Graduation season is upon us. College students across the country are quickly racing towards the end of the school year and final exams. I was back on my college campus last week for a couple of alumni association meetings, and I could not help myself from getting a little nostalgic. Now that I have been gone from the daily grind of campus life for several years, I have the benefit of hindsight. Time gives a guy a chance to look back fairly objectively.
There are a few things that I wish I had known on graduation day. Hopefully these tips will help some of you as you prepare to set foot out in the “real world” of work…
- Start investing from day one! The best thing a college graduate has is time and the power of compounding interest.
- Focus on doing your current job to the best of your abilities, and the promotions will soon follow. You cannot be successful at your current job when you are looking too far ahead at future assignments.
- Do something you love doing. Don’t take a job just for the money.
- Have a hobby or two outside of work. Without balance in your life, the daily grind will get you.
- Spend less money than you earn.
- Save for a rainy day because there are always storm clouds on the horizon whether we want to admit it or not.
- A house is a great long term investment, but it is okay to rent too if the timing is not right in your life to buy.
- Picking the right spouse might be the most important decision we make in our young adult lives.
- Get out of credit card and other consumer debt as fast as possible and then never go back down that road.
- Never stop learning! Keep getting educated whether it is formally at a college or even informally through blogs, etc.
I asked a few of my friends and family what they had wished they had known back in the day when they graduated. And, the answers were as eclectic as my family. They gave ideas such as wanting to learn to drive a stick shift, do not forget about having the right amount of life and disability insurance, wanting to learn how to cook, and being careful who you trust with your finances (no one cares about your money more than you!).
I also asked a few of my favorite personal finance bloggers to also tackle the question. Now, some of their answers are a little longer than I had anticipated, but their answers are great like always!
J Money from Budgets Are Sexy said, “I wish I knew how sexy 401ks were! Three years of missing out on free employer matches kills me to think about today. But it’s all a learning process, you know? Good thing you all are reading this post.”
Patrick from Cash Money Life said, “I already had a full-time job when I graduated from college – I was enlisted in the USAF. So my situation was a little different than many fresh college graduates. Because I was “under contract,” I had to finish the terms of my enlistment before I could use my degree as a civilian. I wish I would have known more about making the military to civilian transition, which is not always an easy thing to do. It took me several months to find a job, but thankfully I was able to tie in my military experience and my degree. You can read more about my post-military employment history and how I made the transition.”
Matt from Steadfast Finances said, “Fight to keep your FICO score as high as possible. The availability of affordable credit can jumpstart a sound financial future since you have the option (keyword being option) of buying any number of high quality assets. And the higher your FICO score, the lower your monthly expenses will be.”
Philip from Weakonomics said, “I needed someone to stress the importance of having savings. The process of transitioning from student to professional is financially draining. I had to move, buy a wardrobe, get my own insurance, and deal with another dozen or so hidden costs that come from the transition. I came out fine, but there were some moments where that next paycheck couldn’t come fast enough.”
Kevin from No Debt Plan said, “I wish I knew the stock markets, especially financial markets, were going to crash. I would have put everything I had in shorting those investments. Then I would retire.”