This post is for all the future millionaires who will be graduating from high school and college over the next few months. While it’s more common to read graduation posts in May, I wanted to get this post out early before the senioritis took over completely. (I’m sure my readers remember someone who did less then their best as they got closer to graduation.) Hopefully, a few seniors out there will take this advice to heart as they finalize their college plans or begin their careers. Here are my words of wisdom for the Class of 2017:
High School Seniors
Congrats in advance, guys. After 14 years of schooling (yes, pre-K and Kindergarten count), you’re almost done with school…until college or tech school of course. Here are a few thoughts:
- Follow Your Passion * Some might argue that you should pursue a college degree that leads to a “good” job. Consequently, many people tout business, medical, or S.T.E.M. majors as being wise educational choices. That may be true, but don’t let your focus on money pull you away from what really interests you, your passions. If you want to pursue a “lesser degree,” go for it…it’s your life!
- Whatever the Cost, Get Your College Degree * Don’t let the cost of college scare you because you can always take out student loans. If you need $100k (or more) to pay for college, student loans are readily available. Take advantage of them; they are lifesavers! Also, keep in mind that a college degree is invaluable, so its cost should not even be a consideration. Whatever the cost, get your degree!
- You Get What You Pay for * As a general rule of thumb, an expensive college degree is better than an inexpensive college degree. (There are some crazy people who don’t believe this!) So, it stands to reason that a $50k degree is better than a $25k degree. A $100k college degree signals to potential employers that you take your education very seriously. If you’re still afraid of spending “so much” for college, keep in mind that you’ll have at least 15 years to pay off your student loans. You won’t have to pay them off all at once! (Bonus wisdom: you can use your student loans to step up your lifestyle. Why live like a student if you don’t have to?)
- Credit Cards Help You Build Credit * There has been a lot written about the perils of credit card debt. However, what’s often overlooked is how credit cards can help you build your credit. Without a solid credit history, it’s very difficult to qualify for a car or home loan. While you don’t want to build up an amount over $10k, $3k-$5k of credit card debt should be enough to help you establish a solid credit history.
Welcome to the “Real World” guys. After 18 years of diligence and commitment, you have finally arrived. Here are a few words of enlightenment for soon-to-be college graduates:
- It’s Time to Treat Yourself * Okay, you’ve lived like a student for years now, so it’s time to enjoy yourself a little. Like most recent college graduates, you probably need a new car, your own place to live, the latest smartphone, and an updated wardrobe. You’ll also want to frequent restaurants and bars more often now that your studies are done. Go for it and have fun because you’ve earned it! If you’re short of cash, you can always fund your new lifestyle with personal loans or credit cards. Remember, you only live once!
- Make Your Job Your Life * If you want to get ahead in your career, you’ll have to make some sacrifices. Nothing should come between you and your career success. Nothing! Your relationships, health, and hobbies should all become secondary as you aggressively pursue your career goals. You can always work on those aspects of you life after you’ve made it. If you’re going to work and do it right, your job should consume your life.
- Graduate School? * If you’re not sure what to do next, graduate school is always a solid option. First, attending graduate schools allows you to defer any student loan payments you might have. Sure, your student loans will still accrue interest, but you won’t have to pay that off until later. Let the future-you worry about such silliness! Second, graduate school keeps you from entering the real world until you’re ready for it. Why work a job you don’t like when you can extend your college experience? (Take it from me, keg beer tasted just as good in graduate school as it did during my undergraduate days!)
Your Life Beyond School
Here is some general advice that will be helpful to all young adults. In the near future the majority of you will have to make many adult decisions regarding: marriage, children, career, home ownership, and a number of financial issues. While I hesitate to give you marriage advice, I feel qualified to give you some advice pertaining to your finances. As a general rule, you should always trust the experts because, believe it or not, they usually know what’s best for you. Not sure how much money to borrow for your first home? Your local banker will help borrow an amount that perfectly fits your budget. Confused about money, investing, or retirement planning? No worries, just call up your reliable broker or financial advisor, and he’ll handle all those nagging money issues for you (usually at no cost to you).
If the experts are unable to help you with an issue, check with your contemporaries to see what they’re doing. After all, they couldn’t all be wrong, could they? (It’s called the “wisdom of the crowd.”) Feeling fat, tired and unhealthy? Be like your friends and get on a low-fat diet with a daily cholesterol medication. Boom, your problem is solved! Need a new car? Duh, finance it over six years just like everyone else. Are you getting the hang of this? Good heavens, it’s not rocket science, right?
To recap: when faced with a big decision, defer to the experts. If you’re still confused, look to your friends for advice. Now you’re ready to go out and conquer the world; best of luck and Godspeed to all of you!
Thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments and questions. I know a lot of this advice might seem counter-intuitive, and one last thing:
Happy April Fool’s Day!
Good grief, if you thought any of that advice above was useful, you still have some learning to do! Whatever you do, stay away from debt as much as possible. Do yourself a favor and learn about personal finance; your future-self will thank you. (Start learning here: #1, #2, #3.) Here’s some actual good advice to graduates:
|Health Savings Account: We use Elements Financial to access commission-free, low-cost Vanguard ETFs at TD Ameritrade.