“Money, money, money, moneyyyyy”
When I graduated engineering school, I had a rather grandiose imagination of what my financial future would be like. A high-paying job was the first inevitable outcome. Money, money! And not one that I would have to look for, not really. I was after all bringing an advanced biomedical engineering degree to the table. I pictured all these firms and companies ringing my number off the hook (how they would have my phone number was also not my concern) begging me to join one of their fine institutions.
This bidding war would of course be followed by numerous offers and attractive employment packages with phrases like “stock options” and “retirement plan” being tossed around carelessly in my face. After making my selection, I expected to then sit back and await the hefty signing bonus to clear into my account then I would spoil myself with a limited edition car not much unlike this one before speeding off into the sunset of my financial dreams.
It took the first three months of not receiving a single invitation to interview for a job to realize that my finances existed just as I feared: in my dreams.
The problem with the ongoing education model is that we are (mis)led to believe that all one has to do to be financially secure is obtain a degree (and obviously certain fields infinitely increase one’s chances at making more money) and the rest of the puzzle pieces will serendipitously fall into place. We start to convince ourselves that it’s quite alright to accrue colossal sums of debt in the pursuit of higher education because it will “surely pay off one day”.
And there is no better way to embolden the spirit of a dying man than to promise salvation at the eleventh hour. It becomes his sole definition. Maximised your credit card by sophomore year? It’s ok, take out a new one. When you graduate you’ll pay both off just on your signing bonus alone. Emptied out your savings to take that spring break trip to Cancun? No problem at all, you’ll soon have a six-figure salary from which you can consistently save at least 40%. The promise of a future when all the financial burden will magically dissolve seems almost too good to be true.
Because it is.
When I did eventually find a job post graduation, it was one I pursued out of genuine interest and not potential for remuneration. And as it always happens with these things, I barely made enough to cover my day-to-day expenses. Although I enjoyed the work immensely, it immediately became apparent that my dreams of a owning a car – talk less of a luxury one at that – were fast fading into oblivion. With them were the hopes to invest in a home three years post-graduation, upgrading my wardrobe into more sartorially superior items, paying off my credit card debt at once, clearing off my student loans etc. All these goals, which at one time not only seemed realistic but also dire, were fast fading to the bottom of my “To-Do-Eventually” list.
However in all this came an important financial lesson, perhaps the most important of them all. Never plan for money you do not actually have.
Guest post by Nelumbo
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