I'm a 26-year-old HENRY. I'm in the top 1% of earners and a homeowner — I won't be happy until I'm completely financially free.

 Despite my underachievement in school, I was fortunate to gain admission to Coventry University. I initially pursued a degree in economics but later transitioned to business marketing, ultimately graduating with a first-class degree. After a nine-month job search, I secured a position in Wavemaker's graduate program. 

Within the program, I faced a crucial decision: opting for a fun role that lacked hard skills or choosing a less enjoyable path that would impart technical skills in data, engineering, and coding. Recognizing the long-term value of technical skills, I selected the latter. From the outset, I was highly motivated by financial goals, outlining a plan to save £1,000 (approximately $1,250) per month for five years to amass a house deposit. With strategic career moves, I aimed to achieve this goal and secure a house deposit by the age of 26.  

Living room in London flat.
Ben Ruan's living room in his central London apartment 
Ben Ruan

Whenever I work at a company, I ask myself: Am I learning? If I am, I'll continue to work there. But if I'm no longer learning, I must question whether I'm getting paid enough. If I'm not, then it's time to leave. Eventually, I began to feel stagnant in my graduate as an analytics executive. After two years in the role, I applied for other jobs.

I soon landed a job at Snapchat as a data analyst in July 2021. While the job was fun, I knew my salary wasn't enough to reach my financial goals. Banks will loan you 4 ½ times your salary. To afford the kind of house I wanted, I needed to earn at least £80,000 a year.

My experience at Wavemaker and Snapchat meant Big Tech companies were approaching me. This helped me eventually land my current job as a data analyst, which put my income in the top 1% in the UK if you included my stock options.

Throughout this period, I was still living with my mum, saving as much money as possible to put down a deposit.

I paid her £300 a month for rent and always ate whatever she cooked, so my general costs were way lower than now. I was happy to live a few years at home to prevent spending a lot of money on rent.

With my new role, I started looking for houses to buy

I wanted to stay near my mom in London to see her whenever she needed me. I also prioritized buying a newly built apartment, so I didn't have to spend money on home improvements and fixing issues.

With these two key factors in mind, I found a £450,000 apartment in Central London that I loved. I could afford a more expensive property on my current salary, but I wanted to purchase something I could still pay off if I was ever laid off.

Kitchen in London flat.
The kitchen in Ruan's London apartment. 
Ben Ruan

I have monthly mortgage payments of £1,400 after putting down a deposit of £50,000, alongside a £270 monthly service charge for security.

I spend £470 a month to pay off my car. This was a bit of a treat. I grew up really poor. I worked in JD Sports for £7 an hour while at university and remember my mum not wanting me to have friends over because she couldn't feed another mouth. I wanted to reward myself for my hard work, and a £35,000 Mercedes-Benz was that reward.

Other than that, I try to be frugal. My phone is only £15 a month, and my internet is £35. My friend is a barber who cuts my hair for £15. I still shop at cheaper stores such as Asda and Aldi; I'm not going to expensive grocery stores such as Waitrose or Marks & Spencer. I spend about £10 every four days at the shop. I don't eat luxurious things; I just need pasta and mince.

My investments were my biggest outgoing expenses, but now I'm focusing on saving

In the past, my biggest outgoing expenses were investments — mostly going into stocks. Now I'm trying to save over half my earnings. I want my money to be liquid because I want to invest in businesses to generate more money.

Purchasing my apartment was also an investment. When I move out, I'll look to sell or rent the property.

I spent more money on high-end furniture as it'll help me sell or rent the property in the future. A nice sofa and big TV mean I can brand it a high-end property. Once I begin to consider having a family, I'll look to move out. There's no deadline.

Ben Ruan's TV.
Ruan sees big purchases such as a big TV and nice sofa as investments in the apartment's value. 
Ben Ruan

 I am currently making short-term sacrifices in pursuit of long-term freedom. Although purchasing a house was my initial goal, my ultimate aim is to achieve financial freedom. Rather than focusing on a specific monetary target, this freedom represents a desired lifestyle. I envision being able to dine at upscale restaurants, order without concern for the price, and experience the liberating feeling of financial security. My upbringing instilled in me the fear of poverty, compelling me to strive for a situation where such scarcity is never a concern. Once I attain financial freedom, I aspire to settle down, raise three children, and construct a home akin to those featured in Architectural Digest. Although I may not be affluent at present, I am confident that in five years, I will have reached my desired level of financial stability. My plan entails launching a small business and venturing into entrepreneurship. I identify as a HENRY — a high earner, not rich yet. True wealth, in my view, will manifest when I can support those around me. This phase of my life revolves around making sacrifices, maintaining consistency, and perpetually seeking out new opportunities. Ultimately, I strive to reach a point where I no longer exchange my time for money.  

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