Confession time: I HATE DEALING WITH FINANCES. Though I’ve been a life long saver (I’ve had my own savings account since I was a kid) and I’m pretty decent about my spending habits (this has been an ebb and flow since “I got grown”), budgeting and balancing and being proactive about my finances makes my head hurt and I’d prefer not to have to think about it.
But as an adult, I HAVE TO think about my finances!! And that’s the real crappy thing about being an adult – responsibility and accountability. Life was so simple when I was a kid – mom and dad worried about the bills, I worried about how cute I looked for school and if I was the smartest kid in class (I was a nerd ok?). Now I have to worry about bills, insurance, taxes, and other expenses. This is when the “freedom” of adulthood I dreamed of as a child becomes unappealing. Wah.
If you know me in real life, or even on twitter, you know that I complain about my financial state of being often. The average college graduate fresh out of high school makes roughly $45,000. I have a PhD and my income is far below that average. So yeah, I feel some type of way! I worked my arse off learning and contributing to the biomedical scientific community and yet people with LESS of a formal education than me make MORE. Granted, this is the field I chose to go in, and I knew being in academia means that the road to being “paid” is a long and rigorous one. And I recognize that money isn’t everything, the grass is always greener, yadda yadda yadda. But the point remains, I am extremely underpaid. As is every other PhD living this postdoc life. It’s rough out here in these streets for degreed nerds who don’t go into industry, government or the private sector. My job is exactly where I need to be for the experience and exposure to start my career. If starting from the “bottom” of the pay scale is what I have to endure, than so be it.
But at the end of the day, I have to work with what I have. Being unhappy and slightly bitter about my income won’t make my money grow. I won’t always be in this income level but I can’t wait until I move into “upper middle class” status before I get my financial life together. I’ve met all too many people who are in their 30s and they have bad spending habits, run up a lot of debt (using plastic of paper) and/or no savings or investments. Living pay check to pay check, regardless of how large that paycheck might be, just isn’t what I want for myself. I want to have a comfortable life now and more importantly, a comfortable life when I’m retired. The way social security is going now, there may not be a SS pay out for me when I’m a senior. I’m not going to rely on the government for my income – I might as well just ask the Lord for an early check-in to heaven.
I look at my 4th grade teacher (yes, I still keep in touch with her!) and I see the life she’s living as a 75yo retiree. Not only does she look great for a woman her age and is full of energy, she’s constantly jet setting – spending weeks on an African safari, gorilla tracking, white water rafting, driving up the Pacific coast and stopping to see the major attractions along the way, etc. She planned for her future, made saving for her retirement a priority, and now she’s living the life I wish I had now as an almost 30yo.
So I finally made the decision to step my financial game up. I recently met with some financial advisers to discuss avenues for saving and investing, even with the *little* money I’m making. I have 2 savings accounts – that automatically draft a set amount of money out from my checking account. One savings account is an account I’ve had since I was a teenager with my bank (that I have direct access to), the other recently set up with my financial services company (that I have to go through my financial advisers to get to). I also applied for and received life and disability insurance. I’m working on setting up a separate retirement savings account (since my current job doesn’t offer a plan with retirement contributions from the company *[insert angry face and reason #1 why I don't consider this a "real job" here]*). A lot of adjustments in my life will have to be made to make this work, but I’m ready to sacrifice. It hurts a little but I know in the long run this just has to happen if I want a secure future for me and the family I’ll build.
While being a grown up certainly has it’s growing pains, I’m feeling good about the changes I’m making. And I’m even more happy and proud of myself that I’ll be turning 30 with all these little pieces in place. There’s still more work to be done, but the hardest part is done and I just have to take a few steps at a time. Crawl before you walk and what not.
Have you considered your financial future? Are you good with your money – saving, investing, curbing spending? What’s the best “money decision” you’ve made as an adult?
Wishing money grew on trees,