Facing the “real world”

2 +2 =4.  Every time.  It’s the most beautiful thing.  This is why I always liked math; it just makes sense!  Sure, there are negative numbers and irrational numbers and other weird shit, but when we’re just looking at straight-forward arithmetic, it’s the same every time.

I fell into accounting at a previous job.  I was just doing some basics, but I liked the basics so I learned more, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to do.  Before I knew it, I was doing it all and really enjoying it.

Last summer I started reading about personal finance.  I followed a link about something else entirely and ended up on a personal finance web site, where I got hooked for hours.  I read other web sites and a few books.  I’m really into it now.  And of course, saving is more important than ever, since I may not be working full time for much longer.

So if you throw together my love of math, my accounting experience, and my new interest in personal finance, it makes perfect sense that I was helping my cousin plan his first post-college budget this week.  I laid it all out very carefully.  I explained taxes, investing, compound interest.  I went over why planning is so important and what it’ll allow him to accomplish.

The most interesting part of all of this (and the point… yes, I am getting to a point) is that for the first time, he saw a glimpse of what the “real world” will entail.  He’s had some vague notions for a while, and I’ve tried to give him tips before, but this time he really got it.  He saw just how much it will cost to live a basic lifestyle.  He saw how much it costs to have a car – not just the car itself, but for car insurance, gas, servicing, etc.  He saw what health insurance costs, even before copayments and deductibles.  He saw that all those dinners with friends and quick coffees on the go really add up.  And it hit him hard.

I’m glad he’s seeing what’s involved in the “real world.”  Some of it sucks and some of it rocks, and it’s easy to leave college expecting all of one and none of the other.  I’m trying to show him some balance.  In some small ways I miss the carefreeness of those high school and college years, when someone else was ultimately responsible.  It’s scary as hell right now to face such an uncertain future, where I’m not sure how I’ll earn a living when I don’t feel well enough to work.  But there’s something great about it, too.  There’s the independence.  There’s the self reliance and self control.  There’s eating ice cream before dinner.  (Not that I do that, of course.  Nope.  Not me.  Uh uh.)  There’s living life how I choose to live it.

Life can be difficult and scary, and unfortunately I’m in one of those stages right now, but there’s some pretty incredible parts to it too.  Those are the parts to try and focus on.  And when they’re going well, they really do make up for all the rest.

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