A few of my favorite movies are from the early ’90’s; Singles, Reality Bites, Benny and Joon, and Circle of Friends to name a few. I think that’s because it’s a time period I can relate to. I was finishing college and completely unsure of my future, not unlike the characters in these films. Now that I can find almost any movie on Amazon or Netflix, I get to watch these movies and reminisce. Some of the ideas emulated in these films still hold true:

College provides structure and purpose, and that’s what makes ‘real life’ so scary.

When I was in college, life was fairly simple. I studied, worked part-time, and rarely worried about bills or money. My biggest concern was whether or not I would get an ‘A’ in class. True, I was a dork. I liked studying and getting good grades. I made it a competition; get better grades each semester. (This culminated in a 4.0 in one of my most difficult semesters, but I soon crashed and burned.)

However, as my college life was coming to an end, my life started spinning out of control. What was I going to do when “I grew up?!” I hadn’t given much thought to that when I selected an Anthropology degree for my undergrad. “Where was I going to live?” My roommates were all moving on, moving out, getting married and I was working part-time barely able to afford a rented room.

My structured college life was crumbling before me, yet I was entering a new era of adulthood that I quickly embraced and figured out. One year after graduation, my life was calm and tranquil again (or sort of!), just in a different phase.

Our ideals change over time, though we don’t want to admit it.

My initial goal of obtaining an Anthropology degree was to roam the world and study other cultures and communities. I wasn’t sure how I’d fund this travel, though secretly I was eying a job with National Geographic. I thought that I didn’t need much and if I earned $40,000 a year, that would be plenty to live off of.

My, how our views and ideals change over time. Soon after graduation, I ended up in the corporate world ironically. I didn’t like any of the positions I held; sales coordinator, administrative assistant and finally trade show manager. Those few years made me realize that cubicle life was not for me, nor could it have been more polar opposite than what I had wanted out of life in the first place. However, with each position, I made more money and though I was only a few years out of college, $40,000 a year just didn’t seem like very much anymore. Life style inflation had taken a hold of my values. That hippie lifestyle I had envisioned in my youth faded into corporate suits and heels.

Thankfully, I left the cubicle jungle a few years later and started a whole new career that I appreciated and was a better fit for my life.

Money affects us at all ages.

During college, I stretched my income of $800 a month and supported myself sufficiently for quite a few years. However, I didn’t have much of an emergency fund and any little expense, like new tires, would throw me for a loop. Shortly after college, though I was making more than double my college income, I still lived pay check to pay check. It took me over 10 years to realize that without a safety net, little problems can turn into huge emergencies; stress that I could have lived without.

Now that I’m older and wiser, new tires, an unforeseen bill, or an unexpected expense no longer turns into more than it should be; a bump in the road. Though money is still a huge part of my daily life, it’s no longer a stressful event that I have to manage.

How have you or your life changed over the years since college? Is your life different from what you expected?


  1. Everyday Tips Reply

    Yikes, how my life has changed since college. I could write a book about it, however nobody would probably buy it.

    My life is WAAAAAAY better than I ever imagined it could be. I grew up with nothing and I never thought I could have the house or family I have. I feel like the luckiest person on earth.

    • @Everyday Tips – That is so sweet and awesome. I feel lucky as well. I never imagined being so happily married and pursuing dreams on my own. It’s funny how things just work out. 😉

  2. Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter Reply

    I totally agree with your statement that ideals change over time. I am still true to some of the things I wanted and believed in when I was younger, but in a lot of cases, my perspective has changed. I think each year we live changes us.

    Like Everyday Tips said, my life is better then I thought it would be. It is great to have things work out well.

    • @Miss T – I know that I’ve grown very conservative over the past few years. Something I really never expected would happen. 😉

  3. Ashley @ Money Talks Reply

    I also thought it took a lot less money to live than it does in “real life”. Actually, I’m still shocked by the cost of living.

    But I do have a better life than I ever could have imagined.

