5 Money Lessons People Learn at Their First Job

By Mikey Rox on 6 October 2014 0 comments

Your first job teaches a lot of important lessons. For example, you learn how to be punctual, how to get along with others, and how to develop a thick skin. But these aren't the only lessons you learn. A first job teaches several lessons specifically devoted to money, too. (See also: 7 Lessons Learned From Working Retail)

Here are five key ones.

1. You'll Bring Home Far Less Than You Expected

Whether your first job is in high school or after college, the amount you bring home is always less than your hourly wage or salary. Although everyone knows about the Tax Man, you might be surprised to learn just how much of your check goes toward federal and state taxes. You can lose up to 25% of your pay to taxes, and that's before other payroll deductions, such as retirement, disability insurance, and 401(k) contributions. So, if you're earning $50,000 a year, don't get excited and think you'll bring home $4,000 a month. After subtracting all deductions, you'll be lucky to bring home $3,000 a month.

2. You Realize How Much Things Really Cost

If you're living at home with your parents supporting you, you may not fully realize how hard it is to stretch a buck. Getting a first job can also give us a dose of reality. Before, you might have spent your allowance impulsively. But now, you have to budget and track where your money goes. This may seem like a major downer, but you'll develop smart money habits that offer long-term benefits. If you have a budget, it'll be easier to live within your means.

3. The Job Perks Aren't Always Attractive

While preparing for your first job in college, you might envision yourself working for a company that offers amazing benefits, such as a 401(k) match and paid health insurance. But once you get into the workforce, the reality isn't as picturesque.

The truth is, many employers have been hit with economic problems and don't have the cash flow to offer an attractive benefits package. To survive, these companies might ditch their 401(k) match program and they may no longer offer paid employee health insurance, or they'll pay a very small percentage of this insurance. Either way, the absence of these perks can impact how fast you're able to grow your retirement account; and if you're paying your own health insurance, that's less money on your paycheck.

4. Bosses Don't Give Money That You Don't Ask For

If you're interviewing for a first job after college, you may feel that your knowledge justifies a particular wage or salary. However, your boss may offer far less for the position than you anticipated. Like most things in life, salaries are negotiable; and if you don't open your mouth and negotiate your salary, don't expect your boss to pay up.

Even if you don't receive the salary or wage you had in mind, your boss might be willing to meet you halfway — but you won't know unless you ask. There's a simple way to approach this situation. You can say something like, "I appreciate the offer of $30,000, but I was hoping to be in the $37,000 range based on my degree and average salaries in the area." (See also: How to Negotiate Higher Pay at Your Next New Job)

If you start practicing how to negotiate salaries early in your career, you'll master this art and become skilled as you move up the corporate ladder.

5. Buying Lunch Every Day Adds Up

When you're rushing to leave the house each morning, there might be little time to make your lunch — or maybe you don't like sandwiches or frozen meals and prefer grabbing a hot meal each day. It might be fun and convenient to dine out with your coworkers, but one thing you'll learn at your first job — especially if it's also your first full-time job — buying lunch every day adds up.

You might only spend $5 a day on food and coffee, but that's $25 a week or $100 a month. Since your first job will likely have an entry-level salary, spending $100 a month on lunch might be too much for a modest salary. There are better uses for your money, such as contributing more to a retirement account or beefing up your emergency savings account.

Do you have other lessons to add that people learn at their first job? Did you learn it the hard way? Let me know in the comments below.

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