What They Don’t Tell You When You Graduate

GraduationIn my post last week I talked about how I’m oh so happy that school is done forever. However, even though there are so many reasons for why I am happy and things I looked forward to when graduating, there are also many things that new graduates are not told about.

Since I have lived on my own since I was 18, and I’ve had to pay for all of my own things (I rented a house at 18 and have worked full-time since 16), I pretty much know all about bills and how much money I will make. There are no surprises and I am very used to income and expenses.

Not to make this a depressing post or anything, but there are soooo many things out there that are not talked about enough. College graduates are always told about all of the positives of graduating, and possibly no negatives (or very little).

Negatives need to be talked about and realized. Some of my friends who graduated from college just assumed that they would be rolling around in cash and that money would be no problem.


1. You might not find a job right away.

Luckily I had a full-time job during college, so I wasn’t as worried about money, but of course I still wanted to find something in my field. Some people told me that I wouldn’t find a job right away, and others told me that it would be a piece of cake. Luckily I was able to find several jobs that interested me.

However, I have a lot of friends who either didn’t try hard enough to find a job or they were overly optimistic. Some friends thought that jobs would just land right in their laps and hardly ever applied for a job, or they thought that they didn’t have to try as hard since they had a college degree. BOY were they wrong! You still need to try and put a lot of effort into your applications.


2. Bills will add up quickly.

If you’ve never really had a lot of bills before (or any at all), then all of your new bills might throw you off completely. There’s an apartment or house to think about, possible car payments, car insurance, health insurance, food, electricity and everything else.

If you buy a house, then there are many others things to think about. Where and how will you choose your house? What about maintenance costs? These things all add up quickly.

You need to think about how quickly everything will add up, and also think about #3 in the section below.


3. Your paycheck isn’t as big as you think it’ll be.

Think you should just take your salary and divide it by 12, and that’s what you have to spend each month? NO! Depending on how your paid, if you just divide it by 12, then some months you will be extremely short.

For example, if your pay is $40,000 (lets forget about taxes for just one second) and you divide it by 12 months exactly, then you will have around $3,333 per month. However, what if you’re paid every 2 weeks and not twice a month? This would leave you with a little less than $3,100 a month. This is a difference of over $200 per month between what you think you’ll have any how much you actually have.

Also, of course taxes and everything else need to be taken into account. Taxes can vary but most new graduates who haven’t had a full-time job before will most likely be extremely shocked by how much is taken out due to taxes.

Before you start buying stuff like crazy, you should get a realistic feel of what your first couple of paychecks will be like. Waiting until you actually receive them might be the best idea before you start buying things.


Other things you might not have thought about enough:

  • You might not even like the field that you went to school for.
  • You might find a job that you love that you never thought you’d enter.
  • Your student loans will be a lot more each month than you really think.

What do you wish you knew when you graduated?



  1. says

    Well said! I don't think most people realize how much of their money goes to taxes. They are also hit with student loan payback. That can be jarring, too.

  2. says

    I wish that I would have been more aware of how much money it takes to live and how big of a burden debt could be. I graduated with a degree that didn't have very good job prospects. Not only were there few paying jobs, but the jobs that did pay didn't pay much. I wish that I would have thought of that – or cared about it – before I spent thousands of dollars and 4.5 years of my life on my degree.
    My recent post What is the Fiscal Cliff and Why Should You Care?

  3. moneybeagle says

    One of the things that I learned the really hard way is that your good work will often not translate into pay. My first job was entry level but I quickly rose to a leadership role, above people who had been in the workforce for 5-10 years. Going into my first evaluation, I expected them to lavish me with bonuses and double digit raises. This didn't happen and I learned later: that's reality. I pretty much learned then that your reward is usually switching jobs/companies, that's often the only way you'll get a double digit increase for performance.
    My recent post The Story Of My Worst Job Ever: Part Two

  4. christineslittleblog says

    There are days when I really regret getting the degree I did in college. Everyone says Healthcare is the best field to be in but clinical degrees (such as nursing, athletic training, etc.) are such niche degrees that if you ever want to leave that field, it's hard to convince people you are capable of performing other job tasks.
    My recent post Chai Pumpkin Spice Cookies

  5. says

    This stuff always confuses me. I'm with you that I've been living on my own since I was 17 so I can't fathom never paying rent until after college! What! Twenty-one year olds don't know they need to pay electricity bills!? What college tells you that you don't need to apply to jobs they'll come to you?! Does this stuff really happen or we being extreme here? Serious question because if this is real, I don't know how to process it and don't want to live in this world.
    My recent post Living Without A Smartphone: Month One

  6. Rachel says

    I agree with all of these things! It took me 5 months to find a job after applying to about 70 of them. I don't make great money, either and with student loans totaling over $700 a month, it's a little hard. It makes me wish that I had chosen a cheaper college or maybe even a different major of study!

