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What to do with the piggy bank
Posted on Sept. 22, 2006

For three straight months, my life was dedicated to full-time work. From 2 to 11 p.m., five days a week this summer, I lived for the experience of putting my foot through the doors of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. While this internship-turned-“real” job gave me a starting point for my career, it also provided another helpful bonus: money.

To say the least, being a copy editor brought in more “bacon” than my previous jobs working at minimum wage or commission. Probably considered an unconventional decision for a 21-year-old, I put all the money in the bank.

When people ask what I’m doing with my money, I simply say I’m saving it. For what, they ask. And then they spill their suggestions: a new car, more clothes, the list goes on. Well, I am perfectly content with my ’99 Altima and my wardrobe.
The costly ideas on my mind will definitely be a bit more damaging to the checkbook.

First, it’s about that time to leave the nest. Living only 20 minutes from ULV, dorm life didn’t seem like the most cost-saving, reasonable answer when I was a freshman, and that philosophy has not changed four years later. However, as I can hear the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance” approaching in May, my eagerness to get out of the house has grown.

Second is my goal of achieving a master’s degree. These next two years of even further higher education are sure to fill up my brain and resume, but will indefinitely empty my pockets.

All of this seems to be playing out as a balancing act. Do I let my hard-earned money feed into the rent of an apartment that I will never own? Or should I allow student loans to eat away at my savings for years to come?

At first, the obvious answer seemed simple: school. I’ve always been taught “school comes first.” And I believe that is wise, but the experience of being on my own is an invaluable one as well.

As both of these events race toward me at the same time, I know my summer funds will not support the two. It’s amazing how as time goes by, the value of a dollar evolves.

I remember getting my first $100-something paycheck from my first job and feeling like I had just won the lottery. And now when I have the most money of my life, I feel like it’s worth no more than a penny.

Recently, I have heard that this generation of young people (children of baby boomers and following) will be the first to not be better off than their parents. Of course, this is just a possibility I’ve heard in conversation or in a magazine somewhere, but it rang out loud and clear.

The same goals my parents once had of owning a house and fully supporting a family seem decades away for me. And with outrageous home prices and fluctuating salaries, it might as well be an uphill battle.

My dinky saving account is no match for a house payment ranging in the “low millions” (yes, I saw housing advertised at this price … the biggest oxymoron I’ve ever heard).

I understand this is not everyone’s problem or concern. I’m probably abnormal for worrying about the next 10 years of my life right now. But, I’ve always been a planner and as people I know move out or get jobs, it’s hard not to wonder.

On the bright side, the benefits of an education will definitely play a huge role in my future financial worries.

The best idea I can conclude would be to just keep going. Keep saving, keep learning and let life take its course. Concerns such as these can be too overwhelming for a 21-year-old just trying to graduate.

Nicole Knight, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at nknight@ulv.edu.