Should You Pay Back Your Student Loan Early in UK?

Although there are different types of student loans in the UK depending on when you graduated, the short answer is no. In the UK, the Student Loans Company only collects repayments once you earn over a certain threshold. Even then, they only deduct 9% of whatever you earn above the threshold. If you are unfortunate enough not to earn enough to pay back the loan in about 30 years (that’s 83% of us), then we simply don’t have to pay it back anymore.

Knowing this, student loan debt doesn’t really behave like real debt. It’s more like a graduate tax or contribution you make for the funding you got towards your studies at university.

But, you might argue that there’s interest on your amount owing, and you don’t want to pay interest if you don’t have to. The good news is that the interest rate is so low compared to conventional debt interest that you’d be better off investing or saving the money and getting higher returns. It’s also important to prioritize contributing to an emergency fund in case you lose your job for instance, instead of paying back the student loan. If you voluntarily pay back the student loan in full and then realize you needed the money for something else, you won’t be able to get that money back and you may be forced to go into real debt if you borrow money conventionally.

The Government is Doctoring Inflation Rates To Secretly Confiscate Your Wealth

Inflation is defined as the rate of which the price of goods and services increase.

If you were to imagine the cost for a can of drink at the vending machine, petrol at the pump, housing or bread, the prices would have been much lower when you were growing up than they are now. That’s inflation in action.

If our wages don’t keep up with inflation, then our money doesn’t go as far and the standard of living falls.

So what is the current inflation rate? As of January 2021, the government quotes it at 0.7%. Compared to the 1970s where there was rampant inflation, this figure is historically low. Losing 0.7% of the value of your cash savings each year is a minor nuisance at best, and if your interest rate in your savings account matches that, then you wouldn’t be losing any value in your money in real terms at all. But there’s a twist in the tale.

What if the government’s figure of 0.7% didn’t actually match up to what’s really going on with prices in the country? What if real inflation was closer to 10%? After all, the US and UK governments have been inventing trillions of dollars of money in recent times in a process called quantitative easing, which is known to cause inflation.

In 1996, governments in the USA and UK decided to change the way that inflation rates would be calculated. They now use certain tricks such as substitution (using the price of the cheapest available type of product in the category they are calculating), geometric weighting (if they find something that has gone up a lot in price such as healthcare or property, they will assign an inappropriately low percentage of the calculation), and hedonic adjustment (reducing the price of an item like televisions because the item is higher quality than it was the year before). Hidden inflation is becoming more common too, such as when companies give you less of a product like Dairy Milk or Walker’s crisps for the same price, hoping that you won’t notice.

Even if you don’t understand this last paragraph fully, it basically means that the government is tweaking around figures in a formula to get a desired result, instead of doing it fairly. But why would they want inflation rates to seem lower than they actually are?

Firstly, because GDP numbers are inflation-adjusted. If governments are adjusting for inflation by their own fake figures instead of the real ones, it makes it look like the economy is growing even if the economies are actually going backwards. Put another way, because real inflation is at least 7% higher than quoted, it means that if the stock market isn’t growing at least 7% per year, people who invest into it aren’t actually profiting at all in real terms.

Additionally, governments want to quote low inflation rates so they can get away with meagre pay rises like the 1% it is giving NHS workers across the country. The news was not taken lightly after over a year of NHS workers being stretched to the limits during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, imagine if the government had given the 1% pay rise and then broke the news, “Oh, by the way, inflation is actually at 8%, not 0.7%.” The government would have basically rewarded the NHS workers by reducing their spending power by over 7%. The funny thing is that this is the reality.

It’s in the government’s best interests to keep the inflation rates lower than they really are – it makes them look better, and keeps the public from realizing that their standard of living may be dropping.

So, what if you’re reading this and you have excess cash that is sitting in a checking or savings account? You obviously won’t want the value of it to go down by 10% each year. Andrew Craig, the author of How to Own the World suggests to find a way to ‘own’ inflation. This means to buy things that we know are going up in price along with inflation – property, gold, commodities and shares.

The Psychology of Money: Morgan Housel’s Finance Tips

Morgan Housel recently wrote The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness. No matter how we think about it, managing our own money and trying to build wealth is a game of emotions. Here’s a summary of the main points:

Go out of your way to find humility when things are going right, and forgiveness/compassion when they go wrong. The journey of building wealth is based on risk and luck. Remind yourself that the journey of investing is filled with ups and downs and to be ready for that emotionally.

