My Advice to the Class of 2017

My Future Advice to Eduardito.

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.

College Seniors

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!

Final Thoughts

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:

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13 Comments

  1. Right on Ed. I love your work but have gone the total opposite route on college. Until it reforms itself I view it as a massive boondoggle.

    Sadly, so many professions require that piece of paper but I view college somewhat the way I view Comcast. You are paying and paying through the nose for a lot of information you don’t need and will never use. (The way they force you to subsidize all those channels you don’t watch).

    Hope all is well bud!

    • Mark,
      Boondoggle is the word. Higher ed has become a major source of debt slavery in the U.S. College degrees can be helpful, but I prefer my financial freedom. Have a strong finish to the year and keep on running! Ed

  2. Jonathan

    Ed,

    Although a wonderful post in the spirit of April Fools, I’m curious what advice you would have for recent college graduates. I’d imagine it would involve the following:
    -make a budget
    -stick to your budget and adjust if needed
    -start contributing to IRA, 457, 403b
    -don’t let lifestyle creep set in
    -do little things to try and increase saving rate

    Any other suggestions would be appreciated. Thought that would be a good preliminary list for college graduates.

      • It’s easy to get suckered into an April Fool’s post. Jeremy almost got me with this one before I came to my senses. For me, it was hard to cram so much crappy advice into one post. A couple of times I laughed aloud as I typed my anti-advice. I love homes, cars, investments, and college degrees as much as the next guy, but you have to buy and finance them at a cost-effective price.

  3. I am working on a “Things Teachers Should Actually Be Taught in College” post that you might like Ed.

    It is about 63 skills, habits, beliefs.

  4. Excellent advice, Mr Mills. But you forgot two very important things. First, experiment a lot with illicit drugs. You’re young and strong and your body can handle strain. Besides, drug dealers are the coolest people around, and they operate in the most interesting neighborhoods. Second, have one or two kids before you’re 20. It’s even better if can have them before you graduate high school. Some fuddy-duddies say wait, of course. But why? Raising kids is a piece of cake. And so is acquiring the skills to function in our ever more robotic and automated world. Only fools wait to have kids.

    Haha! Almost had me there, Ed. Great freaking post, my friend.

    • Mr. Groovy,
      Yet more awesome advice especially tailored for April 1st. I always tell my students the story of Len Bias. A certain 10-year NBA All-Star who lost his life due to casual drug use. I played against Len…he was phenomenal. Off the court, he was a nice, normal guy. His death was a complete shock to me.

      Children before marriage is a GREAT idea. Have them while you can. What you overlooked is the responsibility of the insemenators in this magical process. I had a student who had three girls pregnant at once…what an inspiration! I’m sure he’s a wonderful father these days…

      FYI, we’re in Mexico for a few months, and we still like it here. Te invito para una cerveza. Eduardo

  5. Jonathan

    Ed, a serious question despite your above post!

    Do you have a post on your site about optimizing taxes? I’m sure you’ve explained them but it escapes me which post/s talk about them.

  6. Landon

    I knew something wasn’t right about this post about halfway through the first set of bullets when you said something about getting a home loan. Another great post and it gave me a good laugh! Thanks for the advice Sr. Mills!
    -Courson

    • Grasshopper, please don’t take any of that advice to heart! That’s the advice to make your a debt slave. I hope your studies are going well. I’m in Merida now, and I’ll be back in south GA at the end of May. If needed, I’ll help you pull off a travel hack. Until then, “Eduardo Mills”

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