Thanks for reading our Gen Y money blog, where a recent grad chronicles her real-life journey to becoming a financially independent adult.
One year since the liberation of my student status, I've finally started to experience some of the perks that come along with being a "real person."
I've quite enjoyed that for the first time in my life, my job title is not "Intern" or "Summer Student." The enhanced respect I've earned at family gatherings – like a seat at the "adult table" – isn't bad, either. Sure, my financial situation is only slightly better than it was when I was a student, but having a salary is, ultimately, one of the reasons why I'm hesitant to return to school in the near future.
There were a number of factors that led me to pursue my career instead of jumping straight into grad school immediately after my undergrad. Underlying them all was the fact that I had a pretty wishy-washy answer to the question, "What do you want to do with your life?" I wasn't on the path to becoming a doctor or a lawyer, or any profession that required an advanced degree. It simply didn't make sense to build upon my already gargantuan pile of student debt without a concrete idea as to what grad school would help me achieve.
I figured I should at least be making money while I established my career trajectory – and I'm beginning to feel assured that this was the right decision for me. There's something different about earning my own income as a post-grad with a "real job."
As the amount in my bank account grows with every incoming paycheque, I can feel the stress I'd associated with borrowing money throughout university slowly dissipating. Not only can I now make progress with my student debt, I can also afford to treat myself to a nice bottle of wine or splurge on concert tickets every once in a while.
Though my entry-level pay is hardly anything to boast about, it's still more money than I've ever had in my life. More importantly, for the first time, my earnings can be directly used to fund my life goals beyond education.
Of course, going to university has certainly also played an important part in my journey to becoming financially independent (or "self sustainable," as my dad likes to call it). Over the past year, however, my frustrating financial present has distracted me from thinking about my financial future, which appears to be slightly less gloomy.
Though a chunk of every paycheque is still going toward paying off my student loan, it's finally setting in that I'm really on the path to financial freedom. As I slowly approach this fortunate fork in the road, I've been having a series of internal debates about where my money should and shouldn't be going. I like that I can start thinking about travelling, buying a car or renting a slightly nicer place, and it's these thoughts that compel me to continue working instead of investing in another degree.
Even if I magically came upon $200,000 tomorrow, I'm not sure that I would immediately use it to fund another degree. Work experience has proven to be incredibly valuable to my career advancement in the digital marketing industry thus far. I've been advised that, so early on in my career, adding a few letters to the end of my name isn't worth the investment just yet.
Now that I have a more defined career path, I will only seriously consider getting another degree (most likely an MBA) if I know that it will assist with the achievement of my career goals. As I'm currently working my way out of the shadow of student debt, it would also be necessary for me to have post-grad funding locked down, either through my own savings, scholarships, or (ideally) through a future employer who'd like to have me advance within the company.
Learning is still a priority for me, just not necessarily in an academic setting. Though I miss taking advantage of student discounts, I'm enjoying my break from the student life – especially now that I have a steady paycheque.