Feeling financially secure in your 20s is rare in this day and age. Home ownership has collapsed among young people over the last two decades and our salaries have stagnated, meaning it's harder for some of us to save than others (and not much fun either).
Nevertheless, it can be reassuring, eye-opening and just downright interesting to see roughly how you're doing relative to others your age, which is why the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has created a tool to do just that.
The interactive calculator, based on official figures, lets you work out how you're doing financially compared with other young people (22 to 29-year-olds) in terms of earnings, home ownership, debt and savings. (Obviously these things should be taken with a pinch of salt – no one needs yet another reason to feel envious or inferior, or to fall into a comparison trap – but the information could be a useful catalyst for changing your behaviour if you're not great with money.)
To do it yourself, first select your age (18 to 21 or 22 to 29), earnings (per week, month or year), living situation (homeowner, renter or living with parents), the amount you have saved and level of debt (not including student loans).
Let's say you told the tool that you're 29, earning £23k a year, living with your parents, have £1,000 saved and have £800 (if only) in credit card debt. You'd discover that your salary is above the average of £20,563, that your living situation is different from most others (31.9% also live with their parents, most people rent), that your savings are below the average of £1,678, and that your debt is below the average of £1,900 among your cohorts.
In practice then, if you find out you're earning more than most people your age, it may make you more empathetic the next time a mate has to skip a night out for financial reasons. If you have less money saved than others, join the club, but the information is useful. It might spur you on to look harder at your spending, ask someone you trust for advice, or go to a building society or bank to discuss savings options. And if you find out your salary is far lower than your peers, let it spur you on to ask for a pay rise (or think about changing jobs).
It's also heartening to be reminded that so many others your age are in the same boat. The ONS also noted that between 2008 and 2017, the proportion of homeowners aged 22 to 29 fell by 10% (from 37% to 27%) and that they're less likely to have savings (53% had no many saved in 2010 – up from 41% in 2008).
If you do find out that your money situation is lacking compared to most of your peers, it's worth remembering the unspoken financial privileges and help that so many people have had along the way. The so-called 'bank of mum and dad' lent adult children £6.5bn to get on the housing ladder in 2017, and it's a figure that's increasing each year. Tools like this won't solve anyone's money woes, but anything that opens up a dialogue among young women about money is a step in the right direction.