Come May 2014, I should be returning to the world of post-secondary school and it has gotten me thinking about my time away from university. What have I really done with my time? Have I accomplished anything of worth? At first glance, I would have to say ‘no, I don’t think I have,’ which is a little disappointing for me.
However, I did keep myself employed (though in retail) as I was recovering from being severely ill, which I will go into another time. I mainly focused on keeping a steady income and trying to enjoy my time away from the institution of the education system. As time passed, I came to a slightly disturbing realization: I missed school. I missed the unlimited access to knowledgeable professors, the structure of having classes planned out for you, the constant flow of new and familiar faces campus provided. I also realized I was wholly unprepared for leaving that environment.
I think that the majority of us young people are unprepared for the massively unstructured life outside of school. Being prepared goes far beyond having employment and being able to afford basic needs. You could look at it like a pyramid: at base level you’re in school, live at home have a part-time job; mid-level, being in post-secondary programs, living on campus/with parents/renting an apartment, with a part-time job; top-level, going through additional schooling (Master, PhD, etc) or a full-time employment but still renting. The point of the pyramid is the position our parents expect us to aspire to: full-time, high paying career, a nice home, and thinking about starting our own family. Well, other than telling us that we need an education to attain that point, does anyone really explain how to reach there?
I say no. Many of us expect to own a house or property once we are older… Has anyone explained how much of a down payment you need, or even how much money you should expect a house to cost each year? How about the cost of property tax? How about filing taxes in general? How about investing your money? What percent of your income per month should you be saving? At what time should you being saving for retirement? There are so many questions that young people have but only know of the internet to find answers, and we all know how reliable the internet can be.
Would you like to know where I found out quite a bit of this information? I love to death but it was certainly not my parents. I gained many of these answers from two T.V. shows: ‘Til Debt Do Us Part and Property Virgins. By watching quite a few episodes, I was able to learn the basics of managing my income, how much and what I should be spending my money on, how much I should be saving for years from now, and the cost of buying and keeping up a home. How to deal with these expenses and dealing with debt are lessons we need to understand as soon as possible.
Many students have loans and OSAP to pay back once their semesters are over. Did you know a student loan coverts into a regular loan when you turn 25? This means the structure of the loan changes and the pressure to pay it back increases. Here is a common misconception: you have two loans or credit cards, one is $5,000 at 5% interest, and the second is $7,500 at 3% interest, which should you pay off first? Many would say the second because the amount is higher, but they would be wrong. Chances are, by the time you pay off the higher amount, more interest would have accumulated on the lower amount, potentially growing it to higher than the $7,500 loan. It is small bits of knowledge like this that could save students thousands of dollars of in interest. Paying the minimum on your debt will never see you out of it, which means you’ll never be able to afford, comfortable, the things you want in life.
I was lucky; I was able to find some of the answers myself because I left the T.V on after watching some other program. These are just scratching the surface of the things parents should be teaching their children. I’m sure some parents believe our schools should be teaching children this. Well guess what, they haven’t started yet, so what are parents waiting for?
Having been extremely lucky and exceedingly grateful that my father has paid for my schooling, I don’t have to struggle with massive debt just yet. Now he was, and still is, a smart man because he contributed to an education savings plan for myself and my siblings so there would be money available for post-secondary school. He also instilled in us a strong work ethic and not to settle for anything less than we deserve. That is the effort that parents need to be investing into their children’s futures.
That work ethic though, I did not see much of it working in my retail position. Granted, you could say, ‘It’s only retail,’ but if you can’t put the necessary effort and energy into a remedial job and develop your drive to excel, how can you expect that drive to manifest when you finally get into the career you want? There is no much give and take to achieve what you want but unless someone who knows all this takes the time to share, nothing is going to change.
At the beginning of this I stated that I miss school and perhaps it is because I have experienced the reality of living in our world as it is outside of childhood. I managed to learn everything I’ve stated and more, so really… I guess the last six months have been a little more productive than I thought.