    My recent post Leather Skirts

  7. SavvyFinancialLatina says

    The biggest shock is always how much I actually take home in pay. About 40-50% of my pay goes to taxes, healthcare, fsa, retirement contributions, espp. It's astonishing :/

    Bills do add up quickly! Beh even though we are earning money and saving a lot, I still struggle with paying bills and timing our choices. I make myself believe we're broke most of the time so I can put away more.

  8. SWR says

    Professional time management – balancing priorities is very different when you're not in school. Also, I was totally unprepared for the struggle for a work/life balance because that doesn't exist as a student, either.

    The money thing wasn't so surprising, but then again I did work while I was in college
    My recent post Having a baby in grad school?

  9. says

    I wanted to thank you for stopping by my blog.
    Great post! I was just reading some of this information in The Millionaire Next Store. We are currently working on getting out of debt using the Dave Ramsey program. We were out of debt 10 yrs ago then we got stupid with our money. Now we are back on track but it is a long road.
    Enjoy your blog and all the great information. Hugs, Bobbi Jo
    My recent post Pantry Challenge Week #1 Shopping Trip

  10. says

    I wish I'd known how much my student loan payments were going to be! It was a huge shock when I added in my student loan payments, car payments, rent, etc and found that I was actually short several hundred dollars a month! If I'd known that, I would've worked a lot harder to get scholarships and to spend less while going to school.

    Also, I wasn't prepared for the low wages. University degree or not, I don't make much money, and it doesn't look like that's going to change any time soon.
    My recent post Why I’m Not Ready to Buy a House

  11. Budget & the Beach says

    I wish I knew more about personal finance! I wish someone literally sat me down and said if you start right freakin now you will be doing so well later on. But no one did and I was young and stupid. And although I never had student loans or massive credit card debt, I wasn't as savvy as I could have been because I was just having fun. But looking back…I did have a lot of fun! :)
    My recent post Are You Brand Loyal?

  12. says

    I think its worth to re-highlight the second extra one you mentioned; you may end up in a job you love that is not related to what you went to school for! My brother has a communications degree, but loves working at IT and troubleshooting. Sure, you can make a link between those 2, but he really wishes he had gone for IT or design instead.
    My recent post … And now my phone bill went DOWN! + Storm

  13. therandompath says

    "You won't find a job right away" :Truth. I totally didn't. It was so frustrating. There were times where it was like, ummmm why did I go to college if I can't find a job? It took about 6 months until I did get a job. All I can say to new graduates is be patient. Everything will work out.
    My recent post The Road Less Travelled

  14. says

    These are all spot on! Honestly when I first heard my starting salary I was jumping for joy… now I am like…seriously? Once all the tiny little bills add up and taxes are taken out it doesn't seem like much at all. Gotta budget!
    My recent post Six Finds Under $20

  15. LenaAtOnMySide says

    I wish we knew that after 6 months of looking Hubby wouldn't be able to find a better job. On the other hand, we at least didn't have student loans to pay. It scares me to think how we would scramble right now if we had another $500 bill every month!
    My recent post Well, I didn't waste my time…

  16. says

    what do i wish i knew? that being an adult is not very easy that sometimes i would like to hang out with friends but no one will go buy paper towels and lightbulbs for me if i don't. you are right you might not find a job right away, and my second thing is don't expect people to owe you a job or anything else even after that degree, getting the degree is just the beginning of when the hard and real work actually begins

  17. says

    One thing that I wish I knew before getting out of college is – your degree might be worthless. I regret for not getting an accounting or finance degree vs this business degree I have now. It taught me nothing. Heck, looking back… I wish I'd invest all of that school loan money into a crash course on ROR programming in San Francisco. (I suppose I can still do that)
    My recent post 3 Tips to Save Money on Prescription Drugs

