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News > Alumni > Millennial Money with Iona Bain (2006, Music)

Millennial Money with Iona Bain (2006, Music)

What one musician turned financial writer has learned about young people's finances.
30 Nov 2023
Iona Bain
Iona Bain

Iona Bain (2006, Music)

Did I think, when I was reading music at Christ Church in the late 2000s, that I would go on to become a financial writer, broadcaster, and author? Definitely not. But then the 2008 financial crash happened, and I didn't know just how much its consequences should shape a whole generation – and my career.

After I graduated, I found myself struggling to achieve financial independence. I was far from alone. Rents were soaring, access to affordable mortgages was disappearing and pay was stalling. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t beset by feelings of inadequacy and failure. It was one reason why I started my website, Young Money Blog, the first blog about millennial money in the UK. I recognised young people didn’t just need information, but solidarity too. Yep, it’s unfair and no, it’s not your fault and yep, I’m going through it too and no, there aren’t any easy answers.

It was a time of rude awakenings (“you want me to work in London for three months for no pay?”) and bitter disappointments. It turns out university didn’t automatically lead to well-paid jobs and a better financial outlook, and it was galling to realise we were earning less and owing more debt than those who graduated pre-crash. And let’s not get even get started about the baby-boomers…

The inter-generational wars have loomed over my whole career to date. I was initiated into the world of TV and radio through guest spots on various programmes as the token angry millennial. But over the years, I’ve realised how much our generation has been personally helped by our parents and grandparents, even if they’ve not always been the best citizens. We may have ended up in a damaging electoral pact which keeps the unaffordable triple lock on state pensions and deprioritises the long-term investment that the younger generations badly need. But one trend I’m keeping an eye on is what we’ll do with the cash handed down to us by the boomers – to put it bluntly, they can’t take it with them (and there are only so many Saga cruises one can take…)

Now I’m in my mid-30s, my perspective has inevitably become more pragmatic, nuanced, and constructive. I’m a TV financial expert for BBC’s Morning Live and I’m advising many of the older people I used to misguidedly rail against, having realised many of them are experiencing real poverty and hardship too.

I have also seen many young people take the motto of my blog to heart – “don’t get mad, get informed” – and become more confident and content about their finances as a result. As we navigate a new financial crisis, with generation Z worrying about the future, we aging millennials might just be able to instil in them a few key lessons – spend wisely, save for that rainy day and learn about debt the easy way. Because I can’t help but think of the 1997 Propellerheads song with the inimitable Shirley Bassey: “To me it seems quite clear/that it’s all just a little bit of history repeating…”

Iona Bain is an award-winning writer, broadcaster and author. She became the UK's go-to voice on millennial money after founding the pioneering Young Money Blog and is now the resident finance expert on BBC Morning Live as well as a reporter for File on 4, busy print journalist and speaker. Her second book, Own It!, was published in 2021. She read music at Christ Church from 2006 to 2009.


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