Salaried, but still stressed about money
To help out a friend working on an internship project, I volunteered an hour of my time the other day to answer some of his questions related to the finance world. While none of the topics shocked me or needed deep thought, the experience still prompted me to go over my budget and overall financial status (again).
And yup, you guessed it: I'm still nervous about making ends meet.
I'm 22, and, like many, I grew up in a household where money was tight. I learned to be frugal in most aspects of my life, and I've always tried my best to stick to a budget. Ever since I started getting regular paychecks I can easily see where my money goes. Although I'm salaried and have a great health insurance plan, my list of expenses constantly grows.
Each month, I pay for:
Car expenses (tires, insurance, etc.)
This doesn't even include a gym membership (that I wanted but ended up cancelling) or any entertainment costs to maintain a social life. And this leaves only a small chunk to put into savings--that is, if I don't run into anything unexpected. Last month I had to chock up $500 to fix part of my car's coolant system, and this week I spent about $250 on snow tires.
Obviously, it could be a lot worse. I have plenty of friends who have awful medical bills every month. I don't *have* to pay for internet, and I don't *have* to buy wine when I get groceries for the week. Yeah, I could be living in a box, too. The point I'm trying to make, though, is that, even with a great starting salary for my field, I still stress about my finances--and I don't expect that to change anytime soon.
So many my age feel the same way. We worked all through college, not having the luxury to only focus on classes. After graduating with varying ranges of debt, we are still tip-toeing through our adult lives, dodging expenses and financial disasters that could end us up in the hole every day.
Depending on the study, I fall between being classified as a Millennial or a Gen Z. Regardless, my friends and I were raised during a recession. The philosophy that we should spend as little money as possible in every purchase we make has been drilled into our heads since elementary school. Most of us feel bad spending anything of quality on ourselves, to the extent that we feel guilty about buying food at the grocery store. I don't know how many times I have stood in the middle of an aisle at Meijer, comparing the pros and cons of two food items for nearly ten minutes because I'm anxious about overspending. Is the healthier option worth 49 more cents?!
We weighed the option of pursuing the career we loved or following the path that promised security. We ignored the "check engine" light until our cars started smoking. We debated going to therapy or buying groceries for the week.
On top of this, my friends and I always want to choose the most ecologically-friendly, ethical options, but it's hard to do that when your funds are already limited. Guilt = more stress.
I was told over and over: "Don't worry! Money is tight in college, but you'll be more secure once you start your career!"
It should have been more like: "Don't worry! Money is tight in college, and also for the rest of your life, and you'll probably have to work through your retirement and still die poor, so you might as well not worry about it!"
"A comparison of millennials (adults currently ages 25 to 35) with earlier cohorts (Gen-Xers and late baby boomers)
when they were the same age shows that even though a higher percentage of both millennial men and women have
college degrees, they are behind in almost every economic dimension."
"Rising rents and increasing student loan debt have pushed the retirement age to 75 for college graduates, according
to a new NerdWallet study. That’s an increase from NerdWallet’s last analysis, which used 2012 data and predicted an
average retirement age of 73 for the Class of 2013.
Compared to the current average retirement age of 62 , today’s college graduates will work 13 years longer. And,
with an average life expectancy of 84 , they’ll spend only 9 years in retirement.
NerdWallet’s research is based on a 23-year-old new graduate earning the current median starting salary of $45,478."
It's not that I'm necessarily against working for the rest of my life (as long that it's in a field that I enjoy). The problem is
that the stress of staying on top of everything sucks the life out of us. And, perhaps more importantly, these facts sometimes suggest that adding on to our lives with marriage or families equate to insurmountable effort and risk.
This is not meant to be an overly-pessimistic post, or to bring stress to my audience. I am very happy with where I am in life, and I have a wonderful support system that I can turn to if things truly turn dire. However, finances and security are just a lot to think about on top of everything else that weighs on my mind day-to-day. It's no wonder people my age suffer from high anxiety levels.
Can anybody relate to my stress? I know I'm not the only one! Maybe you can send me some tips while you're here.
Until next time,