  18. Lovebird Productions says

    Such a fabulous and honest post! There are a lot of lessons that school can never prepare you for until you are faced with them. Sometimes the perfect job doesn't come along until you fifth try or you create it. Keep a positive mindset!
    My recent post Apple Orchard Fall Engagement Session

  19. mycanuckbuck says

    I'm pretty lucky – I graduated with a good job and salary waiting. For me, it was just the shock of having a full time job, and learning when to say yes (and say no) that were the hardest things to adjust to!
    My recent post My stats for the month of October 2012

  20. MoneyMasterMom says

    No one told me that being an apprentice for a trade, rather then a college grad may result in a better paycheck. I'll be the first to say that money isn't everything, but you're fooling yourself if you say it doesn't count at all!
    My recent post Preparing for Hurricane Sandy: A Mommy’s Guide

  21. says

    Good post… I would add that your paycheck will be even smaller than you might expect if you relocate somewhere expensive. Moving from Scotland to London was a massive increase in costs. Although I got a starting salary higher than almost all my fellow engineering cohort, I probably have less disposable income because of London prices! It is ridiculous… Good job I have a side hustle 😉
    My recent post Inspirational Motivation for Today

  22. says

    I was overly optimistic that I would immediately find a job after school. I graduated with a Master's Degree right at the downturn of the economy and it took me 7 months to find the right job. Then again, I didn;t settle but it was tough for awhile!

    Holly Foxen Wells

  23. Your Fab Life says

    Luckily, like you, I had a job all through college, but I was still surprised at how much the payments were! I have friends who earned degrees in liberal arts and such, and are unable to make their payments today. What I really think is interesting are the amount of people that go to grad school and pay $100k+, not fully understanding what they want to go into, and/or with unrealistic salary expectations afterwards.
    My recent post We love our iphones, but not the cost

  24. Canadianbudgetbinder says

    I believe there are alot of misconceptions about what happens after you graduate especially when it comes to money and finding a job. Depending on what field you are in you could struggle finding a job. I'm fortunate that my career is well in demand so I wouldn't struggle but some of my mates are still looking for work that I met while in school. I just encourage them to never give up, get out and network. The pay can suck when you first start but that's something I understood that with time and experience you will earn more. I think that's just the way it goes. If there is one thing I learned is that learning from a book is one thing but hands on using what you learned is a whole other ball game and where all my experience and learning really comes from. Great post. Cheers Mr.CBB
    My recent post Reader Question:Do I Have To Share My RRSP With My Spouse When I Get Divorced?

  25. says

    I was in the group that when I graduated I thought all of my problems were over. I would find a job paying be $100,000 per year and would have no other worries…and I was completely wrong! I had a hard time finding a job and got depressed, then started spending money I didn't have. Luckily I got out of that spiral and am doing well now.
    My recent post Payment Protection Insurance Under Fire

  26. says

    When I graduated I felt like I got a visit from the mob… Seriously! I went out (was lucky enough) to get a job then was told I was going to hand over about 25% of my paycheck every month. Call me naive but I didn't think taxes were that much. Add a 5% State tax in there plus ghost fees and taxes on utilities, cell phone, etc and I was left with about 2/3rds of my paycheck!
    My recent post October Income 2012

  27. Terry Sprouse says

    I think it would have been nice to know that social science majors are generally not really very marketable, except perhaps as teachers. But, even if I had known this, I'm not sure that I would have changed my major.

    In almost any field of study, I think it's valuable to think about starting a business on the side to make sure you have a steady income.
    My recent post 5 Keys to Sell Books Like Hotcakes with YouTube

  28. Jason Clayton says

    #3 is so, so, TRUE!! When I graduated with my engineering degree I thought I was a millionaire with my first job. Don't get me wrong, I was paid well, but it is never as much as you think. The money is gone super quick!
    My recent post Great Reads of the Month (Monthly Roundup for October – 1st Addition) + a Video to bring in November with a smile

  29. says

    I am a recent college graduate and I just stumbled across your blog and have been looking around at all your different posts for a while now. Very interesting and informative blog. Thank you for sharing all these very real and personal subjects pertaining to debt and school.
    My recent post We Are the Frugal Fosters


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