Apr 28 2008

Hey recent grads: I want to tell you something

My husband and I graduated from college last May. It’s amazing that almost a year has passed since then! A ton of changes have happened to us since then–getting married, moving 400 miles from home, starting new jobs, etc. (and that’s a big etc.!).

I didn’t actually attend commencement.

I remember not wanting to pay the $60 or whatever to rent a graduation gown. I was unimpressed with the choice of commencement speaker. The kicker: Nobody would announce my name to the masses, and I would not walk across a stage in front of my family. I guess you’ll have that when you go to a large state school.

Anyway, it didn’t sound like a good use of my day, and I didn’t really want to put my family through sitting through a boring ceremony. I don’t regret not attending.

So. If there are any soon-to-be college grads reading this blog, I’d like to tell you a few things.

1. I’m really sorry about the timing of your graduation and the state of the economy. If you haven’t already found a job, it can be tough finding something suitable. Don’t settle for a career-type job doing something that you hate. If you do, you could be stuck there for awhile. Your life shouldn’t be spent in misery.

Instead, if you don’t yet have a job lined up, talk with your folks and see if they’d be open to you living with them while you job-searched. Work part-time somewhere to have some money coming in, and be sure to pay for your own food and kick back some money to cover some “rent.” Remember, this is a temporary situation, but it could help you avoid settling on a terrible job and/or going into mounds of debt while you job-search in your own apartment. On the surface, it could look like you’re wimping out, but really, it could save you a lot of hassle.

2. Once you’re hired somewhere, don’t spend your first paycheck before you get it. Don’t try to buy a new car just yet, and don’t move into the fanciest apartment you can find. Live cheaply for at least your first few months out of college, and I promise you won’t regret it.

3. While you’re bringing in a better salary, be aggressive and save an emergency fund and pay off all of your credit cards and tackle your student loans. These debts need paid, and it’s better to just get them out of the way as soon as possible and move on with your life. Definitely budget your money, and don’t allocate more than 25 percent of your take-home pay to your rent. Seriously.

4. Along with your debt-repayment and saving-money aggression, start throwing a large portion of your paycheck into a retirement account. You probably won’t miss the money at this stage, and thanks to compound interest, you could have quite a bit saved at retirement. Time is on your side. Exploit it.

5. If you’re moving to a new city, realize that it could take you 6 months to a year to get to know your way around. I’ve been in Pittsburgh for 11 months now, and I still regularly use my GPS around “tahn.” Pittsburgh is semi-big and really confusing.

Just keep in mind that for the first time in like 17 years of your life, you’re no longer a student. You’re going through a huge transition. You might feel lonely, especially if your friends become scattered across the country. Keep in touch with them, and also seek to make new friends in your new environment. Many of my college friends have said meeting people after graduation has been really tough. When we’re in school, we have a built-in social network. After graduation, you’ll meet people at all stages of life, who may or may not be looking for friends.

6. You’ll probably hear all sorts of advice right now. Feel free to ignore it–after all, you’re a grown-up and can make your own decisions. But remember, it’s much easier to learn from other’s mistakes than to waste time making them yourself.

10 Responses to “Hey recent grads: I want to tell you something”

  1. Oh my gosh, I cannot even begin to tell you how much this post resonates with me. I graduated from a big state school last May, like you did (and skipped out on my graduation, too!). I wish I had been told all these things before I graduated, just to prepare, so thanks for doing this for those who are about to go through what we did.

    It is really hard being on my own at entry-level pay in this horrible economy, but as my boyfriend pointed out the other night, it’s better than entering the job force during the dot-com boom, getting used to that, then seeing things go way downhill. We’re starting off during a bad time, but when things get better, we’ll know we made it through one of the more difficult times. Hopefully this gives us an edge in money management. I’m just glad I found a decent job not far out of school. If was graduating this May, it would be much harder and I’d probably have to move home with my parents for a while. I feel very fortunate that things weren’t quite so bad about a year ago. The times are challenging, but it will make us stronger.

  2. Yea, that is what I am iffy about. I am graduating in a few years and I live in Illinois and am thinking about taking a job in Texas.
    Actually, the only thing stopping me is that all my family and friends live in the Chicagoland area and I’d be all alone in Texas. Any tips since I see you’ve moved?
    I’d love any advice I can get.
    Thank you.

  3. I’ll be joining the ranks of the graduated in a couple years, but I’m one of the few fortunate people to have a great job all ready – the degree is a way to get me to the next step in the ladder of “advancement.”

    One thing I’d like to add though – other than the transistion from say, making $8/hr to $20/hr – don’t adjust your life just yet. Let that extra money sit in your accounts (you DO have a checking and savings, right?) and just watch that balance grow while you continue living a “Impoverished” college lifestyle.

    Once you get the idea that you can save, you’ve got that fund up to a respectable amount – go out and have a night for you (or you and a friend) to really celebrate the double whammy – a new job, and a great start to a financial zen future! (<- I couldn’t resist)

    Zen’s last blog post..Technical Difficulties

  4. These are some great tips! I am graduating tomorrow night and I am jumping into my job search and it is somewhat depressing right now.

  5. Kacie,
    I skipped both of my commencements too. I told myself that I’d walk when I got my Masters, but when I got that I decided it wasn’t worth the money. Plus in both cases, I graduated early – so it felt extra silly to finish in December and than walk in May. I don’t regret skipping them either.


    S.B.’s last blog post..Used Our KB Toy Coupon

  6. I’ve found that real-life finance works from the same principles as college finance but doesn’t have as much of a safety net (depending on your parents, I guess). In college, I didn’t have to worry about as much, but then I wasn’t bringing in as much money. I think they money and worries have increased almost proportionally, but I don’t feel like “Well, I can always go home and just pay my parents for any food/gas I use.” All of a sudden, the net is gone and it’s pretty scary.

    Still, no need to panic, it’s fun as well!

  7. Great post. I graduated 3 years ago from a very large state school and moved to a new city and then got married. It is a huge change, and work could seem boring after a while because in school you are used to learning new things every semester. So I think it’s important to keep on trying new things in your career, too.

    thebaglady’s last blog post..A Real Baglady Incident in Las Vegas – A Taste of Class Discrimination

  8. Well said!

  9. Interesting. I didn’t go to my graduation ceremony either. Saw no point in it. I didn’t know any of the people since I attended all lessons online or by mail. I worked my way through school so I already had my job once I graduated. And my degree hasn’t helped me at all. But I don’t regret getting it.

    Another word of advice to new grads coming in to the workplace…do NOT act like you know everything. Just because you finally have that piece of paper, for which you paid way too much money, does not mean you’re at the top of the barrel. There’s nothing wrong with working your way up – starting off on the low rung. It builds character. I get really annoyed with some of the brats we have had come on right after college. They have some pretty dang high expectations and no realistic view of the world.

    castocreations’s last blog post..Try Try Again

  10. Great advice – It’s so tempting to spend money like crazy right after graduating. It’s the first time in your life that a regular and decent income stream is being sent your way.

    I would recommend graduates to play with a student loan repayment calculator to see how much additional money should be applied each month to their student loans to reduce the payment from 20 years to 15 or 10 or less…You’d be surprise how far a little extra goes

    MilkYourMoney’s last blog post..Use Credit Card Rewards Programs to Save for Retirement

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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