I LOVE that there are college gals and grandmas alike who read Em for Marvelous, since I love learning from people both younger and older than me! I was tickled pink when one of the requests I received in my survey earlier this year was for a post about my advice for new college graduates. Since our 2017 graduates are just beginning to settle into life off-campus, I thought now would be a perfect time to offer a few thoughts. Here goes, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments…
1. Start now. At 22ish, your adult life is in many ways a blank slate, so fill it with as many good habits as you possibly can. It is SO much easier to start well than to have to break a bad habit later on, whether the habit is drinking soda every day, being a couch potato, or racking up credit card debt.
2. Join a church. This tip is mostly for folks who are already Christian (but if you’re not Christian and curious, I would definitely recommend visiting a few churches to see what you think!). Instead of waiting until you have kids to find a church home, find one now! It is so important (and can also just be so fun and lifegiving!) to have a church family, especially if you are far away from your actual family. Churches in general have a bad rap on programming for young adults, but from what I’ve seen many of them are really trying to turn that reputation around with a greater focus on and cool ideas for 20 somethings. Give the local church a chance. I loved Val’s thoughts about this here, and wrote a bit more about finding a church myself.
3. Revel in your scrappy season. I recently looked back at a few photos of our first apartment and was reminded how frugally we lived in that season. We didn’t have a washer or dryer. Our mattress was on the floor. There was more than one table made out of a cardboard box :) But it was fine! Your early twenties are the PERFECT time to live below your means, because your peers are mostly doing the same (which means less pressure to keep up with the Joneses).
And don’t just tolerate this season, but EMBRACE it! Get fired up knowing that you are getting ahead by living below your means now. Buy things off Craigslist when you need them. Learn to cook a few cheap and healthy meals. Pack your lunch. Seek out free entertainment. And remember this:
People think of whatever they were raised in as the baseline for a decent life. In other words, they think they are supposed to start where their parents ended up. But your parents took decades to attain the lifestyle that you now think you’re supposed to reach in your mid-30s at the latest. (Megan McArdle)
4. Don’t be afraid to find your mate. Friends, I’m not going to go all Princeton Mom on you. But as someone who was happy to get married at 25, I guess all I’m trying to say is if the right person comes along, don’t be afraid to get serious. And perhaps don’t just “wait until the right person comes along,” but spend time actively pursuing that right person. Being married to John is the greatest blessing of my life, and I’m glad we’ve gotten to grow up and experience so much of life together.
5. Start saving money. If you haven’t already read my thoughts about the magic of compound interest, go do so now. Time is the most powerful part of the building-wealth equation, and it’s the ONLY part you can never make up. Wealth gives you freedom – freedom to give generously, freedom to retire early, freedom to visit your family, freedom to travel the world, freedom to save all the pets, freedom to _______ (fill in the blank with whatever matters most to you). It’s a good thing.
6. Learn how to use money. If your history with money is rocky at best and I’m making you nervous with all this money talk, know that you can flip the script inside your own head right this minute. Decide you’re going to be a smart money person from this point on, and then do something about it! (Trust me, few things feel as good as feeling in control of your financial situation.)
A few places to start? Consider signing up for Financial Peace University* (or read Total Money Makeover). Learn how to spend money. Pay off credit card debt and never get it again. Sign up for eBates. Work to get the three big purchases right. Read this post by Ben Carlson. Read all of my past Marvelous Money posts :)
7. Don’t think you have to move away. Or at least, place a value on living near your family like everything else as you weigh options for your post-college life. If you haven’t read this post yet, you might find it a bit chilling – I did. I think our generation is so transient, mobile, and “connected” that we sometimes forget that settling down near our families and/or where we grew up is a worthy option — after all, even if we live across the country, we can still FaceTime, right? It seems like a no-brainer to follow an opportunity, and that giving up an opportunity to stay near one’s family might be looked down upon. To be honest, I didn’t think much about the long-term possibility of never living near my family again when I moved away at 22. Would I do it again? Almost certainly. But I don’t think I thought about it quite enough at the time, and I want to make sure you have that option.
Is anyone surprised that three of my seven tips involve money? No? :) Friends, I would LOVE to hear if any of my thoughts resonate with you, or if you have any piece of advice (big or little) for our new grads or early twenty-somethings! I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!
*If you’re curious about FPU, sit tight! I have a post you will love coming soon.