Friday, January 21, 2011

Being a broke MBA

There is a great irony to being a broke MBA student.

I mean, yes, there are those MBA students who don't have to worry about money while they are in school. Maybe, some of you are working full time AND in an MBA program, which means that you have substituted worrying about money during grad school to worrying about your sanity. To me, this is a fair trade, and I congratulate you. Let me know when the proverbial shit hits the fan and your wife comes home one night to find you huddled in the corner rocking back and forth murmuring something about "black swans coming to get you". Then there are those of you who are "grandfathered in" to your Ivy-league MBA because daddy contributed enough money to build a new library or your parents were members of the "Skull and Bones" fraternity back in the day. Well you never had to worry about money did you? Feel free to disregard this post and go back to yachting...or whatever rich people do.

But lets face it, most of us, enrolled in $30,000-$50,000 per year programs, paying for rent, textbooks, and other essentials like food, coffee, cigarettes, hookers and blow leaves us, well...broke. (Just kidding about the cigarettes, those things will kill you!)

Which is weird, to be in a program that, well, lets face it, is focused around money. You hear it every day in class. Profit. Loss. Leverage. Credit. Especially when your hear about the multi-billion bailouts banks have received, CEO "golden parachutes" worth tens of millions of dollars, and the like. But at the end of the month, when bills have to be paid, and your looking at an ever-shrinking checking account, its a little disappointing to know how little your worth.

Things get especially depressing if your a finance major who starts calculating the Future value of your ever-increasing student loans. Or you start realizing that your credit cards have 19% APR's.
I guess you could argue that's the case with any Grad school student, but I think its especially painful for MBA students. Why?

Besides the fact that we have to deal with huge profit/loss numbers every day, to be honest, most MBA students in general had paychecks and jobs when we entered our programs. That means we actually gave up a paycheck to go back to school, which is a big decision for a lot of people. Our opportunity cost is a lot larger than people in other fields. The same may not be true for other degrees, like, History. Usually, in humanities/science degrees, you go straight from your bachelors to Masters, or only work for about a year or so in between to take a GRE. You don't meet a masters History major and have him/her tell you "Yeah, i got my bachelors, became a historian for a couple of years (?). then got my masters". Doesn't happen.

And lets face it, being broke SUCKS. College was enough of a lesson for me on how much it sucks being poor, why the hell did I want to relive this again? Why did I let something so stupid as ambition drive me to be poor?! Am I done yet?

Remember when in college you drank the crappy beer, like Nattie light (not that im hating on you Nattie, you got me through some rough times) because, you simply couldn't afford anything else. Then you got a job and, whats this you say, people buy IMPORTED beer? "What is this one called...Pac-See-Fe-ko?" "Boddingtons? Sounds like a bird!" "Holy crap they make beer in JAPAN?!". Maybe you bought a car. Remember when you used to go on these things called "vacation" to really exotic places, preferably places which had drinks with little umbrellas in them.

You were living the good life! Then, you got..."the itch". Maybe it was your annoying boss, your colleagues who had already gotten their MBA, or just blind ambition that told you, "Hey, I should go back and get my degree!" In a flash, that import-beer soaked, tropical vacation, car-owning rug called "A paycheck" is yanked from underneath your feet.

And now what? Your back to square one. Nattie is now replaced with Pabst Blue Ribbon, the hipster 23-28 year old beer of choice. You bum cigarettes. You couch surf when visiting friends. Your dying to get your student aid check. The only thing that separates you from a homeless person, really, is that you have a line of credit!

Guys I know. Ive been there. Hell I AM there. But you just gotta keep chugging along. In the end, it will be worth it. "The juice", to quote a finance professor, "will be worth the squeeze.".

And hey, at least its only 2 years of being broke. Unless your doing a Ph.D. In which case, you really got suckered, and thats your own damn fault!

Get me graduated and a job already! Until next time...


  1. Thank you for post this. I was just thinking about this today and got incredibly depressed!

  2. Good to know I can relate. I work a low paying teaching job and study for an MBA in the evenings. I live with folks to finance my studies. My teaching job only pays $13 an hour (I live in the South)