Graduating from college can generate high levels of financial stress.
You’re worrying about repaying your student loans, getting a job to support yourself, moving and becoming independent in many other ways. The uncertainty about the future, combined with complicated financial decisions, can be daunting and stressful, and even negatively impact other areas of your life.
If this sounds like you, you are definitely not alone.
How Financial Stress Negatively Impacts Everyday Life
It’s very normal to be overwhelmed — emotionally and financially — right before or after your graduation date. Recent graduate Lisa, a Storyteller, who’s dealing with student loans and trying to support herself after finishing school, reports feeling both excited and anxious during her transition out of college.
“On the one hand, I was extremely excited to be leaving school and going out into the world,” she says. “Yet the anxiety came from two levels: I was nervous about being able to sustain my cash flow during this transition, while also being mindful of beginning my career, in which I am solely responsible for my financial well-being.
“I wanted to be able to enjoy the last few months of school and all the fun going on around me,” Lisa continues. “Yet I was conscious of stress coming from big post-graduation expenses, not to mention my pending student debt payments, which I knew I would have to sustain for a long time. It was a stressful time.
“I wanted to be able to enjoy the last few months of school and all the fun going on around me. Yet I was conscious of stress …”
“On top of all this, I was uncomfortable talking about this anxiety with my peers or my parents, because I thought I was supposed to have it all figured out already. Looking back, I wish I could have had an outlet for this financial anxiety, as I would have been able to enjoy more and experience the changes in my life, instead of fearing them.”
Why Graduating Causes So Much Stress
Changes in your goals, expectations and personal finances are difficult to manage no matter where you are in your life, but graduates can be especially affected by the unpredictability during this period of transition.
Payoff’s Chief Science Officer Dr. Galen Buckwalter explains why graduating from college is such a stressful time for most of us. “A lot of the pressure comes from where you started, thought-wise, where college is concerned. Many people begin college and the openness of their personality changes, as everything feels suddenly possible,” he says.
Suddenly, we’re supposed to earn money, be part of institutions, think about starting a family, get engaged in a job and career.
“But then, very quickly, we realize that it’s not all possible and there are cultural expectations when we come out of college, encouraging us to dive into the lifestyle we’re going to follow for the rest of our lives. Suddenly, we’re supposed to earn money, be part of institutions, think about starting a family, get engaged in a job and career.
“But the reality is that the expectations on all levels are really rigid and the stress comes from the abrupt shift, after several years in college where the world feels very welcoming to suddenly realizing that one needs to find the correct path,” Buckwalter continues.
“Add financial stress, which most people coming out of college are experiencing, and a level of debt which is going to follow them for decades — it’s going to impact their lifestyle, their ability to meet all these expectations — and you have a recipe for extreme stress. When you factor that a quarter or half of each paycheck may go toward student loan payments — and that’s before paying rent — then it quickly becomes clear that one’s choices are really quite limited.
“Add financial stress … and a level of debt which is going to follow them for decades … and you have a recipe for extreme stress.”
“There’s no training for this and people had expectations of what it would all look like, then people are confronted with the realities versus the dreams. This creates a lot of conflict for people,” Buckwalter says.
Want to Reduce Your Financial Stress?
If this sounds familiar to you, then you know all about the mental and financial stress graduating college can cause. Why sit back and let it overwhelm you? We want to help you manage and overcome that stress, so Dr. Buckwalter and his team helped develop helped develop Joy to measure financial stress and provide innovative, science-based ways to manage it.
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