A long time ago, when this site first started, I had a debt monitor to track the amount of debt I was in since graduating from Uni. Since, at the time, these finances were purely my own, I had no problem in sharing them. Of course as the years progressed this information became no longer just mine to share and so I took it down.
Today though, some fifteen years after graduating, I’m finally calling it as breakeven point. There are some caveats to this breakeven point, of course, and I suppose I could justify it having occurred some years ago or, equally, yet to occur some years in the future, but I have to call it some time. Since I can no longer delve into the details I can only give a rough idea of what this breakeven point consists of:
- Some of the original debts (graduate loans, student loans) were paid off or transferred many years previously
- Some of the original debts (student overdrafts and credit cards) grew or were added to quite a few years after graduating
- Some new ones accumulated and are counted. An accountant would likely discount these in the breakeven point, but I don’t think life actually works quite like that.
- One “liability” (just one) still exists, but the nature of this and date of acquiring is such that I’m discounting this one.
Now I’ve reached this point, I still have, in theory, just enough time to get mortgage before retirement, but I of course don’t have a deposit; however, for me, a pension is far more pressing than a mortgage. Which means, as far as I can see, there is no way the following generations can ever manage home ownership; I’m compelled to write this mainly to scare the crap out of today’s recent graduates or those about to embark on a University degree.
I was VERY fortunate and started university with a couple of (small) bursaries and in my first year we still got grants. It was means tested, so not much, but you still got PAID to go to University. There were NO tuition fees. Now you have to pay tuition fees as well as having to get loans to pay those fees.
I had a paid industrial placement year (none of this unpaid internship bollocks) in the third year of my five year degree and so managed to enter my fourth year in credit.
I graduated straight into a paid job into a good industry. And although I think the initial meagre graduate salary of ~£15k didn’t do anything to help matters, I have been fortunate enough to stay in employment in a well paid job all this time.
You maybe thinking I made lots of financial mistakes and it’s true I have made financial mistakes:
- I lived on my own after graduating
- I got married
- We had children
- We tried to get on the property “ladder”
So I could have sped things along by not living on my own initially (i.e. rent with housemates and live a bit more like a student for a little bit longer), certainly not by trying to get on the property ladder (although we “would have been stupid not to” at the time) and not getting married or having kids. But, to that last point especially, life cares not for your plans and once your life involves other people’s lives things will draw out far longer than you hoped or anticipated because you can’t simply pause everyone else’s life while you sort yours out: I.e. your kids are just going to keep growing up.
You maybe thinking I have lived an extravagant life style, but I think I’ve made my point here over the past few years that that most certainly isn’t the case. To put things in perspective:
- I have never had a smart phone. I can’t afford one (but perhaps in the next couple of years!). Not even the cheap ones that most consider a basic life necessity.
- I have a bike with one gear not because I’m a hipster but because I can’t afford more than one gear.
- My laptop is third-hand (my eldest rejected it as too crap) and some fifteen years old.
- 24% to 36% of my food intake per week is cheap porridge oats cooked in water.
So if you have just started University, are currently at university or have just graduated: Good luck! You’re going to need it.
PS: Today is just a connotative celebration as I’m no better off than I was yesterday, but I MOST DEFINITELY am getting the only four rolls of film I shot last year developed next month.
PPS: I can finally start saving! I want to stop living payday to payday and instead live with one month in hand. I think I can achieve this, but realistically it’s going to take another five years.
[EDIT: 2015-10-13] Forgot to mention that I did in fact do one sensible thing when I graduated: I got a Saturday job in a sandwich shop to supplement (beer money) the initial meagre graduate wage.
[EDIT: 2019-03-20] Some interesting updates:
- That one liability is now gone. So definitely debt free
- I had one of those “once in a lifetime” things happen and came into some (not loads) money. Unfortunately it all went as quickly as it came (out of my control) and so made no medium/long term difference. Such a missed opportunity
- I’m still technically living payday to payday, but getting closer to not doing so (that should have changed when the above happened)
- My eldest is off to college/Uni (that’s financial hit to us) - circle of life repeats so soon
- I have a smart phone (I had to for work)
- My main computer is still not “new”
- Last year was the first proper year I gave myself an allowance, 2% of my pay. This year trying to up that to 3%.