Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

In defense of us “girls” June 10, 2012

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 7:01 pm
Tags: ,

First I saw that WellHeeled had shared an article on one of Blonde on a Budget’s blog posts.  Then I saw people tweeting about this article.  So I’ve finally decided to put in my two cents about the article and the assumptions behind it:

Girls and the Hot Mess (by Lindsay Katai)

Go read Girls and the Hot Mess.  Now.

The basic premise of the article is that a lot of girls our age (20-somethings, 30-somethings) have almost romanticized the idea of being a “hot mess”.  That we (and the rest of society) assume that we’re all running around spending more than we earn, racking up crazy credit card bills, spending too much on shoes, and in general, just being a mess with money.  And apparently the same people believe we’re also running around having all sorts of regrettable sexual encounters and bad dates with weirdos.  And that it’s somehow okay to do all this because it’s what 20-somethings are “supposed to do”.

She finishes the article by telling all of us to shape up.  And I’m very glad she said that.

But I just wanted to make a stand for us girls who didn’t become hot messes.  The ones who spent less than they earned, who avoided consumer debt like the plague.  I mean, I’m not perfect.  I know my financial history isn’t spotless.  I took on $76k in student loans to pay for college.  I borrowed to buy a car.  I’d like to think these actions are defensible, using the personal finance theory that student loans are “good debt” compared to credit card debt.  And that I paid off my car loan 3 years early.  But we’re not all running around sabotaging our emotional and financial futures.

I want to also emphasize what Lindsay said.  It’s not actually cute or adorable to be financial messes. Or to remain ignorant about financial topics.  It’s not charming to say “I don’t know anything about my 401(k)”.  Sure, you can say it, but only if you’re asking someone to show you the ropes.  Saying “That’s what credit cards are for!” when you see a new purse, pair of shoes, or gadget that is out of your budget is not funny.  It’s sad.  So stop doing it.  You’re giving us girls a bad name.

Educate yourself.  Take responsibility for your decisions.  And if you need help, ask for it.  But embracing the “clueless 20-something” persona is just going to hurt you.  When I graduated college, I didn’t know much about personal finance.  But I read books, blogs, and magazines, and asked others for advice, so that I could stop being clueless.

This is what I love about the personal finance community.  Even if some of us started out as hot messes, we hit a point where we realized it was time to stop.  We educated ourselves, and now share our experiences and advice to wake up the rest of our peers.  So thank you!

So.  What do you think?  Am I being high and mighty?  Out of touch?  Spot on?  Were you a hot mess?  Have you abandoned those hot mess ways?


14 Responses to “In defense of us “girls””

  1. I’m with you, Stephanie. I don’t really know how to respond to the Girls and the Hot Mess post, because I’ve never been the hot mess. I’ve made mistakes, and I’m still paying off my car loan (and student loans), and I definitely sabotage myself sometimes by staying up too late (or out too late)…but overall, I think I’ve got my life together pretty well. I don’t have any regrettable sexual encounters. I live below my means. I’m still in school, so it’s hard to say anything about career success yet, but I’m doing pretty well in grad school, which will (hopefully!) pay off in a few years. I worried if I said all of this, that I would come across as high and mighty. (I don’t think you do, by the way)

    I have been thinking about why I am this way, though, when some of my friends from childhood fall more into the hot mess category… is it because my parents rarely let me watch TV or movies (unless they were educational or previously parent approved)? Is it because I heard so many stories about my dad growing up in poverty? Does it have anything to do with my parents, or is it just something that I picked up along the way, that I wanted to have my life together? I don’t know, but I do sometimes find it frustrating that people expect me to be in debt with maxed out credit cards, or expect that I spend every weekend night out drinking, when really, that isn’t my lifestyle at all.


    • Stephanie Says:

      From this comment, I’d think we’re very much alike. No sexual encounters, no crazy debt, etc. And I think maybe it does have a lot to do with what values/ideas you’re exposed to growing up. I was lucky enough to have two loving parents who showed me how to be responsible. I know not everyone is as lucky.

      And you and I both seem to have the problem of staying up too late. Usually I’m up late for no discernible reason. And then I’m just exhausted and groggy the next day.


      • Oh yes, I’d say 95% of the time when I’m up too late, it’s for no good reason…or because I procrastinated some work… maybe 5% of the time it’s because I’m out with friends, but probably even less than that.

        I’m also lucky to have parents who showed me responsibility. I have friends who seemed to grow up with a similar home life that are in the hot mess category, though, but obviously there are other factors.


  2. Bridget Says:

    I don’t know if this applies to me.. I’m enjoying a pretty riotous, uninhibited decade of my life — but I have a solid career, ample savings, and my debt is going down. I don’t regret any of my sexual encounters and my drinking nights are filled with hilarity & fun. I think some people would find the partying my friends & I do excessive, but I don’t feel lost in life and everything gets paid so is it out of hand?


