Gen Y saves for rainy days

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 December, 2010, 12:00am

It's one of the most interesting generational shifts in living memory, but who would have thought that the hippy, dopey baby boomers would engender the savvy, chary Generation Y?

Contrary to the stereotype of being mindless consumers, many Gen Y members - those born in the '80s - are putting their money away for a rainy day. According to a survey commissioned by HSBC earlier this year, 74 per cent of 800 Gen Y members interviewed had specific saving goals. On average, they started investing at 21 - nine years earlier than their parents.

The most popular first-time investment products include Hong Kong securities, initial public offerings and unit trusts. Interestingly, 40 per cent of Gen Ys believe that investing in securities is the best way to save. Property, an enduring investment in Hong Kong, does not have that much appeal.

Take Idy Wong, a 29-year-old financial planner. She started investing in stocks when she was just 19. 'Young people must know how to make money with money instead of just relying on their fixed salary for savings.'

She also invests in Indian, Chinese, Brazilian and Russian funds. Furthermore, she is saving up for an apartment - not to live in but to rent out for extra income. 'The question now is not about how much you can earn monthly. It is about how your assets are performing,' she says.

The difference between baby boomers and the Gen Ys is that the latter, whose coming of age coincides with a tumultuous decade for stocks and property, are investing wisely, diversifying their portfolio and not taking more risks than they can bear, says Vincent Wong, a 26-year-old customer service assistant at a shipping company.

He divides his income into four equal shares - one for investing in stocks, one for investing in funds, one for supporting his parents and one for saving. 'I think our awareness of a potential [financial] crisis is heightened. I had seen how things plummeted during the [2003] Sars period and the financial tsunami,' he says. Speculating in property is not an option for many socially conscious Gen Y members. 'Many people speculate in property to make money, but I see this as a double-edged sword. I have seen the suffering of people whose households are in negative equity,' says marketer Stella Chu, 24.

The younger generation also prefers to marry work with interest, pursuing further education to develop a second or even third career that is not only money-driven but also interest-based for lifelong fulfilment.

'We need some savings, but we will continue working when we grow old,' says Agnes Chan, a 32-year-old arts school administrator. 'I think I will continue working in arts and culture after retirement.'

Meanwhile, Chu is saving up for a master's degree in media and communications, as an interest and a future career option. 'In the past, people could stick to one career, but now the trend is different. Now you have to know a bit about everything,' she says.

Advice for the young at heart

Take a bit of risk

Graduates or career starters should save part of their salary for high-risk investment. They must have a clear objective for every investment.

Expand your social network

Get to know people and their experiences. This could help when you want to start a second career or set up a business.

Save every penny

Cut down your discretionary spending on luxury items. Do the right thing at the right moment.

Work hard

You may not get 10 per cent return on your investment in 10 years, but your salary can rise by 10 per cent in that period if you work hard.

Raymond Liu of GaoDingRenSheng Coaching & Consulting Group