You graduated.Good for you.Got a job? Great! This is the beginning of the rest of your life. Things are much different now. You’re no longer financially supported by anyone. You’re on your own. You are in full control of what you want to do, how to do it, and if you are fortunate enough, when to do it. However, this would also mean that you are the only one who is accountable for the decisions you make.
You are earning some money now and it might be tempting to spend it on the new iPhone 4S but before you do, consider this: A recent article reported 15,000 people go bankrupt every year, many of them young adults under 40, 60% of whom are already indebt.
That means 41 people go bankrupt everyday.
You’re probably thinking, ‘I’m no where near forty. There’s plenty of time to worry about that. There’s no way I could go bankrupt from buying an iPhone!’
But do you really have enough? A fresh graduate earns an average of RM2,300 a month, depending on the field you are in. It is, after all, considerably more that what you used to get while you were in college.
Earning your own money can seem fun but there are some things you have to consider.
Experience is life’s greatest teacher, so I asked a few friends of mine (who are employed) on their perspective on what it is like to deal with their finances fresh out of university.
Aliz says that it is not as different as she thought at first because she lived with her father. “Initially, I didn’t spend that much. I had to pay for my car and just few other things. The rest were taken care of by my father. But when I moved out, I started to feel the burden that comes with monthly phone bills, rent and car loan.”
Kavitha who is renting a room in Cyberjaya, says she spends over RM500 on rent and a portion of her salary on car loan a month. She is able to save up to a hundred to two hundred ringgit of her monthly salary.
Ali, who is married, says that it’s harder for him when it comes to managing his finances. “If your wife is working, there’s not much problem but if you’re the only one working, you’d have to split your expenditures into two.”
Daniel and Sooi Jin who live with their parents, however, do not go through the same thing. Daniel saves RM500 a month while Sooi Jin saves RM700.
Nevertheless they all spend a huge chunk of their earnings on car loans and on top of that, Aliz and Ali have credit card debts to settle.
It is pretty obvious that once you are on your own, you would be spending most of your money on monthly payments. If you have the option of living with your parents, do it. The cost of living will be much lower than living on your own. There’s always home-cooked meals and groceries and you could always help out with the bills.
Daniel on living with his parents; “It’s good to have people to fall back on.”
Aliz: “If you’re staying on your own, your expenditure increases. If you were staying with your parents, it’s optional whether you want to pay for the utilities.”
Kavitha: “It’s (living on your own) fun at times because you have all the freedom but you do miss your family, especially when you’re sick and all. You have no one to take care of you. I spend a lot living alone because of the rent, food and all. It would be nice to live with my parents.”
Your family provides you with emotional support and you will build a different relationship with your parents as adults. You will always be a child in your parents’ eyes but the dynamics usually change a bit when you start earning your own money.
Find out how much you have to spend on your monthly expenses. Once you get the total, you would know how much you have left to save and/or spend.
Keep track of what you spend on. When you realize you might not have enough by the end of the month from the amount you’ve been spending, you’d think twice about getting that new 5.1 surround sound speakers.
There are also apps or online applications that help you do this. I use an app called EEBA to manage my finances. It is basically an envelope budgeting system. I set an amount of money that I’m allowed to spend on each ‘envelope’ representing my monthly expenses i.e food, electricity bills, Internet etc.
I also keep my budget lower than what I earn. That way, even if I overspend, I will still have enough.
If the amount is more than you would hoped for, be careful. It’s easy to lose track of spending once you start buying things and realizing how good it makes you feel.
Aliz has this to say about overspending; “I finish my salary before the end of the month and I still use my credit card. I think because I know I don’t manage my finances well and I refuse to record the things I spend on. I should be doing it but I know if I look at the numbers it will scare me.”
Credit cards and loans can be tempting. You’re able to get the more expensive items much quicker and there’s also that convenience of not having to carry around cash with you all the time but it can be dangerous.
The current local credit card and loan interest is 20% of compound interest. That means as long as you don’t pay off your entire amount of debt, it will mountain up and cripple you for the rest of your life.
Spending feels good and like anything that makes you feel good, it’s always tempting to want more.
Ali, who has been in the workforce for almost four years has this to say about spending; “It’s best to eat at home. Don’t eat out so much.
Don’t get trapped with credit cards. After you graduate, you don’t really know how the credit card, loan and interest works and how it’s going to f**k your life up. So when you have the power to spend, you’d think it’s easy to get a loan and just pay later. In the end, you realize you shouldn’t spend more than half of what you earn because I ended up pretty bad.”
Avoid credit cards at least for the first few years in the workforce.
Learn to live without one first before even considering a card.
When it comes to overspending, Aliz has this to say; “When you’re studying, you’d think that when you’re employed you’d have enough money to buy the things you want, but trust me, once you start working it doesn’t really matter how much you’re earning. If you don’t manage your finances properly you’d be broke by the end of the month.”
When asked about what her thoughts on how people spend more than they earn she said “Maybe because we have so many sales period. Maybe because of peer pressure. Once you start working and you see your other friends who are also working and then they’re paying for this and that and they’re buying this and that for themselves. They have new phones, laptops, car.”
Finally, save, save, save. Save at least seven to ten percent of your income every month and never touch it unless you really have to. The point of this emergency fund is to ‘save’ you when you need it.
Create an envelope to put your savings in. Make sure it’s stored in a safe place. Keep it in cash if you’d like so you can actually ‘see’ your savings grow. When you start noticing how much you’ve earned in savings over the past six months, you would think twice about spending it all away.
You could also save on say, a new phone or that trip to Laos you’ve always wanted to take. Create an envelope where you put in a certain amount money from your salary each month until it reaches your desired goal. Attaining what you want may take longer than using a credit card, but it is much safer and you won’t have to worry about being in debt. Remember, nothing worth doing is ever easy.
The only thing that will deter you from achieving financial stability is giving in to temptations. Find out what you want and what you need.
Make a list if that helps.
To sum it up, keep track of your spending (or create a monthly budget if you prefer), avoid (as best as you can) anything that creates debt, save, save and save.
That’s it! From here on out, you’re on your own. All the best to you and your future endeavours. I will now leave you this quote from The Everyday Minimalist:
‘The less you want or need for more, the more you will feel free’.