Giving advice is a tricky enterprise.
Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself, maintained Cicero.
Follow your heart—but take your brain with you, advised psychologist Alfred Adler.
Perhaps the real trick in the advice game is in the receiving, not in the giving.
In this spirit, I’d like to offer some bits of wisdom I’ve curated over the years.
Some of this advice is financial—my chosen field—and some is experiential, but all is offered for your consideration as you begin your journey through life.
Launching Your Life: Advice for College Grads
- Trust your gut. Be open to what others offer but trust your intuition. Use those critical thinking skills you honed in college to evaluate advice through the lens of who you are and where you want to go. Then go forward, test, and refine along the way.
- Create a budget. A simple budget is a powerful thing. It will show how much money you earn and spend each month. A budget will help you determine where you need to cut back or where you can cut back in order to save and invest. You can use apps, spreadsheets, or online tools to create and monitor your budget.
- Pay off debt. If you have student loans, credit cards, or other debts, pay them off as soon as possible. Debt can accumulate interest and fees and affect your credit score and future borrowing ability. If you can’t pay off your credit card each month, go back to my second piece of advice. At the very least, pay more than the minimum amount each month, and prioritize paying off debts with the highest interest rates.
- Build an emergency fund. An emergency fund is a savings account you can use for unexpected expenses, such as medical bills, car repairs, or job loss. When you’re young, an emergency fund can help you avoid going into debt when something goes wrong. Aim to save at least three to six months of living expenses in your emergency fund.
- Save for retirement. Retirement may seem far, far away, but the sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to grow. You can take advantage of employer-sponsored plans, such as 401(k)s or IRAs, or open your own retirement account. Try to contribute at least 10% of your income to your retirement savings each month.
- Invest wisely. Investing is a way of making your money work for you by putting it in assets such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or real estate. Investing can help supercharge your savings for long-term goals—buying a house, starting a business, traveling the world. Invest in broad-based index funds which will allow you to buy a slice of global capitalism for a very low cost. You can learn to do it yourself, but if you don’t have the time or inclination to do so, work with an advisor who’ll put your interests first.
- Be curious and brave. Don’t be afraid to try new things, especially when you’re relatively young. Hone a variety of skills—problem-solving, communications, technology, using data to make decisions, building relationships—that are transferrable to many roles. This will make you more confident, innovative, and valuable in the workforce.
- Consider working for a large employer. Large organizations often have many resources, training courses, and multiple career paths. Take the training classes and explore different roles. See what resonates, make connections, and you’ll be better positioned to make a big impact at a smaller company or even to start your own.
- Nurture healthy relationships. One of the longest-running studies on happiness has identified a strong link between close relationships and happiness. Personal connections are natural mood enhancers. As you leave the highly social world of college and dorm life, you may need to work a little harder to build your professional network. Volunteer, get involved, join a group–—you never know where a connection may lead.
- Keep learning. Now that you’ve got a diploma in hand, you may think you’ve learned enough for a while. Don’t become complacent. There’s always more to discover. Ask questions. Observe others. Dive into topics that interest you. You never know when you may stumble on the thing that could activate your life’s purpose.
Your Path is Your Own
Congratulations on your graduation, and I wish you all the best in discovering the gems of wisdom—from others and from within—that put you on a path uniquely your own.