Many college students quite frankly would rather go to school on a Saturday morning than read or talk about personal finance. As a result, most college students have very minimal knowledge of the personal finance world. Most of the personal finance knowledge that gets filtered down to college students is simply nothing but BS.
The good news is that I’m here to reveal the truth behind financial BS that college students subscribe to. If you don’t care much for the personal finance world and all of us weirdos in it, hopefully you will read this article and accept the truth behind certain “common” financial knowledge and beliefs:
Financial BS #1: I don’t need to worry about money management today because I will simply make lots of money in the future.
The truth: You will definitely make money in the future but there is no guarantee as to how much money you will earn. There is especially no guarantee as to how much money you will actually save in the future. More money doesn’t always equate to more savings. When my income first increased, I found that my lifestyle increased proportionally.
Why buy no name clothing when your salary allows you to buy designer jeans? This is the exact dilemma that many new college graduates will face. Instead of postponing your focus on money management until you are in the real world, get serious right now. Even if your salary is low, aim to save 5-10%. Twenty bucks a week doesn’t seem like it’s worth it but it will all add up and get you into the habit of saving your money.
Financial BS #2: I will worry about personal finance/saving money when the time comes.
The truth: By the time you reach the point where you should start worrying about saving money it’s usually too late.
Let’s be honest guys, shit happens. You could wake up next week and find out your girlfriend is pregnant. Your car can break down at any moment. In a blink of an eye, a very costly life changing event can happen.
You need to get a handle of your finances right now because when life throws you a lemon you will be able to deal with it (does anyone still use that expression?). When you build up your savings/emergency fund/war chest you’ll feel less stress when shit happens. Sure you’ll curse and complain but you won’t have to worry about swiping your credit card to take care of whatever went wrong.
Financial BS #3: There is no time to work in college.
The truth: Are you kidding me? The only reason most of us are stressed out when working on assignments/studying for exams is because we have waited for the last minute to do everything. The rest of our free time is spent on video games, Facebook, billiards, and the school pub.
All college students can easily work a four hour shift in the evening or a spend a few hours before bed working on their new business venture. While fighting a grueling battle against my heavy eye lids and my comfortable bed, I’m working on a freaking blog article. I’m by no means a productivity expert nor do I possess the work ethic of Michael Jordan, yet I manage to get my shit done. If I can do it then anyone can.
And yes I’ve heard it all- life is short, college is supposed to be fun, who wants to work all of the time?, etc.
The bottom line is that if you want to make some money in college, control your debt, and save up, it can easily be done. While everyone else is complaining about how busy they are you can be making money.
Financial BS #4: The best way to pay for college is with student loans.
The truth: Not at all. There are thousands of unused college scholarships around the nation. There are bursaries and grants that offer financial assistance to college students. All you need to do is fill out a few forms and possibly write the occasional essay to apply for one of these forms of education assistance.
If none of the above options are available to you then how about working to pay off your college tuition? (see number 3) I work all year round to ensure that I do not graduate from college with any debt. I have friends that work weekends and during the summer time. If you want to mix in your education and work, then lookout for paid internships in the summer time.
However you want to go about it, using student loans to pay for college is an axiom that is rarely challenged. I’m here to destroy it. I’m not going to judge anyone that uses student loans to pay for college, but I don’t want this to be the only option for all of you.
I’m here apart of this great site to help you get away from the template lifestyle and to challenge the norm.
Now I turn it over to the readers, what financial BS would you like to challenge?
Dark Nomad says
I wish I knew how easy it was to make some cash on the side online when I was back at university. I wouldn’t have had to take those crappy jobs to see me through. 🙁
Travis Jon Allison says
Working during uni. helped me get better grades. Of this, I have no doubt.
You are totally right – the stress comes from leaving things to the last minute. I found that having a job made me be a whole lot more organized and therefore much more responsible for my school work and tons of other things.
David Foust says
Great post MD. I would like to see you dig deeper into this topic but with more of a personal twist. Many of friends i know have no idea how to control their own personal fiances while in college (and they aren’t making a ton as student workers on campus). I bet you would have some good (great) information for college students on how to balance their budget and create a savings. Like you I’ve heard the “I can’t work and go to college” That is complete BS and students need to realize how much time they actually have instead of their misconception of time management.
Thanks for the post
This is one of those “sad but true” posts. It’s an epidemic really.
The questions is, how do you get this knowledge to the people who aren’t paying attention? How do you motivate them and guide them to the light? College is a time to enjoy yourself – yes, but if it puts you in a money hole for the next 15 years then we need to reevaluate its need and purpose.
-Austin @ Foreigner’s Finances
Kyle Crum says
I agree with all of them except #4. If you are doing it right (i.e. sticking with government sponsored federal student loans), student loans should be really low interest loans. Yes, there are many unused scholarships out there, but many of them are very specific (e.g. you must be of Greek decent and from Spokane). I did take advantage of some scholarships, but it only chipped away at the larger block. When it comes down to it, those student loan payments are going to be some of the smallest monthly payments you will have after school.
Finally, college is supposed to be fun. If you’re not enjoying it, you are doing something wrong. But, you can still have fun while getting good grades and having a job.
Kyle, I agree. College is about having fun. There is no rule anywhere that says you can’t have fun while working/studying. I have formed close friendships with people at school and work. When I go to either it’s not that bad because I’m just going to meet friends in a sense.
