Graduating? Some Things That Made the Biggest Difference

Graduation season is here. I see the smiling graduates and proud parents snapping photos and walking to the celebratory meal. As I watch them I think back to my college graduation day. I am coming up on about 20 years since graduating from college, so I now have some years behind me to reflect on what I did right and what I did wrong from a financial perspective so far. WHAT YOU MIGHT DO WRONG 1. Relationship mistakes I won’t go into detail, but finding a life partner is a strange combination of factors in and out of your control. But, make sure to make a good choice. This single factor could mean a whole lot of pain if we make the wrong one. Ensure you are on the same page in terms of finances or that you complement each other in some ways. Basically, trust your instincts and try to know what you are getting into. 2. Buying a new car (or new anything) In 2003 my old used Truck died after 200k miles. I went to the Ford dealer and bought a new car. I should have bought used. In the early years after graduation try to buy everything used. You will save so much money! WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT 1. Always be professional A career is a long and strange thing at times. You leave the educational system and enter the jungle of the working world. You will encounter all kinds of strange beasts. People with very different backgrounds and ways of interacting in the world. It always seemed to pay off being firm and professional. I have regretted the few times I went low, so I try to always go high now. Pay your dues, be professional and committed and you will probably move up quickly. 2. Starting the Saving/Investing Habit Start the saving and investing habit from day one. Perhaps it is only $50/month. Maybe it’s $5 month! The important thing is not the amount, but the HABIT. And, do not underestimate the power of small amounts early on becoming large amounts with time. The easiest way to do this is to simply sign up for the companies 401k or set up your own withdrawal into an IRA through a company like Vanguard. 3. Know Thyself In my opinion this is hard at first. The reason is that we have spent years of childhood being programmed by society and our family in terms of what success should look like. This is not a bad thing, but the mold may not be the right fit for you as you discover your priorities. It might be the stupid cartoon version of the big guy in the suit with the gold toilet. But will achieving this really be your higher purpose and lead to happiness in general? Probably not. You will have to spend many years exploring the kind of career and lifestyle that most serves you and your family. Some folks do not naturally thrive in the corporate environment while others do. There is no one way or the other that is better, there is simply self discovery, kindness and evolution. Be at Peace With The Unexpected We can’t plan everything. Yes, having a plan in life is a crucial tool and exercise. Just like we need a plan to effectively execute a project. But sometimes things happen to us that are unexpected or we make a choice that leads us down an unexpected path. Try and find peace with new paths and avenues. You might find them more rewarding than what you planned and thought you needed. I have hope for the future and for young folks. Yes, we all will need to work hard and sacrifice some things for our greatest pursuits, but the journey becomes that much greater because of that effort. I believe the world will be an exciting place to be the next couple of decades as humanity pushes the boundaries of science, Government, technology and finding ways to live harmoniously together. I have had failures and success. I anticipate more success and failures as I continue to live, this is part of life, learning, growing and evolving. Congratulations class of 2018!

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