When we are teenagers swiping other people’s purchasers and pressing buttons on a register we dreamt of what we will someday buy… you know…when we earn our first ‘real’ pay packet. I’m sure that the graduates now heading out to the workforce are having similar thoughts. So congratulations to those of you who survived all those years of study. A future of independence eagerly awaits you. Or does it?

Unfortunately there is no such thing as a free education. And your student debts are a stark reminder of exactly that. The late eighties saw a reintroduction of university fees and they have been climbing ever since. Some tertiary institutions now opt for upfront fee paying courses. Needless to say it would be rare these days for a student to graduate from post tertiary education debt free. In fact, I know some that are still paying their education loans many years later. It’s a constant pressure.

But course fees are not the only financial worry for the newly graduated. Getting to and from work can be an unwelcome expense in itself, particularly for commuters. To get a great start in one’s industry of choice often means moving far away or landing a job in the city, the big smoke as some may refer to it. And we are all too familiar with the transportation woes of getting into, and around, a chaos of metropolitan traffic. Not only does it now take many of us hours to get to and from work, but public transport and petrol costs can take quite a chunk out of our pay packet each week. Spare a thought for those making ends meet on an entry level salary. Yes, the much dreamt of life of independence is not all roses.

The anguish does not finish there for our aspiring future leaders. Expectations of fitting in, looking the part are felt by all. A working wardrobe needs to be funded. A word of advice, avoid the labels until you can afford them. Fitting in also pertains to after work drinks and lunches at the nearby café. Oh dear, the remnants of your pay packet are looking very pitiful indeed. Here’s hoping mum and dad do not ask for lodging fees any time soon.

With the pension phasing out our younger generations w must also start planning for retirement early. Yes, I know, sensible is not sexy. However so many of the things we want in life costs money and without it, we won’t achieve everything on our bucket list. I think I just heard a collective sigh. And not just from our graduates. We need to enjoy life, but at the same time we also need to be able to support our life choices.

Watching your first pay cheque disappear on expenses that do not include a new party dress or a brand new cricket bat is depressing. Learning to budget may help. And it is important to factor into your budget some ‘me’ money so you can enjoy a week in the sun n surf. It simply a matter of identifying what you need, what you want, what you can afford and the sacrifices you are prepared to make until your salary increases. Or, you get a second job. It’s not uncommon to diversify your income stream these days.

So while your first ‘real’ pay packet may initially feel like a winning lottery ticket, reality soon kicks in and brings you hurtling into the world of adulthood and independence. And I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a tough gig. If you plan early and are disciplined, you will one day be living the life of a King or a Queen. But before you can chant ‘money, money, money’, you need to knuckle down and apply yourself…just like you did before you sat your final exams!

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