As a recent college graduate, I have noticed a common trend among my peer group of early 20-somethings: There seems to be an unspoken competition to see who can prove to the world that they’re the most successful at a young age.
I can’t even count the number of people I have seen on my social media feeds (namely Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) over the past year who have posted pictures of their first “adult car”, first down payment on a home, or first Rolex watch. I also can’t count the number of captions that read “Look Ma, I made it”, “Hard work pays off”, and “I’m finally getting the hang of this adult thing”. I can’t help but cringe when I think of all the money being wasted.
This post-college spending madness seems to be fueled by the common belief that we worked so hard for 4+ years, we have earned this! We deserve to buy our first real car, a new home, and a new wardrobe. Forget student loans and credit card debt, we worked our butt off to graduate. It’s time to prove we made it to the world.
Social media only intensifies this belief. Us 20-somethings see everyone around us blowing through cash on every social media feed each day and it makes it seem like a normal thing to do. It leads to this race to appear successful as soon as we graduate college, even if it is fake success (you don’t own that house or car if you’re making monthly payments on it).
But what most of us don’t realize is that it’s all an illusion. Most 20-somethings aren’t actually able to buy new homes and cars with their own cash, it’s simply the power of financing on display. The only reason most young people can afford big ticket items are because they’re stretching their credit cards to the limit. They’re taking out loans and doing whatever it takes to foot the bill without having the money to back it up.
It’s this exact spending that puts most 20-somethings in a horrible spot financially. It’s this antsy desire to prove we’re successful as quick as possible that completely screws us over. And to top it off, there’s the common excuse that 20-somethings are supposed to suck at money. After all, we’re just getting started. Everyone has debt. It’s just a learning process.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s an antidote to this ridiculous post-college spending:
Be humble, be patient, and have a long term view.
My advice to my fellow 20-somethings: Stop being concerned with what people think your life looks like now, and instead play the long game. Keep living like a college student for a few years after graduation. Have the realization that most people don’t actually care what your life looks like so you won’t feel so pressured to prove to your peers that you’re successful.
Focus on your own personal growth, your own unique situation, and your own finances. Forego flashy spending for the next 5-10 years so you can have tremendous freedom for the next 70 years. Let go of the desire to blow money on stuff you don’t actually want to impress people who you don’t even like. An uncomfortable truth is: no matter how much you spend to show you’re successful, there will always be someone out there who is capable of spending more.
This doesn’t mean you have to live in complete deprivation and survive on rice and beans for the next decade. But it does mean you’ll have to be humble and recognize that you’re capable of putting in a tremendous amount of work while you’re young to create an incredible life for your future self.
Simply step off the the treadmill of “proving” yourself to the world, to your parents, to your peers. It’s so much less stressful to live below your means, focus on your own success, and put in the work to build a financially kick-ass life while you’re still young. Play the long-term game. Choose to be patient. Forget being flashy.
To all my fellow 20-somethings: Grab another slice of humble pie.
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