    • @Ashley – It is funny what we think is a lot of money when we’re young isn’t so much when we’re older. I guess reality sets in and bills we’ve never heard of show up in our mail boxes. 😉

  4. I never envisioned that I would be a teacher! I trained my employees all my life and enjoyed that part of my career. Still, I never saw myself as a teacher. I am in my 7th career, so change is just part of it. Teaching is fun and I look forward t going to work. At this time in my career, I am just having fun.

    • @Krantcents – It’s funny, when I was studying Anthropology, I always thought that I could fall back on becoming a professor. But I never thought of teaching younger students. Now, I love it. The kids are so funny (they really do say the funniest things like, “Will there be fog on Halloween?” After practicing the Thriller dance and me mentioning one of the moves is like swimming through fog.) I’m still pursuing other avenues of interest, but the great thing about teaching is I have the time to do so, well once I finish this semester!

  5. My life has changed immensely since college; it’s become deeper and more meaningful, even as stresses have been added. It’s definitely different than what I expected, but I love it all!

  6. retirebyforty Reply

    Yeap, things change. I was pretty nerdy and wanted to work with computer, but after 15 years I have had enough. My eyes are messed up, my shoulder and back are terrible. I’m in a cramp little cubicle. Sure, I get paid pretty well, but there has got to be a better way to make a buck.

    • @Retire by 40 – It seems to me that you’re figuring out a way to get out of that cubicle (based on your monthly income reports!) Soon enough you’ll be able to “retire”!

  7. Squirrelers Reply

    I went straight from a fraternity house in college to moving to a city where I didn’t grow up, several hours from home, and worked. It was big, tough adjustment for me. I just had no idea how hard it would be at the time. But, I’m glad I went through it! Learned some good lessons along the way, about where to live, work, friends, family, and how things fit.

    • @Squirrelers – That had to have been scary. I’ve lived within the same 5-mile radius for over 35 years. I’m ready for a change of scenery! You’ll have to share tips on how you moved to a new city without knowing anyone. 😉

  8. It’s been 20 years since I graduated. I feel I went way off from my post-graduate dreams and aspirations and am now going back to them. It’s nice because a few years back I was thinking I was having to say goodbye to that ‘Molly’. Now I get to revisit those dreams with an more experienced self.

    • @Molly – That’s terrific that you’re able to go back to those original aspirations and revisit them. Sometimes, the path of life is more like a long and winding road (if I can quote Paul McCartney!) 😉

  9. Hunter @ Financially Consumed Reply

    I actually planned to be super-rich during college. I couldn’t wait to graduate and start earning real money compared to the odd jobs that were just keeping my head above water. That’s what I did for ten years, before realising it was no making me happy. Life was out of balance. I changed course by getting married, having kids and saying goodbye to corporate slavery. I think my life is richer now.

    • @Hunter – For me, corporate life wasn’t fulfilling either. I think it’s great that you pursued avenues that made you happier and richer in spirit. I really encourage people, like friends and family, to think outside the box and do what they feel is right for them. Of course, making good choices doesn’t hurt!

  10. 20's Finances Reply

    It is amazing how it changes. It has only been two years since I graduated with my undergraduate degree. Life inflation has a way of creeping up on you and something to keep in check. I still want to live simply in order to save money and invest it for the future. I also agree that it is amazing how 40k doesn’t seem like a lot.

  11. @Heather – Wow! I’m so impressed by your accomplishments. It’s funny how we change and how unseen things affect us that make us change. Congrats on your cancer-free status and soon-to-be-here baby!

  12. YFS @ Yourfinancessimplified Reply

    My life has changed drastically since college. I went from making the 2nd tax bracket to the top tax bracket. I bought a house, got married, read more about finances etc etc. I would say I’m 100% different.

  13. My University Money Reply

    Great article. I actually missed the lack of structure when I left school. While in university I could largely plan my day however I wanted. In a job you don’t have that luxury. I’m sure I’ll change my position (if not my career) a few times during my life.

    • @My University Money – Structure is the biggest difference I think between college life and “adult” life. In college, structure is available for students to take advantage of, in adult life, you have to create it on your own!

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