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In a post-economic crisis world, it’s basically become an established fact that most postgrads are going to go through a time of struggling to make ends meet. The easiest thing to blame for this is the lack of jobs out there, but if we’re being honest, there are a lot of factors that contribute to this. I know some people who work hourly jobs and are constantly flushed with cash because they’re smart with how they spend it, and I know some other friends who are living paycheck to paycheck in spite of making a pretty solid salary. The point is, most of us are poor, and there are a lot of super fun reasons for that.
The easiest way to be poor is to not make any money. So if that’s your goal, quit your job. The current unemployment rate for postgrads is hovering around 7 percent, which is slightly lower than the national average. However, when you take into account that 40 percent of college graduates are working jobs that require only a high school diploma, that becomes a more sobering statistic. Basically, a bunch of dummies out there (read: you and me) went out and spent tens of thousands of dollars on higher education so that we could have better opportunities. While it’s nice to be employed, I don’t really think it’s fair to tell the person with $50K in student loans working as a bartender that she should be happy she even has a job. Pouring drinks doesn’t exactly play as relevant work experience when you try to transition into a position that has better perks like, I don’t know, healthcare and retirement benefits.
2. Grad School
Obviously this depends a lot on the type of grad program you’re in. If you have a pretty nice salary job and your company is pitching in for you to get your MBA on the side, you’re probably going to be fine (just watch out for that looming coke habit). However, a lot of people in their mid-twenties are still full-time students, and thus, they don’t have the time to work even a part-time job, let alone something with stability and benefits. Granted, they’re in grad school for a reason, which is hopefully for better job prospects. In the meantime, most grad students find themselves actually even more cash strapped than they were as undergrads. With the lack of fraternity parties, events with free food, and general community, I’d say this definitely qualifies as poverty, even if these jerks will end up making six figures in a few years.
3. Poor Money Management
It’s tough to ask that people have sympathy for people who don’t have a lot of money because they blow it on stupid stuff. But the fact is, if you don’t pay close attention to your finances, you can blow everything really fast, even if you have a medium-level salary. Stuff adds up. Between living expenses, going out with friends, concerts, road trips, car payments, and paying only the interest on student loans, you can easily wipe out your account without ever buying a single big ticket item.
4. Living In A Big City
The fact is, unless you’ve got family connections, the best jobs for someone fresh out of school are in major metropolitan areas. This is great. Cities have large populations of young people, most of whom all live in a few mile radius, because none of them have made enough money to escape to the suburbs. There’s an aspect of community to it. The problem is, cities come with their own costs, some hidden, some not. Obviously, general cost of living is higher. The last thing you ever want to do is ask one of your friends living in a smallish Midwest town what he or she pays for his or her mortgage. Your knees will buckle with sadness. Unless you live close to your office, you’re not only paying more for gas, price-wise, but using a lot more of it due to traffic. Bars have higher drink prices, movies are $15 instead of $7, and everyone around you is in an arms race to have nice clothes and a decently furnished apartment. All of this adds up. Living in the city is great, but it doesn’t come cheap.
5. Crippling Student Debt
What self-respecting article written about postgrads in 2014 can ignore student loans? Given how much attention is paid to the student loan industry, and given the clear existence of a bubble, it’s interesting how little is being done about it. Seventy percent of recent grads have some level of student debt, and of those poor saps (read: me and probably you) the average amount owed is nearly $30,000. Yet we, of course, get to constantly hear from people older than us about how entitled we are and how they worked their way through college in their day. I suppose this was easier when a minimum wage job actually came anywhere close to what tuition costs are now. Granted, a lot of us probably elected to go to pricier schools because of prestige, ignorance, or yeah, entitlement, but the fact is, most of us are going into our adulthood with anchors tied to us from the starting line, and are being asked to sprint farther and faster while being told that we’re a bunch of snotty kids who don’t appreciate everything we’ve been given.
Sorry for the lack of dick jokes in this one, everybody. I’ll do better next time.