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Why the 15% Rule is Your Key to Freedom

Why the 15% Rule is Your Key to Freedom

Why the 15% Rule is Your Key to Freedom

15% of your income = freedom

What I mean by freedom: control of what you do with your money and the ability to reach your personal goals. Snazzy? Yes.

This 15% rule is also one of the core parts of the free 6 day email course. Read on to find out why…

Here’s what we’ll talk about today:


  1. What is this 15%?
  2. How do I implement it in college?
  3. What should I use it on?
  4. The future

15% rule

What is this 15%?

Very simple – it comes from the notion of Pay Yourself First. This means that every time you receive your income, you allocate 15% to yourself. Yourself means your goals: paying off debt, a new car, investments, a nice trip, etc.

The thing is, you allocate that money away the second you receive your paycheck/loan. You can’t spend it on going out, food or rent. That money is for the very personal goals, the ones with a future.


How do I implement it in college?

You work on your 15% through your budget. So the first step is to create a budget – yay! I go through this in my student budgeting guide, but here it is again just for you:

Very simple – get a nice big piece of A4 paper, a pen and a calculator (maybe even a ruler if you’re a perfectionist).

Start by drawing 5 columns:

15% rule

Then fill these out with the following: Income, Budget, Expenses, Savings and Debt.

15% rule

Then, very simple: slot in your income every month and then your expenses. Have no idea where your money goes each month? Do a rough estimate – check your bank account or try tracking for a week, see what happens. Below we have Jimmy’s expenses (he loves takeaway).

15% rule

Everyone’s budget will look differently. Maybe you have irregular income, maybe you have a credit card and like overspending every month (not good!) or maybe you have some expenses that don’t happen exactly every month. For this reason I always like to start with a piece of paper – write down whatever you feel is necessary. Add extra columns, strange signs, whatever helps you understand what’s going on with the ££.


The Spending

Now we get to the magical part:

Calculate 15% of your total income and add it to the budget column as ‘Savings’.

15% rule

And now figure out where all the rest of the money goes. The magic is that you’ve already allocated a percentage to your savings – and so you don’t have to worry about making the rest lower than your income!  Let’s see how Jimmy’s done it:

15% rule
Do you see how the magic of the 15% rule works? Before you even have time to think what to spend your money on, 15% is off working on your goals and improving your financial life

The minute you receive your income for the month, calculate 15% of it and set it aside (check out the budgeting guide to find out what to do after)

Which brings us to the next question…


What do I do with the 15%?

Aha! Very good question. So this 15% is very valuable. It may not seem like a lot of money at the beginning, but as it accumulates it can produce a pretty neat pile of cash. If you want to take #responsibility to the next level, here are some steps to figure out the best way to use that 15%.


  1. Pay off debt

If you’ve got credit card debt or other consumer debt, get rid of it immediately. It piles up very quickly and will only cause misery.

If you’ve decided you’re going to pay off your student loans, use this extra money to get rid of it as soon as possible. The 6 day course covers how to do this as well.


  1. Investing

The next best thing to do with your money is invest it: put it into low cost index funds and watch the money pile grow. Set up a direct debit to the investing platform; the minute you get your paycheck and calculate that 15%, send it off to Vanguard or whichever platform you use. As the months go on, you’ll accumulate a nice amount of assets which will also be earning interest for you. You can then use this money for the future: buy a house, save for retirement, emergencies, etc.


  1. Build an Emergency Fund

This goes hand in hand with investing – you can use your investment platform to keep your emergency fund, however make sure it’s in secure assets such as bonds. Read the emergency fund guide and then work on it with your 15%; building 2-3 months of expenses and putting it away somewhere safe: investment bonds, or simply a separate savings account.


  1. Treat yo’self

Yes, it’s important to treat yourself. It may be the fourth in the list but I’ll explain later how you can be responsible and get some nice treats as well. What do I mean by treats? An exciting trip to the other side of the world, a car, a new laptop, etc.

The best part is that you’ll be turning this consumerism into delayed gratification: every month you put some money away for that exciting BIG THING until you can finally afford it. And you’ll proudly be able to say: I bought it with my own money and I bought it responsibly. #adulting.


  1. Money Experiments

This is for the money geeks (#me). Really interested in learning more about the money and what you could do with it? Why not use some of it to experiment? This could mean starting a new side-hustle, something like peer to peer lending, investing in something riskier (crypto?). I do recommend doing the responsible stuff first: make sure you’ve paid your debt off and your emergency fund is in place. And then use the money for your financial education: try some new things, buy some books, attend some seminars. Many times that’s the money best spent; the future returns could be way higher than you imagine.

So these are 5 things you can allocate your 15% to. And once you see all the exciting things you can do with that extra money, you realise that it does not have to be 15%. It could be 20%, or 30% or even 50%. This isn’t the easiest thing to do on a meagre student budget, but once you graduate and earn some good money, working towards a high Pay Yourself First percentage will get you very far.


15% rule

ah yes why not put my 15% into gold?

The thing is, it’s not easy to choose what to allocate that 15% to. You could say ‘But I wanna do all those five things!’. Well, the good news is: you can. It just takes a few more calculations and discipline to stick to the budget.

Jimmy wants to pay off his credit card debt, build an emergency fund and buy a trip South America. He has 15% every month to work with. Going on from his budget, this means he has £127.5 every month. He decides to divide it up:


  • Half will go to credit card debt.
  • A quarter will go to building his emergency fund
  • A quarter will go to a savings account for his trip to SA


Here’s a lil pie chart:

15% rule
And so every month, he calculates his 15% and then makes sure the right amount goes off in the right direction. Pretty cool.

And if you want to use more of that money, you can! It’s all up to you where you put it. The more the money works for you the more you’re winning –  freedom.


The future = freedom

Another great part of the 15% rule is how ready you’ll be once you graduate. Not only will you be used to allocating a percentage of your income to yourself, but you’ll have this cushion of money that’s been working for you. Thanks to the emergency fund you won’t be in too much rush to find a job, with 2-3 months of expenses ready for you. If you already started investing it won’t be so unfamiliar to you once you start working – and that money will keep earning interest. You also know how to get those treats in a more responsible way: by working towards them up bit by bit.

This is what I mean when I say freedom: you are no longer stuck to a job to get what you want. If you don’t get your paycheck one month, you’re ok. If something breaks down and you need to replace it, you’re ok. And you’ll (hopefully) aim to accumulate some wealth for the future, so future you will be ok.

This extremely simple 15% rule is the secret to being financially responsible, to being financially intelligent and independent. And you can literally start right now!

Ever heard of a similar version of the 15% rule? What’s yours?

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