Less ego, more wealth. Building wealth is simply spending less than you earn. Richness is buying cars, houses and boats. Wealth is what you don’t see – it’s money saved/invested instead of spent. The hardest financial skill is to get the goalposts to stop moving – life isn’t any fun without any sense of “enough”.

Manage your money in a way that helps you sleep at night. If you’re finding that you can’t sleep at night because you’re risking too much investing, you need to rethink your strategy. You may know it’s the “right” strategy, but if you can’t manage it emotionally, you may need to accept a lower risk and lower return by holding a higher percentage of your net worth in cash, or choosing lower risk strategies.

If you want to do better as an investor, the single most powerful thing you can do is increase your time horizon. Time is the most powerful force for growing your wealth. Be patient, and be in it for the long game like Ronald Read and Warren Buffett. In other words, just shut up and wait!

Become okay with a lot of things going wrong. You can be wrong half the time and still make a fortune. Having money in the market means you have to accept that on some days you may lose money, even as much as 30% or more of what you have invested. But if you can use the barbell strategy and invest in some assets with huge upside potential, you can still afford to be wrong most of the time while building wealth.

Use money to gain control over your time. Money means freedom. Being able to do what you want, when you want, with who you want is one thing that having money can bring.

Be nicer and less flashy. You may think people will like and respect you more based on your possessions, but in reality being more compassionate and kind works better. Make sure that when you’re buying possessions it’s for the right reasons – spending money to show people how much money you have is the fastest way to have less money.

Save. Just save. You don’t need a specific reason to save. Saving for something like a car or a down-payment for a house is good, but save as a default strategy too. Who knows what expenses can crop up as a surprise, wouldn’t it make more sense to be financially ready when they crop up?

Define the cost of success and be ready to pay it. The cost of success in investing is the uncertainty, the doubt, and the fear of losing some of your money. But if you want to play the game you need to see those things as a fee for participating. If you’re not willing to pay it, you may be better off just holding everything in cash and settling for a 0% return.

Worship room for error. You never want to be in a position where you could lose all your money, or losses in the market affecting the lifestyle that you live. If you lose a little you can still recover. If you lose it all, you have no money left, and you’ve been ejected from the game with no bankroll to buy back in. Avoid ruin at all costs.

Avoid the extreme ends of financial decisions. The more extreme your financial decisions, the more likely you may regret them if your goals and desires change at a later date. Good investing is less about making good decisions than it is about consistently not screwing up. You can afford not to be the best investor in the world, but you can’t afford to be a bad one.

You should like risk because it pays off over time. But you should be afraid of too much risk that would ruin your chances of winning the overall game.

Define the game you’re playing. Remember that everyone has their own unique financial goals based on the lifestyle and life goals they have. You don’t even necessarily have to compare yourself to overall market returns either. Just choose a strategy that you’d be happy with, without looking at other people and what they’re doing.

Respect the mess. There’s no single right answer in building wealth. Just find out what works for you.

Want to read more on investing? Read about Benjamin Graham’s value investing philosophy.

Ronald Read: The World’s Most Unexpected Millionaire

On June 2nd 2014, a 92-year-old man died in Vermont. His name was Ronald Read, and he was a retired janitor and gas station attendant. His favorite hobbies included wood-chopping and stamp-collecting. He grew up having to hitchhike to school, and served in the US military during World War II. He liked drinking coffee, and English muffins with peanut butter.

Soon after he died, Read’s name was all over the news headlines. In his will, he left $2 million to his two stepchildren and gave $6 million to his local hospital and library. Where on Earth did a retired janitor and gas station attendant get all that money from? He had lived frugally, and purchased blue-chip stocks throughout his working life. And then he waited, reinvested his dividends and watched his portfolio grow. By the time he died, the value of his holdings amounted to more than $8 million. Read went from janitor, to gas station attendant, to the greatest philanthropist his town had ever produced.

This story just demonstrates that wealth-building comes more from saving and investing than on income. Forming the habit of paying yourself first, and funding investment and savings before paying for expenses is probably one of the most valuable skills I have learned in the last few years. Many people postpone saving and investing for when their income rises to a particular level, but in reality when earnings increase it’s much easier just to spend the equivalent increase in money instead of growing wealth.

It also shows that pretty much anyone in the Western world can achieve this level of wealth, insofar as they live long enough and stay disciplined enough. The capability of the compound effect in investing is so powerful, but only when enough time is given to the compounding process. $82.6 billion of 90-year-old Warren Buffett’s $85.6 billion net worth came after his 65th birthday. And that’s not because he got way better at investing after 65, it’s just the absurdity of the compound effect.