Here’s a personal finance tip for recent college graduates — get to know your relationship with money. This is a story of how this college graduate’s relationship with money affected her life after college.
My friend, Haley, and I moved to Seattle with a lot of student loan debt and no jobs lined up…To say that we were broke was an understatement. We were in debt.
So it’s no surprise to me that the biggest takeaway I observed from her experience as a post-grad is about personal finance (there are other takeaways, but this is what stuck out to me).
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Haley’s expectations for life after college is that of any typical college student— graduate, move to a big city, get a job, spend free time with loved ones, and climb the ladder. If you look at the bigger picture, that is exactly what happened. We did all of those things and we did them in that order. But that’s definitely not how we felt like things were going. It’s possible you will feel the same way.
At the time, we felt like failures because we couldn’t afford to do the things we thought we’d be able to do once we were adults.
Read on to find out how Haley was able to overcome this mindset and start to enjoy life with her entry-level position income.
1. During your senior year, how did the thought of graduation and life after college make you feel?
Excited, scared, eager, and timid. I decided to not pursue dental school during my senior year and had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. I also did five years of college because I transferred so I was ready to be done with school and was excited to move to a new city and hopefully get paychecks.
2. What expectations did senior-year-you have for life after college?
My expectation was to:
- move to Seattle
- get a sweet apartment that was cheap
- see my friends and boyfriend all the time
- adventure around every weekend!
As for a job:
- Since I got a B.S. in bio, I wanted to get a laboratory technologist job even though there are only two labs in Seattle that rarely hired new people.
- Preferably, I wanted to get this job within the summer after college.
3. Did you have anything lined up after college?
Nope! Moved to Seattle with no job and the highest hopes!
4. What emotions did you experience during your first year out of college while applying to jobs?
I feel like I was pretty optimistic most of the time. I remember the excitement every time I actually qualified for a job and they didn’t want a ton of experience. Then feeling stoked when they asked for an interview.
It was hard on my pride when they didn’t ask me back or want to hire me.
But when they did want to hire me it was pure bliss!
I didn’t know it at the time, but I also had a lot of anxiety building. Even when I got a job, I wasn’t usually paid enough to do all the things I thought I would do. And I always worried I would get fired for no reason.
5. Tell me about your first job (that required a four-year-degree) out of college. And how long did it take you to get that job?
I can’t remember if my first job required a four-year degree. But that job was cleaning dog kennels at a veterinary clinic for 21 hours a week at $10/hr.
For sure my second job required a four-year degree. I got it after about 6-8 weeks at that first job. I was working as a part-time insurance verification specialist (I had no clue about anything to do with insurance!) and a part-time lab technician. Our clinic and lab did IVF and IUI’s. Lots of looking at sperm and occasionally watching the experienced technologists inseminate and egg!
During this job, I lived for the lab work and weekends and hated the insurance part. It was very humbling realizing I can’t just hop into a job and have it be perfect.
Plus, my commute was intense, about an hour and a half each way. It was too much to pay in gas in my good ol’ 99′ Ford Explorer so I took the bus which was about 2 hours each way.
I also got a look into inter-office relationships and how there is still drama in the “real world” and it is always best to just stay quiet and do what you believe is right.
6. What are your takeaways from your first year of college about the expectations senior-year-you had vs. how things played out?
I wish I had known so much more about money!! Luckily, Laurie and I lived together and were open about money with each other. It was so nice having someone going through similar things so we could talk about what we learned from Dave Ramsey. We both got into budgets right away.
I didn’t realize how much a job and commute you don’t enjoy sucks the energy out of you. After work, all I wanted to do was eat dinner and go to bed. Working out and taking care of myself in any other way went out the window.
I wish I knew that it’s okay to invest in yourself a little. Make part of your budget for things that you need to keep you sane and make you happy at least once a week. Even if that is a yummy meal, walk-in workout class, or a new essential oil! Take some time for yourself even if you have to literally schedule it.
And I think being ready to show grace and patience with myself. I wish I would have known I was going to make mistakes and they weren’t going to be the end of the world. That it is okay if you don’t make as much money as your friends; you can still be happy with local adventures instead of international ones.
7. If you could talk to senior-year-you, what would you say to yourself about life after college?
- It is going to be okay. It will not be easy but it will be okay.
- You can get through hard things. You don’t need to do all the things, just focus on one thing at a time. You will have to make adjustments that will make you uncomfortable and stressed but that will only make you better once you navigate those situations.
- Lean into your friends and don’t be afraid to ask for help from them or a professional.
- If something doesn’t feel right, something isn’t right. Talk to your parents about your struggles because it takes a weight off your shoulders and they have probably been through it.
- Don’t be afraid to have fun!
- Even if you go over budget a little, it will be worth it to let your hair down and enjoy life! It does get better!
When Haley and I first moved to Seattle, we both felt like we couldn’t afford to do the things we wanted to. And I can’t speak for Haley on this, but I also felt like I didn’t deserve to eat a meal out when I had student loans looming over me. It took both Haley and me a while to start to ease up on our financial situations so we could enjoy our 20s.
I’m not saying to throw caution to the wind and pretend your debts don’t exist. But I am saying to get to know your relationship with money so that you can use money as a tool rather than the dictator of what you get to experience.
P.S. Grab a copy of the free productive job-hunting cheat sheet to be sure you are getting through your job hunt efficiently.
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