Sunday, January 23, 2011

Young and Expensive

After graduating college (especially in this economy), let's face it. Most of us won't be making that much money. They call it a starting salary for a reason and those of us in my field might not see much more than a living stipend while we take opportunities to establish ourselves. At the same time, we feel like we should live lives of kings. With sophisticated clothes, an apartment in downtown DC, fancy restaurants, why shouldn't we take advantage? The problem is, the lifestyles we seek to live are lifestyles we simply cannot afford, at least in this stage of our lives. With small starting salaries (provided we achieve employment), student loan debt, and a high cost of living, it just isn't doable. Something's gotta give.

It just amazes me to see how many young people splurge on everything. Constant shopping sprees, rents close to what they make in a month, take out, restaurants, bar hopping, lattes every morning from Starbucks. Is it any surprise that we're freaking out at the month's end, wondering how we'll pay rent, pay back student loans, get groceries? Forget about saving for retirement, this is paycheck to paycheck plus a credit card! Is it any wonder we don't get to do the things we want to do, like travel more, pay back our loans more quickly, possibly save for a wedding should it come up? We miss out on so many opportunities just because we can't live without our Starbucks and our happy hours. Or because, we HAVE to have our cushy one bedrooms on the Hill instead of sharing a room in Southwest. Does this make any sense?

The thing is, we can't and shouldn't have it all right now. In order to make the big bucks with accompanying lifestyles, we have to work for it (and, for some of us, maybe consider a career change). In the meantime, we can't just blow our money on stupid things. If having your own room is important, that's fine, but live somewhere you don't have to spend most of your earnings on to afford it. If having your morning coffee is important, make it yourself and bring a thermos, or just drink what's in the office. You don't have to blow your money on Starbucks. You don't have to go to expensive places to hang out with your friends (if you do, you need new friends). You don't have to constantly shop to have a nice work wardrobe.

I'm not saying don't ever splurge. We all do on occasion. However, saving is important. You need to have a cushion in case something happens. Like, you lose your job. Or, something happens to you and your insurance won't cover a huge portion of the costs. And it's not too early to think of retirement. If you have a good job, you should put at least a small amount of savings away (and employers will usually match it). Social Security payments just don't cut it anymore and pensions are virtually obsolete. Also, if I ever develop a condition in my old age that makes it impossible for me to work, I'll have wanted to save while young to cover whatever expenses I need. Or, if my kids got in a bad situation (not of their own fault), I'll want to be able to give them some assistance.

Yes, I still intend to have a life of travel and adventure. I understand that I may be living on stipends and part time jobs for awhile as I accomplish my goals and establish myself. It may be a couple years before I can start my retirement fund. In the meantime, I will work hard to not live above my means. I need to take care of myself and to be smart about what I spend. I hope other young people take this to heart.

1 comment:

  1. I couldnt splurge if i wanted to lol! That is what I get for marrying a poor man. Oh well being frugal is fun :)