Questions and Answers
Even though it may seem premature, you need to start asking yourself these questions now.
By Jill Phelan, St. Vincent College
If you’re anything like me, asking yourself basic questions about your future plans is both exciting and terrifying.
And no, I don’t mean figuring out what you’re going to make for dinner tonight (although sometimes that can be scary too, I guess). I’m referring to the goals that you set for adulthood after college.
I’m taking a one-credit personal financial planning class this semester, and it’s forced me to sit down and examine my life in its entirety.
Knowing that I’ll be a fully independent woman in less than a year is quite thrilling, but it’s equally as frightening to come to terms with just how much my world is going to change, as well as how much responsibility I’m going to have on my shoulders.
So, here are the simple questions I’ve had to ask myself to ensure that I don’t fail at adulating.
1. What Will Be Your First Real Job?
This is a tricky one. Obviously, you’re not going to know what career path you will take until you’re actually offered a job—unless you already have a company knocking at your door and willing to wait until you graduate to work with you, in which case, good for you. But know that I also hate you.
However, you can at least consider what kinds of jobs you can realistically get coming right out of school. And more importantly, you can figure out what kind of salary you’ll be making.
Before you prepare yourself to be rolling in dollar bills, though, you have to think about your gross pay. How much money are you going to have left after taxes and social security are deducted?
And then you have to estimate how much of the remaining cash is going to go toward regular expenses like car insurance, cell phone bills, food, etc.
All in all, expect to be putting between half and three-quarters of your pay toward these expenditures. If after all that math you’re depressed and/or sickened, then you might want to consider trying to find a better job or living a little more cheaply.
It sucks to have to watch all of your future money fly out of your pockets before it even gets a chance to nestle there, but that’s reality, and coming to terms with it now can save you a lot of hardship in the future.
2. What’s Next?
This broad question covers a bunch of smaller ones that will help you determine where you believe your life is headed in the long run.
Do you want to get married? Do you plan to have kids? Do you see yourself moving up the career ladder and getting a pay increase? Will you eventually move into a bigger house? All of these things will impact your financial future one way or another.
It’s also not a bad idea to guess approximately at what age these things will happen.
Maybe you hope to have children by the time you’re 28, but you know that your starter job won’t provide enough income to support that lifestyle.
So you’ll need to make an adjustment to plan for that, whether it be asking for a wage increase or moving on to a better paying job. It’s just a good idea to always be thinking about how your goals are going to affect each other, because they’ll almost always end up having an impact on your wallet.
3. How Do You Want to Spend Your Retirement?
I know that being old and wrinkly seems way too far off to even think about, but retirement is also something you have to take into consideration while you’re still a spry little whippersnapper.
Unless you just expect to keel over as soon as you’re done working, you’re going to need to have something figured out for life after paychecks—because Social Security just ain’t cutting it anymore.
So, you have to ask yourself what kind of lifestyle you want to live after you retire. Do you want to travel, or do you want to live humbly and stay close to your family?
And you have to wonder, too, when exactly do you think you’ll be able to stop working? The more you save now, the less time you’ll have to spend on the job.
But if you don’t plan now, you could end up working until you’re 75. I mean, if you love your career that much and you’re able to sell insurance until your dentures fall out, then go right ahead—but personally, I can’t envision that kind of future for myself.
Being the youngster that I am, I’m always getting told to “start saving now” and “make a retirement fund ASAP.” And as much as I want to shrug off the advice of my elders, I know they’re right.
You just have to be really committed to your long-term goals, which is exactly why you need to keep them in the back of your mind and start shaping them now.
All these scary, hypothetical questions are a lot to take in, I know, but you literally have a lifetime to figure them out.
Plus, they’re queries that you’ll be making repeatedly, so you’ll have plenty of chances to practice solving your monetary issues.
My last piece of advice: Now that you’ve figured out your life plan, don’t get too attached to it. I know, all that work for nothing—but it wasn’t for nothing.
Your life is going to change more times than you can count, and things may not always work out the way you’d hoped, but that doesn’t mean your preparation was a waste of time.
Taking a moment every so often to examine the potential outcomes of your life will keep you sharp and ready to take on the next challenge.
The questions that I’ve listed are meant to help train you to always be thinking ahead, which is one of the most helpful practices you can learn as a young adult to ensure a successful future.