    • Stephanie Says:

      Well, it sounds to me like you’re doing pretty well. You’ve got your finances in order, which is a really important part of avoiding the “mess”. And if you’re healthy and safe, and no one treats you badly, I think you’re doing fine! I personally don’t drink much or go out much…sometimes I wish I did! But I just have as much fun doing those things as other people do.


  3. No hot mess here. There were times that I was not doing as much as I could (like now probably–weddings and new houses tend to eat all your money–but I did save enough to be able to afford these things). But that post bothers me. What bothers me most is right after she complains about not just sucking it up and pulling it together, she’s still not owning up:

    “Maybe it is generational. Maybe it was growing up on slacker movies like Clerks, Reality Bites, or even Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming. Maybe it was the dozens of rom-coms with meet-cutes and grand gestures and manic pixie dream girls and sexual mistakes. Or maybe it was something more organic, something within our culture and politics and changing world at large.”

    She’s blaming it on pop culture … what the heck? I know plenty of female-type 20-somethings who have it together and aren’t even really trying all that hard. They just have the proper mindset.

    But I’ve also been pretty financially stable. I had no student debt, I got paid to go to grad school, and then I started work as an engineer, so maybe I have one-up on the average 20-something female, and it’s just easier for me because I got lucky?


  4. I’m like you, I get annoyed when girls “play” the supposed cutesy, helpless, clueless role. Carrie Bradshaw was the ultimate “hot mess”. I think at one point during the show she was on the brink of homelessness because she couldn’t afford a downpayment on her apartment when it was up for sale, yet had managed to spend around $40 000 on shoes so far. But, Carrie was “rescued” by Big in the end so she things worked out for her. If she hadn’t met a rich man, she’d be a 40 year old “bag lady with nice shoes”…

    I only have a female perspective on this “princess” phenomenon. I have no idea how men feel about it. Maybe the “hot mess” act is really attractive to men and therefore a legitimate strategy for attracting a high earning, high testosterone, macho man? Regardless, I don’t like the idea of being a hot mess and won’t be acting like one.


  5. No hot mess here, and proud of it. Sure, I had debt, but you can be sure it was all student loans, not credit card debt and I paid it off as fast as I could. I take pride in the fact that I’m financially independent and pretty darn responsible with my money.

    I hate the ‘hot mess’ whether it’s just an act or not. It makes me grind my teeth to listen to someone complain about being broke while wearing leggings that cost more than my entire outfit.


  6. Vanessa Says:

    I posted “Girls and the Hot Mess” on my fb and a few girls shared it saying that it described them perfectly — it’s so sad. I too have made some foolish “growing up” mistakes but I was never a mess


  7. SP Says:

    It is one thing to be a “hot mess”, but it is totally another to be proud of it, flaunt it, think it is cute, etc.

    I made a few mistakes, mostly small enough not to harm me much! Some of that is luck, some of that is just having a good head on my shoulders. I’m not a girl either – I’m a woman. I just made the switch (in my head) within the last year or so, and it has made a big difference in how I mentally perceive things I do. It’s kind of strange, really.


    • Stephanie Says:

      Yeah, sometimes I think I still embrace the “girl” persona rather than the “woman” persona. Being one of only a few females in my department, and also being younger than a lot of people in my department, I end up being more like colleague’s daughters’ age, so I fall into that sort of rhythm. So that’s something I need to try to move away from. How did you come to realize/force yourself into the mold of woman rather than girl? I’d love to become more mature. Or at least appear more mature!


      • SP Says:

        Unfortunately, I kind of doubt my internal mental switch was perceived by my colleagues. 🙂 I’m in a similar position to you at work (much younger and much more female than the vast majority of my department), and it’s near impossible for them to see me as mature/experienced. Because compared to them, I’m just plain NOT.

        I read in a career book, basically, to just give yourself permission to be a woman rather than a girl. So far it is a mental thing, but I do try to project it outwards. You should read “nice girls don’t get the corner office”. She pinpoints a few typical “girl” traits and gives you tips on how to stop doing them.


  8. imkym Says:

    Thank you for this post! I am not a “hot mess” and never was… I can’t stand girls who try to play like they are, especially when they’re not! I have a reasonable amount of student loans, after graduating last year from the school that I chose because, well, they were the ones who gave me the most financial aid! I am just starting a blog about how I am going to pay off these loans in under two years! If you have any tips on blogging about this kind of stuff, let me know!


  9. Have you seen the show “Princess” on CNBC? I’m obsessed. All of those girls are giant hot messes! I have been line by line obsessed with my finances since I graduated from college and could not imagine going into consumer debt! Student loans and automobiles seem like good investments and a needed expense, but I could never go into debt over a purse.


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