Turns out a lot. Probably more than I was willing to admit when I first moved out on my own. And it was another reason for my recent move back home. “Duh,” you might say. “Isn’t that the case with all you entitled 20-somethings?” Well, maybe. Read on for my story.
I entered the job market in 2007 when things weren’t quite so bad, and I still feel grateful to have a held the same job for these past four years. However even us 20-somethings with the jobs aren’t really getting paid the big bucks–or even getting yearly raises. I think those are a thing of the past for most companies these days.
A little history: I left the house with a nice little nest egg (essentially my life savings) and during the three years living out on my own (i.e. with roommates) I saw my bank account grow smaller and smaller, until I was living only about two to three paychecks ahead of my expenses. Given I wasn’t living paycheck to paycheck, but I still wasn’t comfortable with that. I didn’t feel financially secure.
Clearly I was living above my means, but it didn’t feel excessive in any way. I was paying for life’s basic needs and trying to have the social life most any 20-something would want. But I don’t think I realized how much all the little things added up: utilities, Comcast, groceries, dry cleaning, house cleaning supplies, furniture, you name it. All things I thought I had money for, but didn’t explicitly budget for.
So who and what are to blame for my budgeting ignorance? No one really but myself. I can’t put any blame on my parents, since they warned me that “life would be different” when I was out on my own. They also put a lot of value on saving their money, which was instilled in me at a young age. So when that became difficult and nearly impossible living out on my own, I felt discouraged.
I grew up in a well-to-do community that definitely influenced my spending habits and lifestyle. But just like going on a very strict diet, those tendencies are hard to break. And I definitely learned the hard way. But I’m glad I learned this lesson earlier than later, and on my dime and not someone else’s. When I move out again (and hopefully for good!) the plan is to do it very differently, with a well thought out financial plan in place.
My goal is to eventually move into my apartment, but with rents continuing to rise, living with roommates may be the only option again. Many 20-somethings opt to live with a significant other if the timing is right, but my boyfriend of two and a half years (and myself) isn’t ready to make that move yet. That’s another post! ;-)
Not to get too sidetracked… In support of my financial goals I’ve been keeping an eye on the news for budgeting advice for 20-somethings. I’ll just say Forbes.com is my new homepage. Forbes recently came out with its 2012 Investment Guide with a special section just for millennials (Gen X’ers and Boomers fear not–Forbes has you covered too). This paragraph from the article “How Millennials Can Survive And Thrive In The New Economy” really stuck with me:
“They [millennials] grew up believing they’d be flying high so long as they followed a well-defined path: Notch a high score on the SAT or ACT, go to a good college, earn a respectable GPA and get a decent job. Work a few years, then go to grad school for further seasoning and come out with a job lucrative enough to pay off those hefty loans.”
Yes, that was the “dream” (and the mundane life) we were all running towards. I alluded to this concept of the 20-something’s shattered expectations in my last post. The article goes on to feature several 20-somethings who have paved their own career paths in an entrepreneurial way, deciding not to resort to submitting resume after resume to traditional 8 to 5’s. They make a decent living (but not big salaries mind you) and doing something they really love. I am planning to do a similar feature on the blog in the coming weeks–a series that will highlight inspirational 20-somethings–so stay tuned!