Sunday, October 17, 2010

3 Reasons College Grads Are Still Bad With Money

I'm increasingly alarmed at the notion that having a college degree somehow makes a person intellectually superior in the area of personal finance.  Last I checked, personal finance has yet to be made a mandatory course on high school and college campuses in this country even though it is the one subject you actually do need in the real world no matter what path you ultimately select.

So, why is it that when I write a blog post about poor spending behaviors, the first person to disagree always justifies their opinion with "I'm a college graduate . . . "  as if that means anything to me.  Guess what? I'm a college graduate, as well and I left one of the best institutions on the West Coast with thousands of dollars of debt not including student loans.  I had grants, scholarships, parental support and a full time job all four years.  I was a Dean's List student that unfortunately just sucked with money.  I wasn't out buying designer bags and taking Spring Break excursions either. It was truly the little things that added up and I actually fell for the "Life Takes Visa" slogan! 

Luckily, the light bulb came on early and I was able to turn things around fairly quickly, but what happens to the college graduate who is stellar academically, as well as in their chosen career and still doesn't know how to manage money?  Here are 3 reasons college graduates may still find themselves in a money rut:

1. We have the "I've made it/I deserve it!" attitude.  As college graduates, we tend to want everyone to know that we've made it.  As soon as the ink settles on our first offer letter, we're out leasing luxury cars, dressing in designer everything (for our new position, of course) and moving to the "good" side of town.  The difference is that as super intellectual college graduates, we don't want to admit that we're trying to keep up with the Kardashians, so we say, "I have to look the part to be taken seriously in my career" or "I went to college and I deserve this (insert unnecessary indulgence here)."


2. We honestly believe we automatically know better. We believe our degree justifies us as smart in every subject to everyone around us. This is not about someone else being "dumb" or as I've read here on the comments, "ghetto."  This is not a "Hood vs. Harvard" debate. Just because you may be the first in your family to go to college, yea you may know more than the other kids from the neighborhood, but now you actually have more access to debt sources and can likely fall prey to them more quickly and aggressively than your "uneducated" counterpart.  Don't let the pride in your degree stop you from getting help when and if you need it.

3. We confuse our income with our net worth.  So reportedly a college graduate earns about double the income a non-college graduate earns annually.  Does this mean that their net worth is necessarily more? Absolutely not! It wouldn't matter if you earned $100k per year or $50k per year, the wealthier person is the one who lives beneath their means and makes sound investment choices. Period. Just because you earn more money than the next person, don't assume you are better off than they are.  You may look well off, but they might really be where you wish you were financially.

At its core, the issues we have with money as adults are based upon what we grew up learning, seeing or hearing about money from our parents and other adults or influencers around us as a child.  If we don't become aware of why we relate to money the way we do, many of us will continue to sabotage our financial success, regardless of whether we've had formal education or not. 

NOTE to those who are tempted to e-mail me about the economy: Stop blaming where you are financially on the recession, depression or economy.  The recession did not create foreclosures and bankruptcies; it just exposed how many people were truly living beyond their means and with no financial plan in place. If everyone, college graduate or not, doesn't get some type of personal finance education, this will not be the first time we see our economy devastated by financial mismanagement.

Until Next Time,
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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great read. This is so true.Keep up the good work.

Fatherhood Manners said...

Your article is 100% a must read to everyone trying to impress materialistically. However, it is unfortunate but the general misguided consensus is 'The more you have - The know you know.' This attitude is how the public choose their doctors, lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, etc. And in some cases even our churches and preachers. The concept that people in expensive cars, jewelry, and clothes are more astute must also be eradicated from the mindset of the public. A young lawyer called to represent a wealthy client is more likely to be hired if he/she arrived in a BMW that on the car I drive (let your imagination wander).

Anonymous said...

On point and it is great to hear an individual from the next generation adopting the tried and true wisdom as our grandparents. Now, if we could spread this mentality to others in the U.S. just as fast as those reality stars rise to "fame", we would be a dangerous society not to be played with in the world.

A. Domestic Engineer said...

good, honest read! too many college students, graduates or otherwise, fall victim to the ad campaigns of what they can have and who they can be so aptly drowning college campuses. it is important for individuals to assess their situation and act accordingly.

when we choose to live above our means we are ultimately constructing the blueprint for our downfall. sure, it feels good to SEEM like you're on the top, but when you're low will the people you were trying to impress help you out? not likely.

kudos for being honest in a time where everyone is biting their tongue about finance and how people have gotten into debt. as important as it is to help people OUT of debt, i feel it is more important to teach them how NOT to crawl into it.