It’s all about the money.

Being a student comes with its fair share of challenges. We must navigate 8 a.m. classes, mountains of assignments, and probably the scariest thing yet—money. Fees are inevitable and unfortunately, there isn’t much leeway to get out of it. Or is there?

Financial columnist and author of  How Not to Move Back in With Your Parents, Rob Carrick, visited Guelph-Humber to spill the do’s and don’ts of financing, budgeting, and money.

Missed the presentation? Read on to learn Rob’s best tips for personal finance:

Man speaking in front of computer

So how did Rob get to where he is now?

In school, Rob always gravitated toward English, and like many of us, he felt anything math-related was definitely not an option. The writing world came as second nature for Rob. After working at The Canadian Press, he saw an ad in the newspaper for The Globe and Mail as an investment reporter and after applying, he ended up getting the position.

Though the investment world didn’t sound interesting initially, his love for it grew.

Today, he is one of the most highly-regarded financial columnists at The Globe and Mail and prides himself on making difficult information easy to read and understand.

Realistically, students aren’t the most well-versed in finance. So having difficult information put into student-friendly terms is SO important. 

Fellow communications students may be wondering what the hardest part about being a journalist is in the current media climate is. What’s your take on it?

As per Rob’s warning, one of the hardest challenges students can expect to face when pursuing this career is grabbing the attention and trust of readers. Readers usually have a preferred outlet so it can be difficult to get readers to want to read a specific journalist’s work and keep coming back to it.

man and woman speaking in front of computer

What are some of the most ridiculous things you find students spending money on?

Nowadays, students spend money on just about anything. But that isn’t the main problem. Rob finds that too many students are getting themselves in a credit card loop and spending too much money for the purpose of gaining points. Chances are you don’t make purchases large enough where it would make a big difference, so using points as the only incentive to make a credit card purchase is not a good idea.

With interest rates racking up at nearly 20 per cent for most credit cards, putting yourself in a situation in which you are unable to pay everything back could potentially risk your credit score—something that will remain on your record forever.

When you make a purchase with a credit card, try to pay as much as you possibly can when your bill comes.

How hard is it for students now, as opposed to other generations, to find a full-time job after graduation?

Unfortunately, finding jobs right after graduation is harder now than ever. Rob finds that when he graduated from school in the 80’s it was easier for him and his classmates to get jobs almost immediately (depending on their degrees). Today, high school students are left with the difficult decision of choosing their majors. It’s more important now than ever to be critical of the degree you get to strengthen your chances of being hired post-grad.

But that’s not all. Schooling is much more expensive today than it was back then. Before, Rob says he would be able to pay off a year in school during a summer of working. Now… not so much.

This doesn’t mean you should lose hope. There’s a lot of contracted work ranging from three months to a year that can help fortify savings accounts. Building up your resume through summer jobs and volunteering can also help.


man and woman speaking to a class of students

So, what are the key takeaways?

1. It’s OKAY to splurge sometimes

man swiping money into the air

Now, don’t get too excited. As students, we have so much stress on our plates as it is. But according to Rob, it’s okay to spend some money once in a while. The key is to make sure you work toward paying it off as soon as you can and to never buy more than you can afford.

Even financial experts splurge sometimes too. Rob tries to spend smart. Recently, he took the plunge and went on a trip to Peru and South Africa.

The best advice is simple. Work hard to pay off your credit card balance as soon as you can to avoid interest accumulating.

2. Always be saving

girl saying"I'm on a budget"

It doesn’t matter how much you start saving initially, what matters is getting yourself into the habit of it. Whether it be through saving any spare change you receive or putting away $100 from every paycheque, every little bit helps—especially when you don’t have a good savings account. Try to gravitate toward banks that don’t charge you monthly fees or service fees for transactions. We already have enough fees to deal with.

3. The workforce is going to be a big change

man picks up the phone and takes a sip from a large coffee cup

The times, they are a’changing. Rob has noticed firsthand his kid’s drastic changes in schedule from post-secondary to full-time work life. One of the biggest changes students can expect to face when entering the workspace is getting accustomed to 9-5 workdays. As students, we’ve gotten used to having a few classes a week and being able to choose a schedule that helps out our sleep schedules (yes, I’m talking about our guilty pleasure—afternoon classes).

But those days won’t last forever.

We’ll have to get accustomed to less leniency, but all for a good purpose. Those 8 a.m. classes and internships will definitely come in handy when it comes time to getting up early for work every day.

4. There’s NO rush to adulting

comedian on stage says, "i'm trying to be more of an adult, and failing at it."

One of the main things students worry about is life post-graduation.

Many of us feel extreme pressure to find a job straight out of school, pay off all of our student loans, buy a house, and get our lives together ASAP. But the truth is, there is no rush to adulting and sometimes it’s okay to take our time. Try not to focus on how long it takes to get your life on track, and instead, focus more on the end destination.

And if you don’t have your life together until you’re 30 it’s OK, you’ll be fine. Rob says so himself.

One piece of advice Rob offers is to try your best to pay off as much of your student loans as you can in each payment to ensure you can get out of debt faster. If you can afford more than the minimum payment, pay as much as you possibly can while still leaving enough for your other expenses.

He stresses not to rush through life and try to take things one step at a time. This makes finances easier to tackle.

5. Renting is sometimes a good option

girl claps her hands and says, "buy me a house"

Moving out of your parents’ place can be a scary experience. The housing market feels like it gets more expensive each day, making it seem impossible for anyone to ever buy a house.

Luckily, there are some initiatives the Canadian government has put in place to help out. The First Time Homebuyer Incentive is an initiative to encourage people to buy houses. This incentive disperses grants to people who are looking to buy their first home to make the process go by a little smoother.

But buying, although it may be seen as an investment, is not your only option. Renting gives you the opportunity to live away from your parents and save money at the same time. By renting, you can use the time to save until you have enough for a mortgage. Before you think about buying a house, make sure you can actually afford it by considering how much money you make and what your expenses are. 

Though Rob’s book title is a funny note on moving out (and staying out) of your parents’ house, sometimes it’s not always an option. Sometimes, moving back home is the only way. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t beat yourself up. Use your time at home to find yourself a stable job where you make enough money to move out comfortably.

Nothing has to be forever.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Want to learn more about personal finance? Check out The Globe and Mail’s Young Money column.

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