I’m a cabin crew member on £20k a year and got furloughed in the pandemic. How do I future-proof my finances?

I am single, living at home with my parents. I used to spend money as soon as it came in, because I wanted experiences and never really thought about the future. No one knows how long they will be around for – ‘life is short’ and ‘you only live once’ was the way I thought about money. A BAD mindset!

Lily* is 23, lives in Canterbury and is a furloughed cabin crew member earning £20k a year. This is her money month…

Since I started my full-time job as cabin crew, I have been more focused on saving money for the future. I have been contributing to my pension and my Help to Buy ISA. My mindset before the pandemic was to save some money, but to also enjoy and spend it on experiences, adventures and eating out whenever I was working, as I wanted to enjoy each country I visited.

I was furloughed back in April. I have no idea how long it will go on for – I’m guessing January 2021. My company normally updates us a month in advance whether we are extending furlough or not. There is no information at the moment.

During the pandemic I have been thinking about saving more and investing my money for long-term goals. I am still uncertain about the future of my job, so I am trying to figure out a side hustle or other ways of making money. I want to invest in the stock market but it is risky and I need a safety net with my finances.


Current account: £100
Savings accounts: Regular savings account, £2,500; Help to Buy ISA, £2,338.89; Stocks, £750 (this number is going up and down daily)
Pension: £1,200 (at the moment I can only contribute 2% until I have worked at the company for longer). This comes out of my pay before it gets into my account.


Annual base salary pre-tax: Typically £20k pre-tax.
Monthly wage: £1,200 (furlough money after tax).
Monthly wage post-Covid-19: It would always vary month to month depending on how many flying hours. Usually £1,500-£1,600 a month.


Rent: £150 (I live at home)
Bills: £300 (car, phone, subscriptions)
Splurges: Eating out. I have been taking advantage of the 50% off food offers and I have had a couple staycations this month.
Budget: I don’t really have a budget, but I try to stick with the 50:30:20 rule (set aside 50% of your income for needs, 30% for wants and 20% for savings.)
What I spent this month: £300


Credit card: I only use this card abroad or for petrol and have set up a direct debit to pay in full each month. Sometimes I pay it off straight away as I only have a credit card to help with my credit score.
Car: I have a car on finance, I wanted a new car to be reliable for long journeys as I commute two hours to work.


What I want to save for: I would like to have a large amount of savings and an investments portfolio.
How I want to plan my money for the future: I would love to be financially independent; I want to keep my expenses low and my income high. I would also like to make passive income through property investments.
My worst money habit: I spend a lot of money on experiences and adventures when I am abroad. I treat my money like it is monopoly money as I am in that holiday mindset when really this is work.
My biggest money worry: That I won’t be able to buy my own house and be financially stable.
Current money mood: 🤯 🤔 🤓


Future planning in uncertain times
Not knowing what lies ahead sucks, but you’re doing the right thing and have already made major headway in building financial security. You may never need it, but having an emergency fund will give you peace of mind and most importantly, the ability to say a big f o**. Side note, if you’re in need of some financial inspiration, have a read of the iconic Paulette Perhach’s essay. By living at home your costs are fairly low so work out how much you’d need to save to cover 6 months* worth of living expenses. Break that down into realistic monthly targets and stash that money away. Don’t invest it, just yet..

*in an ideal world. For many, particularly those renting (hello, London), this is unrealistic. Do what you can.

Investing in the stock market
Once you’ve got your emergency fund sorted, investing can be a great way to build wealth but (and it’s a big but) there are no shortcuts. Over lockdown, interest in day trading has surged leading to a number of unsuspecting novice investors getting lured in by ‘get rich’ trading courses which promise to teach them the secrets to ‘easy money’. Sadly, there’s no such thing. Investing is best done over the long term, which in the world of finance is 5 years plus. That gives you plenty of time to ride out bumps in the markets.

What are you investing in?
You’re right that investing in the stock market can be risky, but the kinds of investment you make vary and in turn, determine how much risk you’re taking. Cue the fund; think of it a bit like a pick and mix. If a single sweet is a single company or asset, a fund is a whole bag; You’re not just pinning your hopes on a single investment, you’re managing your risk by investing a little bit, in many. When it comes to investing in funds, you have a few options: DIY investing; save money, do you own research and pick a fund(s) that are right for you. Robo-advisors; like digital financial advisor which uses clever algorithms. Finally, you’ve got financial advisors; an actual human who can give you bespoke advice and invest on your behalf.

What’s the back-up?
With extra time on your hands, strategise and build your back-up career plan. A bit like the emergency fund, you may never need it but knowing it’s there could be a real comfort if things got tricky. Take some time to reflect on your career and explore other options. For inspiration, look at free online courses (Khan Academy and Future Learn are great) and see what sparks your interest. Thinking back to the aspects of your job that you really loved can also be useful.

Build your side-hustle
You want to earn some extra cash which could be a great way to accelerate your savings. Broadly, you can split side-hustles into online: selling skills on Fiverr, running an Etsy shop, social media management, online tutoring etc. and offline: delivering food, Uber driving, tutoring in person, dog walking. For some serious entrepreneurial inspo, take a look at this series.

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