Your Best Advice for Graduates

May 3, 2007

It’s May and that means graduation for lots of schools across the country. In the spirit of graduation and new starts, I thought it would be fun if we all offered our best advice to this year’s graduates.

What is one piece of advice or life lesson that you have for this year’s graduates (both high school and college)? It can be related to personal finance or life in general.

Here’s mine:

Prioritize your finances. Sit down with a pen and paper and write out all your financial needs and wants and then prioritize them. Work on the most important ones first. Even though you are only in your early 20s, make retirement planning one of your first priorities. Start your 401(k) or Roth IRA as soon as possible. Also, have a debate with yourself about the importance or necessity of each major purchase. Heed this advice and you’ll most likely be a happy camper 5, 10, 15+ years down the road.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your best advice?

Advice From Other Bloggers:

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: If you would rather write about this topic on your blog, do so and send me a link and I’ll link to it from this post.

23 responses to Your Best Advice for Graduates

  1. crazypumpkin May 3, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    Don’t get into credit card debt. Yes, that trip to San Diego right after graduation looks awesome, and you know you’ll be able to pay it off with your new job, but will you? I didn’t. And 6 years later I’m still trying to dig out.

  2. Grasp every opportunity to travel overseas that you can afford. And if you can’t afford it, save up.

    Actually, its advice I would give anyone at any time. Its always a good time to see what the rest of the world is like.

  3. Take advantage of the Federal law allowing you free access to your credit reports and stay on top of them: Take the time to cultivate a good credit score so you will not have to pay more than you have to for your mortgage, car note, etc.

  4. Don’t go further into debt by buying a new car. Yes you have few responsibilities but to yourself, but soon you’ll wish that you had been a little more conservative in your spending when marriage or a house creeps up on you, and you have little to show for your early work years.

    Keep living the frugal college lifestyle for a couple of years and you’ll be surprised at how happy you are.

  5. My advice:

    Step back and think long and hard about your future, where you want to be in 10-20 years, what kind of vocation you would enjoy and would be well-suited for, what kind of lifestyle you wish to have, what you are willing to sacrifice in order to have it, and what you are willing to do to get it.

    From this will come everything else in your life. Success of virtually any kind will require sacrifices, sometimes extraordinary sacrifices. If you don’t define what is most important to you early on, then you will have no motivation and no direction. And without a motive and a compass, your chances of really making something of your life are worst than random – more like weak at best.

    You don’t have to get too specific just yet – but you need to be self-aware enough to make the critical decisions that come with graduating into adulthood.

  6. Read, read, read, read, read. Never assume you know enough. Never stop learning! There is so much helpful information out there that we now have no excuse for not making informed decisions. How many times do we say “if I knew then what I know now . . .” You’re going to make mistakes, but don’t let ignorance be the reason you make them.

  7. Don’t try to “keep up with the Jones'”. It doesn’t make you happy. I wish I had back all the money I blew trying to show off.

  8. Avoid consumer debt if possible. That is the main killers of young people

  9. One tip? That’s so hard. I think the one that crosses most aspects of life is that they need to learn how to set goals. Real goal setting is something that’s so important but not enough people do it. By setting solid goals you give yourself a plan to follow and that can help you with budgeting, debt repayment plans, retirement planning and everything else financially related. It can also help with your career, relationships and everything else.

    On the other side, I wrote an article a few months ago about The 5 Biggest Financial Mistakes New Grads Make that may give people ideas of what not to do.

  10. Find a mentor. The right mentor will have “been there, done that” in nearly every avenue of life that graduates will ultimately face. The cost? A little humility.

  11. It surprises me how many of my twenty-something friends are in huge debt. That tells me twenty-somethings are not money conscious yet.

    My biggest advice to new graduates is get money conscious.

    I know most graduates are probably in a lot of debt, so I’d recommend Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. It has some solid, practical advice.

  12. I actually wrote a “Top Ten Foci” article about this in my blog several weeks ago, right after my little brother’s college graduation.

    It certainly fits in tidily here.

  13. Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

    (from Mary Schmich, wrongly attributed to Kurt Vonnegut)

  14. Keep it simple: Educate yourself on personal finance, set financial goals, and follow through.

  15. What was that line from the Graduate? You remember the Graduate – Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katherine Ross, Mrs. Robinson, Alfa Romeo Spyder?

    Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
    Benjamin: Yes, sir.
    Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
    Benjamin: Yes, I am.
    Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
    Benjamin: Just how do you mean that, sir?
    (Courtesy of

  16. BEFORE you graduate, get a credit card! Obviously, use it responsibly (or not at all), but make sure you have one by the time you graduate. While you’re in college, you are inundated with credit card offers. But for the first 6 months after you graduate, it can be very difficult to get one. As a grad student, making a fine salary, I was rejected by 5 cards before I got one, just because I had no credit history.

  17. Hi

    My advice (as a 40-year-old that didn’t do any of this) is to avoid debt, cherish and nurture your network of friends, and enjoy this part of your life to the full before you have lots of commitments.


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