During my third year of university, I went through a quarter-life crisis and almost dropped out of my undergraduate program. It was a confusing time, marked by lots of time alone, depression, and self-doubt, not to mention tears. Looking back a year later, my new budget-conscious self is curious to know the financial cost of going through a quarter-life crisis. Here is an overview of what I found.
Summer Abroad – $4,930 CAD ($3,858 USD)
I didn’t know it at the time, but the beginning of my quarter-life crisis was marked by an intense desire to go far away from friends, family, and everything familiar. I chose Europe — an expensive destination where I landed an internship in a small town.
Working at my internship that summer, I was paid a meager intern’s salary of 480 Euros per month, or 3 Euros per hour, which was only enough to cover the cost of my rent. My terrible German and the fact that I knew practically nobody in the small town intensified my feelings of isolation. As a result, I ended up traveling to other places during weekends to sightsee and visit friends in bigger cities like Berlin. The total cost of these trips, including transportation and hostel stays, amounted to $4,930 CAD in total, or $3,858 USD.
Retaking a Course – $750 CAD ($587 USD)
I came back from my European adventure more confused about the direction of my life than ever. I lost interest in my undergraduate program and contemplated dropping out, but stayed for fear of upsetting my parents. My grades suffered during this period of psychological stress, and I ended up dropping a course. This cost me a total of $750 CAD or $587 USD, as I had to pay to retake that course one semester later.
Unemployment & Underemployment – $18,474 CAD ($14,458 USD)
I am enrolled in an engineering program, which includes periods of work terms followed by study terms. Most of my classmates spent their work terms interning at large corporate companies, making at least $2,500 CAD a month. During my time in Europe and the subsequent months when I came back, I was too busy contemplating my life to focus on landing a lucrative corporate internship. Instead, I worked part-time at a minimum wage service job. This amounted to a total of $18,474 CAD or $14,458 USD in lost wages.
Extending My Degree – $16,000 CAD ($12,522 USD)
I ultimately chose to finish my degree because I figured having a degree I am no longer passionate about is better than not having one. To make my last year of school easier, I decided to take fewer classes so I can have more time to experiment with different activities and decide what to do with my life. As a result, I will graduate one semester later than everyone else. This means four months of lost wages during the summer and four more months of lost wages during my last school semester. Assuming I’d have landed a job straight out of graduation making at least $2,000 CAD per month, this amounts to a total of $16,000 CAD or $12,522 USD in lost wages.
Adding everything up, I get a total of $40,154 CAD or $31,426 USD – an astronomical sum for someone who grew up with working-class immigrant parents. I guess an underlying question is whether I regret my quarter-life crisis. From a financial perspective, I’d have to say yes. I regret this so much. Think about what I could do with 40K! A nice house, designer shoes and bags, or maybe even a down payment on my first apartment…
But from an emotional and psychological point-of-view, I know I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I learned so much about who I am as a person and gained new insights and beliefs that have become an integral part of my adult-identity. It’s made me feel alive and happy again, instead of a miserable wreck sitting behind a cubicle waiting for payday.
Being poor compared to my working classmates also made me financially savvy. Instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars on designer brands, I feel happy visiting a thrift store and knowing that my own self-worth does not depend on having expensive things. And with more time to work on myself, I started reading personal finance blogs and started appreciating what I have instead of focusing on obtaining more stuff.
Of course, I acknowledge that not everyone is in a financial position to have a quarter-life crisis. In fact, there are still days when I worry about how I’ll make a living or if I’ll be working minimum wage jobs for the rest of my life. I am lucky as I had my parents to support me throughout this ordeal by giving me a place to live and food to eat. This is just my story of what I went through along with some financial insights.
Linni is an undergraduate student living in western Canada. She has documented her life after a quarter-life crisis in a diary which you can read here. Currently, she is on summer break and getting ready for her last semester of engineering school. She can be found on her blog, where she likes to write about conscious living.
Image via Unsplash