Coping in the Real World

Many of today's college graduates can't balance checkbooks, have dead-end jobs and are on the verge of bankruptcy. Are these 20-somethings just whining, or are they facing some real issues? Dr. Phil has advice for helping college graduates cope in the real world:


  • Do you have a sense of entitlement?
    Do you expect to live a lifestyle like what you had when you were living at home with your parents? Dr. Phil says that many grads expect to duplicate the standard of living that their parents enjoy, without realizing the years of hard work that went into acquiring that lifestyle. Success takes time, and having grown up comfortably does not entitle you to that same lifestyle.

  • Money problems aren't solved with money.
    Dr. Phil says that many college grads get into money problems because of lifestyles, poor problem solving, unrealistic expectancies and a sense of entitlement. "All of those things cause you to make decisions that you can't afford to make," he says. Oftentimes graduates will use their credit cards to get money or to pay their bills, which gets them further into debt. "This is deficit financing," Dr. Phil explains — living on borrowed money that has to be paid back. Try giving your credit cards a rest.

  • Make a budget.
    The problem with many recent graduates, Dr. Phil says, is that they aren't aware of the costs of their monthly household needs. "I think we have to sit our kids down and take them through setting up house," Dr. Phil points out. "You've got to clean your clothes. You've got to buy food. Those tires are going to wear out. You've got to put gas in the car." Keep a record of your monthly expenses and be practical.

  • Don't compare your reality to someone else's social mask.
    Dr. Phil cautions against keeping up with the Joneses. He says, "You look over there, and you go, 'Wow, have they got it going on! Have they got the perfect job; have they got the perfect life; have they got the perfect marriage, the perfect clothes, the perfect car. Everything is wonderful.' You compare your reality to that, and you're going to lose every time, because that's not real." Remember, everything is not as it appears. Keep your expectations realistic.

  • Pay your dues.
    It's great to have a passion for your career, but don't immediately expect to walk into a six-figure position with a corner office the day after graduation. "You've got to be willing to get in and do the work along the way," Dr. Phil says. "I really think there's this sense of wanting everything right now ... and it just doesn't come that easy. There are a lot of dogs out there after those bones." Don't feel degraded if you have to take a customer service or temp position until your dream job comes along. You've got to be willing to get in the door and play the game.

  • Every day isn't going to be fun.
    "Every part of every job isn't wonderful," Dr. Phil says. "That's just part of growing up. Sometimes, you just do what you have to do because you have to do it, rather than because it's super fun." He points out that people need to be more appreciative of other things, such as a loving and supportive relationship with family and friends, instead of being bored with life. "You need to quit whining and go start living," he says.

  • Understand the phases of life.
    Recent grads should keep in mind that there are three phases in life that may better equip them or hinder them when it comes to succeeding in the real world. "There's the dependency phase when you're children, there's the preparation phase when you're getting yourself educated and ready to go into the world, and then there's the performance phase," Dr. Phil says. The problem is that most parents do a better job of helping their children academically in the preparation phase, but make failing grades when it comes to the performance phase. Equal time should be spent on teaching children life skills, such as balancing checkbooks, writing checks, creating budgets and paying bills.