By Ryan Healy — Unless you are a professional athlete or working on Wall Street, an entry-level salary is not very exciting. When you couple this with the fact that the average college student graduates with tens of thousands in student loan and credit card debt and the cost of renting a place in any major city is an absolute rip off, a paycheck does not go very far. If I am paying an arm and a leg just to have a roof over my head and pay back an education that wasn’t exactly optional, how can I possibly save any decent amount of money? Realistically, I can’t. But that is alright.
If I stay in the corporate world, the paychecks will keep coming, I will pay down debt, I will pay my rent and I will spend the majority of the rest on food, entertainment and happy hours. The remainder will go to savings. One thing I will not waste my money on is “stuff.” Nothing bothers me more than seeing people living in houses above their means and driving cars they can’t afford.
I am not foolish enough to believe a paycheck will ever make me rich. The only reason I get excited about a 3% raise is because of what it represents; my hard work. The increase in money is barely noticeable and will disappear into my 3% lifestyle increase. Sure, I could invest that 3% in stocks, mutual funds or better yet an IRA, but what exactly am I saving for?
It’s a forgone conclusion that I will never retire, and anyone my age who believes they will, is mistaken. First of all, by the time I have children to send off to college, the average tuition will probably be around $100,000 a year. If I have “2.5 kids” that is $1 million dollars out of my pocket (or more realistically out of loans). Even if I deprive myself of vacations, entertainment and fun to save throughout my twenties, I can’t possibly save enough money to retire.
I can’t imagine what I would do if I ever did retire. Sure you may be thinking that I’m barely out of college and wouldn’t be saying this if I had been working for 10 or 20 years. But this is exactly why I am so desperate to find meaning and happiness out of work, rather than just a paycheck.
I guess if the end goal is riding off into the sunset and retiring, then you can put up with a boring, well paid job for 30 years (I guess). This is not my end goal. I would rather find fulfillment in a job that gives me flexible hours and is accommodating to my lifestyle.
Of course, if I am lucky enough to make it to my golden years, I will cut back on the amount I work and supplement my smaller income with the earnings from the smart investments I made along the way. But I certainly won’t be moving south to sit around and do nothing for the last ten years of my life.
The way I see it my life will turn out one of two ways.
1. I will get lucky somewhere along the way and strike it rich. I will pay for my kids’ education, I will buy a moderate house and moderate cars and I will make smart investments for the future. I will use the money to make a difference in one way or another. I will be happy.
2. I will find meaningful, fulfilling jobs with decent salaries or start a mildly successful business. My kids will take out loans for their education, I will buy a moderate house and moderate cars and I will continue to work and invest a reasonable amount. I will donate my time rather than my money to make a difference in one way or another. I will be happy.
Before you assume I am a naïve kid, who needs some financial education, keep in mind, I have a degree in accounting and finance and I regularly read financial books, magazines, newspapers and blogs. Despite all of this, I have come to the conclusion that life is too short to spend worrying about how much money is in my bank account. I will not chase a paycheck.