For some reason I really like reading Money Magazine. Their articles aren’t the most ground-breaking things on the face of the earth and in the financial world if you find out a new fact it’s obsolete within the hour, but I still like reading the magazine. I think it’s because of quick, small articles like one from their recent magazine: “The Pros’ Best Advice For New College Grads.” Here, Money gives graduating seniors 3 quick tips on what to do right now.
On Career: Clean up MySpace and Facebook pages!
This is an excellent piece of advice! I know at least 3 dozen guys from my fraternity who graduated yesterday between William Paterson University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and Monmouth University and they absolutely should start cleaning up their online profiles – today! I’ve even been thinking about contacting a few of them directly and telling them that they need to “de-tag” some pictures of themselves wearing less than full attire or making liberal use of alcoholic beverages!
On Spending: Have more money coming in than going out!
Though it seems like common sense rule #1, many college students don’t realize that sometimes you have to make sacrifices. I think this particular tip is going to hit New Jersey extremely hard in the next 12 – 18 months. A lot of college graduates in New Jersey are what the rest of this nation would call “privileged” in that certain standard expenses are taken care of for them (gas for the car, food, housing, etc). The prices in this state aren’t going down and (as sad as this sounds) a lot of people will be full functioning members of the economy for the first time ever now that they are college graduates. Of course this probably won’t apply to any of the New Jersey, Daddy’s Little Girl, Princesses – but for the guys out there…get ready for it. As Money Magazine says, you may have to drive that clunker of a car for another year or maybe not take that expensive vacation…
On Saving: Don’t let credit cards or your parents be your emergency fund!
Ugh. If I could drill one thing into every college graduate’s head it would be to break the cord from Mom and Dad! Understand me here, though. I don’t mind college graduates that move home – especially in New Jersey. This state is unbelievably expensive and unless you’re getting married straight out of college (also generally not recommended) or you’re loaded, you likely won’t be able to afford an apartment. But do NOT rely on Mom and Dad for YOUR expenses. In other words, when you want new clothes, BUY THEM ON YOUR OWN! When you need gas for your car, pay for it yourself! When your cell phone bill comes in…PAY IT! There’s nothing quite as pathetic as seeing a college graduate who doesn’t know how to be self-sufficient.
That’s the extent of the article and it’s common sense advice that all of today’s college graduates should follow. More advice (from the article) is to opt into your company’s 401(k) – 403(b) for teachers – on the first possible day that you can. A recent study (which I can’t find for the life of me) shows that if a 27 year old simply placed 3% of their lifetime salary in a standard 401(k) earning historical trends, you’ll have $1 million by the end of your working career. And that’s just at 3%!
Start an ING Direct Savings account as an emergency fund. By the way, I’m glad to talk to anyone about that since I have one of these accounts and I absolutely love it. Do NOT get deep into credit card debt! If your student loans are less than $60 thousand, pay them off as soon as possible. If they’re more than $60 thousand, sit down and devise a sound financial strategy to pay those loans back within a 10-year period. It goes back to that “s” word – sacrifice! Be confident enough to say no to your indulgences most of the time, but don’t be afraid to treat yourself only once in a while.
Good luck out there!