect on our lives. Thinking about things we could have done different or better and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m a realist too and the reality is that there’s nothing I can do about the past. But we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. I always like to say, when you know better you do better. It’s all about learning the lessons and moving forward. It sounds like you have learned many lessons and now you can do better.

    • Karen says:

      I guess turning 30 is the first stage of getting older, maybe that’s why I had such a hard time with it. It came to me as a shock. LOL.

      Thanks for the words of wisdom. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kasey @ Debt Perception says:

    I think I’ve given up on trying to make up for lost time in regards to earnings/savings…or maybe I just stopped trying to compare myself to my peers. Sure, I wish I could earn and save more but I’ve got a heaping pile of student loan debt to deal with first and foremost. I’ll be turning 29 this summer and have never had a full-time job before. I probably chose the worst field of study for this job market and was unemployed for 4 years despite applying all over. Lots of part-time, minimum wage jobs wouldn’t even consider me with a BFA in the wrong degree. Yeah, I actually got a job when I withheld my degree from my resume. But I caught a break at the end of last year and while I’m only working part time, it’s given me a little momentum to try to be successful as a freelancer with multiple side-income streams.

    • Karen says:

      I know that no matter what, I most likely will never catch up to where my peers are in terms in saving/earning ability. I guess I’m playing more catch up with myself now.

      Glad you managed to catch a break and are gaining momentum. It’s a good feeling!

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    I’m a big advocate for traveling BEFORE college. Taking the time to see and learn about the world through travel and volunteering I think makes you more informed and more able to decide what your next step should be.

    • Karen says:

      I wish I had the money to travel BEFORE heading off to do my post-secondary education. Or kill two birds with one stone and go studying abroad. After graduation, I briefly toyed with the idea of studying abroad for a master’s. It didn’t even really matter what the masters was in. I just wanted to go to Australia and/or New Zealand. ๐Ÿ˜›

  • Debt Hater says:

    I’m quickly approaching my mid twenties now, and don’t really feel like I’m doing too much of catch up yet. I ended up switching majors and doing an extra year at school so I did technically lose out on a year of earning potential there, but I was very happy with my major change so no complaints here on that. I did miss out on contributing to my Roth IRA in 2012 and my 401k contribution was not taking full advantage of the employee match for my first few months of employment, but I’ve since fixed both of those issues! I do wish that my student loan debt wasn’t holding me back from saving a larger percent of my income though.

    • Karen says:

      Glad to hear you are happy as a result of switching majors. Perhaps first year of university should still be like high school where you can take a variety of courses if you’re still not sure what you want to major in.

      I opted in with my employee pension plan with my first job right away and although I have transferred from job to job, I have since used that money for investing in other things such as bonds initially, but then eventually for stocks.

  • Kathy @ SMART Living says:

    Hi Karen! I am disgustingly positive so go ahead and roll your eyes! But from my vantage point of age I’d say you are so much better off than so many others who jumped into whatever career their schooling took them and started slaving away. While I agree with being frugal and minding your income, I think it is madness to work like a slave at a job you hate just to be secure. Remember, as Lily Tomlin says, “even if you win the rat race–your still a rat.” Much better to be a person who is looking around for work you enjoy and have taken a trip of a lifetime. Trust me, they are all jealous of YOU!

    • Karen says:

      Hahahah! The world needs more positive people like you! I have a friend who is very positive and always turns every negative thing I say into a positive one. I am very glad I have her around to do so.

      Thanks for the inspiring words. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    I think that every experience builds on the next one and that even though you have “regrets” from your 20s, as long as you learn from the experience, then it is something that will be valuable to you down the road. I wish that I was better with savings as well, but I have a long road to go until retirement and I am definitely focused on making up for lost time and know I will get there.

    • Karen says:

      When I look at the grand scheme of things, I think I am also quite focused on making up for lost time. I guess solid proof of it has to do with being able to move out on my own and then eventually being able to put a down payment on a house (with money still left in the bank!), after only two years of solid employment. Although having my part time job also helped quite a bit.

  • Jason B says:

    I’m 30 and I’m in a similar situation. We can’t dwell on the past. The best thing to do is to start saving and investing more if it’s possible.

    • Karen says:

      It’s nice hearing that other people are in similar situations. It doesn’t make me feel so isolated. Every year, I try to make a goal of contributing a little more than I did the year before into my retirement savings account.

  • NZ Muse says:

    I feel I’ve been incredibly lucky in this regard – I knew what I wanted to do, got a scholarship, finished my degree and went straight to work. Media is a tough industry and the economy doubles that, but I’ve not had any employment gap and I even managed to take time off to travel last year and come back to my job after (love that about the NZ culture). I feel like I’ve been able to have it all, I guess.

    My partner’s had it a bit tougher. Never had a clear direction, done a lot of things and been good at all of them, but being a jack of all trades and without any formal qualifications, it’s been hard for him, especially with the economy the way it is, and he’s definitely had stints of unemployment (including one right now).

    • Karen says:

      Perhaps I should move to NZ and get a job there. I love the accent and Maori sayings such as ” Kia Ora” and “Kia Kaha!”

      Hopefully things will turn around soon for your partner!

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach says:

    I totally get you Karen. I feel the same way sometimes. I see how motivated these 20-somethings are and wonder how things might have been a little different if I would have made some better choices at that time in my life.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks, Tonya! If only we were motivated more with money back then the way we are motivated with being active and healthy….oh well. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Marissa@Financetriggers says:

    Lately here’s my formula in investment:
    Income – Consumption = Savings
    But now,
    Income – Savings = Consumption

  • Mark Ross says:

    Just like you I’m not sure if the course I took is right for me or not, I just chose this because I don’t have anymore choices back then, it was either I study my course now or not study at all. I just hope I’ll be fortunate to land a job as soon as I graduate, that way I can have some cash flow, save some money, and hopefully, be able to start my very own business.

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