Plus, there’s always time to go out and drink. You may not be able to drink every weekend but when you do it’s always a blast.
Ben J Barra says
This kind of info should be posted in every high school and in every campus Registrar’s office. While I think its borderline criminal the way credit is pushed on college bound students (including student loans), we shouldn’t ignore the cause of the symptom.
Financial apathy/avoidance is a result of conditioning. From experiences with my family and friends’ families, the topic of money is almost as taboo as sex. Given the current terrible state of individual personal finances in the US, I think its safe to say my experiences were not unique. For a quick visual, check out Baker’s post today over @ ManVsDebt – http://bit.ly/5AVmZ4
You make some awesome and highly relevant points in regards to your post title. Any thoughts on how the personal finance community can work towards winning the war against financial ignorance? Big, open-ended question I know. 🙂
Honestly, people need to want to be helped. It’s like when you’re out of shape. Everyone can tell you that you’re out of shape but you likely won’t care. You’ll continue eating Doritos and not exercising. It’s the exact same way with personal finance (in my opinion). People in debt need to want to be helped.
I have many friends that need help with personal finance. I’ve given them books to read, shared tips, and passed along blog links. At the end of the day no progress was made. At the end of the day it’s a very personal decision. If someone wants to be helped they will ask for it. If not then there’s not much we can do.
Exactly. You’ve really got to want to. It can’t be any type of desire but a burning desire to get shit right. The type of desire where you say, “you know what, I’m tired of being in debt, I need to get this stuff straight, now where do I start?” At least that’s what happened to me. I had to reveal my ignorance and stop thinking the way I had always thought about money.
As for checking and savings accounts, can you recommend any good banks? I’ve read that internet banks have higher compound interest rates, so I’m looking into those for a savings account, but what about checking accounts? Or does it just all depend on your goals?
I agree with #3: Everyone has time in college to work. I majored in engineering in college. Being an engieering student required a huge time commitment in order to complete projects on time and be able to keep up with the course loads. Taking and 18 credit hour course load, plus additional lab time, plus working on 2-3 design projects per semester, I was able to fit in 2-4 hours an evening tutoring or working the desk at the athletic faciltiy. The key is to find a job that will allow a student the flexibility to complete homework while working.
I agree. Flexibility is key. The other day before a 2.5 hour spare I asked my buddy where he was going. He told me he found a job on campus delivering flyers. I went to work on my blog and he went to go make some money during this down time. Others went to watch Lost in the computer lab.
Wojciech Kulicki says
“You could wake up next week and find out your girlfriend is pregnant.” LOL Perhaps not “shit,” but definitely an emergency.
Solid post, I saw many of these myths played out in friends and myself during college, so I think you’re on the right track.
Replace girlfriend with lady friend. Now that might be a more serious emergency. It can happen to anyone. Emergencies do happen and sadly most people can’t deal with them.
Going to university just because “that’s the next thing to do” is financial bs that society gets you into. Even if you have the scholarships, it’s still going to cost a good bit, and there’s no sense going until you know what you would like to do or at least have a very good idea. Maybe try the community college instead to try things out. It’s cheaper and more than likely closer to home.
Yes I am very guilty of this. I went through the post-secondary system because it was the thing to do. Well that and the fact my parents would have kicked me out if I didn’t. Thankfully I saved some money by going to community college first and trying to figure things out.
Great Post MD. A couple of my own comments:
re #1: I was a victim of this philosophy. In college, I spent everything I made because I knew I’d graduate and make more money. Fatal Flaw? When I made more money, I expanded my lifestyle (read: expenses) to fit my new income. Thus, savings never increased; I was just able to buy more crap, move into a nice apartment, and travel more. This is Parkinson’s Law applied to money at it’s finest! This is why it’s so important to start saving early, even if, like you said, it’s a few dollars a week. It’s a fundamental habit that can’t be ignored.
re #3: I always thought I was so busy during college, but looking back on it now (6 yrs later), I have no idea what I did with all my free time! I would kill for free time like that right now! Another example of Parkinson’s Law in action (Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion). Every college student has loads of time; it’s just a matter of managing it better.
I was a victim of all of these myself. Once I finished my stay at community college and transferred to my current school, I started doing research. I was very concerned about the increased workload. I was worried that I couldnt work anymore.
My problem? I listened to what people told me.
“This class has a high failure rate.”
“Nobody can work crazy hours and go to school.”
etc. etc etc.
Here I am a few years later. My GPA is where I want it to be.My savings are doing alright. I stopped listening to bs. The good news for all college students reading this is that you too can stop listening to the bs thats out there!
I completely agree with you on all points. ESPECIALLY point number 4. This has become a passion for my wife and I as we stick to rediculously low month budgets just to try and pay off student loans in the next two years. Let me tell you…its tough month to month when your goal is to pay off $150,000 in student loans in two years. Nevertheless, the important thing for college students to recognize that everything is not as easy and carefree as counselors make it appear to be when you walk into that financial aid office. I remember signing those promisary notes. The lies and deception that were involved. I distinctly remember the counselor saying, “You won’t have to worry about any of this until six months after you graduate, and then you will only have to make small (small being the operative word) monthly payments and because you’re a college graduate you’ll be making really good money.” Its really disturbing that industries are making billions off of taking advantage of college students who are just excited to get out of the house.
Are you serious? I’ve never heard such stories of deception. Thanks for sharing man. Have you gone back to share a piece of your mind with the counselor?
All the best Joshua.