Congratulations on your graduation; welcome to life. For the last several years you’ve been insulated from reality by the protective cocoon of a college or high school campus. While you’ve toiled with academic duties, chances are you’ve done little toiling with many of life’s harder lessons.
In the coming decade you will be faced with challenges and hardships that you probably have been ill-prepared to handle. That is more of a condemnation of our overall “wussification” as a society than a knock against educators, who for the most part do a good job of working within nearly impossible restraints. Despite their best efforts, there were a few things that were left out of the syllabus on life.
I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve made my share of mistakes. It is my hope that by sharing them here at Frugal Dad at least a few of you will avoid repeating them. So on this graduation day, a day of celebration and reminiscing, keep the the following lessons in mind.
10 Lessons For New Grads
1. Your diploma is worthless. It is a piece of paper. It will soon be mounted in an expensive frame and proudly displayed on a wall somewhere in corporate America. It is the knowledge that you gained, and the experiences you’ve collected, that are invaluable.
2. It’s OK to lose. You are too young to remember keeping score. When I was a kid we had winners and losers, champions and second place. Now everyone gets a trophy just for participating. Losing teaches humility. Embrace it, learn from it, but don’t make it a habit.
3. You cannot borrow your way to prosperity. Sure, some have borrowed money to start something and had success in spite of leveraging their future, but most people crash and burn. Go slow. Save your money and build your idea with your own cash. You’ll spend smarter with your own money.
4. It is time to take better care of yourself. No more all-nighters. The time has come to take care of yourself. Take it from someone who has largely ignored his own advice for the last decade, putting other priorities ahead of his own health. Make taking care of yourself priority one. Trust me, you’ll save money on insurance, health care, and enjoy a better quality of life.
5. Save for sunny days. By now you’ve had the idea of saving for a rainy day beaten into you. It’s good advice, but don’t forget the sunny days, too. Save on purpose. Whatever that purpose is – a hobby or skill you’d like to learn, or a trip you’ve always wanted to take – save for it and pay cash. Remember, life is meant to be enjoyed.
6. There is nothing wrong with renting. Resist the temptation to run out and buy a house. There is no shame in renting. In fact, there are many advantages to renting. It makes sense for new graduates unsure about where they plan to work and live, and who they might plan to share their lives with going forward. When you have a huge emergency fund saved, and the time is right, buy a modest home and pay it off quickly.
7. Save half your income. I don’t have regrets, but if I could do one thing over in my life I would save 50% of my income from the first day I entered the work world. Doing so ensures one year of freedom outside of the work world.
8. A used car does not always represent “someone else’s problem.” Despite our automotive advances over the last thirty years or so, I still routinely hear this excuse for avoiding used cars. There is nothing wrong with a good used car. Have a mechanic check it out, buy it, and drive it until the wheels fall off.
9. Some people will earn more than you for doing the same job. Now that you have a degree you probably feel like you should be at the top of the salary scale. Wrong. There are people who have been out there hustling since you were in diapers (or before), and even though they don’t have a degree, they have decades of real-world experience. Don’t resent them; learn from them.
10. Stand behind your beliefs, especially when they are unpopular. You are an individual, with an individual set of beliefs. Never let anyone take that away from you. It is not popular these days to stand up for what you believe in, but unless you stand for something, you will fall for anything.
Extra credit: You are not finished learning. Learning is a life-long endeavor, and to quit now would mean short-changing yourself some sixty or seventy years. Continue to read books, study subjects you are curious about, and challenge yourself to broaden your horizons. Formal education is now behind you, but a world of opportunity to learn more is now in front of you.
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