Ask Paul: I'm new to investing and wish I'd started earlier


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Dear Paul,

I'm a new reader and can see you give really savvy advice. I'm 34 years old and have a decent job. I've only just started investing for the purpose of dividends.

The only thing is, I feel like I need to pour in every cent I have each year to hopefully get five-digit returns in seven to 10 years. And that's only investing in one stock!

ask paul clitheroe i'm new to investing and wish i had started earlier

I can't help but feel the dread in thinking I should have started sooner, and I want to do this to help save for a house and have money work for me instead of putting money aside in the bank. 

Do you have any advice? Is it possible I could get high returns and not need to wait until I'm 60 because I started late? Any tactics around this? And should I avoid having all my eggs in one basket?

Readers are being kind to me this month, and I do thank you for your positive comment on my thoughts about money. I think we all learn a few things as we go through life, and a lot of my life has been in the world of money.

I am responding to your question with a big smile, firstly because you are worried, at age 34, that you should have started investing earlier. With hindsight, I should have done the same, but it seemed to me that beer, golf, sailing and travel were a cracking investment.

Thank heavens I took that approach. Sure, if I had started saving once I left university, I'd be a lot richer, but now in my late 60s I am pleased to have done okay with money, but more pleased about my life, marriage, kids, grandkids and friendships.

Money is great; it gives you choices.

But you have ample decades to do well with money.

The balancing act for you is saving. This is, of course, the difference between what you earn and what you spend. You will have super building up for your later life, but investing on a regular basis is really good.

Topping up your savings, through direct shares or a low-cost exchange traded fund, makes a lot of sense. At age 34, though, you are your own best investment. What can you do to improve your work skills so you can earn more money with better career prospects? Will an extra qualification help you?

My net worth at age 34 was negligible, but with education, developing my work skills and so on, I felt I was in a position to do okay. Most of us make most of our money well after age 34. So, keep saving, but develop relevant work skills.

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Paul Clitheroe AM is founder and editorial adviser of Money magazine. He is one of Australia's leading financial voices, responsible for bringing financial insight to Australians through personal finance books, the Money TV show, and this publication, which he established in 1999. Paul is the chair of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and is chairman of InvestSMART Financial Services. He is the chair of Financial Literacy at Macquarie University where he is also a Professor with the School of Business and Economics. Ask Paul your money question. Unfortunately Paul cannot respond to questions posted in the comments section. View our disclaimer.
Money magazine
November 23, 2023 8.59am


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Stella Young
December 6, 2023 5.07pm

I was a stay-at-home mum (an excellent investment), so my husband and I were not in a position to start serious saving for retirement until we were almost 50. I retired at 68 (my husband four years earlier) and we have enough to live on without an age pension. We are so blessed.

Money magazine
December 6, 2023 6.49pm

Thanks for sharing your experience, Stella, it sounds like you two have worked hard and it's paid off.

- Money team