Graduation season is upon us, which means that college towns are winding down from the spring semester, students are moving out, and many are still contemplating what is next. Whether it’s from the thought of paying student loans, finding the perfect job, or starting fresh somewhere new, the stresses can seem overwhelming. In fact, stress reportedly strikes almost half of college students who seek counseling.
Many factors contribute to stress and anxiety in college students, oftentimes related to social interactions or academic concerns, but one that is less frequently discussed is the financial stress. To help alleviate financial stress, it's important to plan ahead and understand the cost of education; college is an investment for your future, and not just academically. In fact, as of 2017, the average American household with student debt owed almost $50,000, a number that is only increasing as millennials are entering the workforce, renting or owning homes, and starting families of their own.
For students who are in college or are graduating, it’s important to recognize and assess the financial stresses in front of you and learn how to best handle them for a successful and low-stress future. Here are a few financial concerns that may be triggering your stress, even if you don’t realize:
You may not realize it, but purchasing or renting books every semester can get pricey. On top of that, buying new notebooks, folders, and supplies can rack up some serious price tags over time. Some reports show that the average college student spent $1,200 on textbooks just five years ago. Students are now beginning to shop smarter, investing in digital versions of textbooks and taking notes on computers, saving them more than $500 a semester. Depending on the professor, college, and requirements, this may be a viable option to save a little cash and reduce some financial stress in the long-run.
Costs such as dorm payments, rent, or food are more obvious financial stressors, but other day-to-day expenditures can be hidden threats to your financial sanity. If you like to indulge in nights out on the town, shopping trips, or vacations with any student loan refund money, you might be cutting yourself short of some big savings. Consider keeping track of your spending money through a record-keeping book or budgeting app. Giving yourself a weekly and monthly allowance will ensure that you’ll have some money saved by the time you have to start paying on your loans.
Student loans can be a hindrance to post-grad life, and possibly the biggest stress that those who attend or have attended college will face. Though some student loan plans allow for income-based repayment, you may have to seek alternatives if your monthly payments are too high. According to the Federal Reserve, there are 17 million people under the age of 30 who have student loan debt in the U.S. It is important to not only assess your funds to see what you can afford when it comes to initially choosing a public, private, out-of-state, or community college, but also to budget how much a monthly payment would cost in relation to other post-grad expenses and goals.
Searching for a job can feel defeating and exhausting at times, especially when competing for entry-level positions fresh out of college. With looming bills and student loans catching up, the best way to attack this problem before it becomes a real financial stress is to be proactive. Networking with peers, applying to jobs prior to graduation, and setting up accounts with recruiting agencies or job-seeking sites are all pre-graduation measures you can take to raise your chances of being lined up with employment upon graduation.
Similar to student loans, other bills such as credit card payments, utilities, and mortgages (just to name a few) can leave you feeling crippled by financial stress. Though bills in adulthood can feel mountainous, it is best to stay organized to avoid accruing stress along with interest.
Finding the Right Partner
Unless you were a business major, you probably made it all the way through your formal education without ever taking a personal finance class. Considering how money plays a central role in our adult lives, this seems like a major oversite. The good news is that you don't need to hold a degree in economics in order to figure things out. You just need to find someone who will help.
Now, many of us will end up banking at the same institution as our parents because, well, mom knows best... right?
You're an adult now and it's time you make decisions for yourself. Many people don't realize the plethora of options out there.
An unfortunate side of the digital world we live in is that it is getting easier and easier to be affected by identity theft. Especially when we voluntarily offer up so much personal information. The Huffington Post found that in 2006 young adults (18-24) were the most likely to have their identity stolen.
Trust us, nothing is more stressful than trying to make your way in the adult world only to have your finances wrecked by a thief. Make sure you ask your local community bank or credit union if they provide identity fraud protection products.