One May 15th, some time ago, I graduated college with a bachelor of science degree in business administration with a concentration in finance. As the first person in my family to obtain a four year degree, it was a very proud day, specially for my parents.
I entered the "real world" as a new graduate eager to embrace new opportunities and a new life at the tender age of 21. I was lucky enough to have a job offer prior to graduating and I will be forever thankful to that company, where I ended up working for six very awesome years. Looking back at the past several years since graduation, I cannot help but to feel blessed and grateful for all the opportunities that come my way and everything I've learned and continue to learn as life takes its natural course.
In honor of my undergraduate graduation, I decided to write this post targeted to all those people graduating this summer. This is also advise that can help anyone as I am a firm believer that is never too late for anything.
...and here we go.
1. Dont get discouraged if you don't have a job offer straight out college: If you dont have a job offer lined up just yet, don't let that upset you and stay motivated. remember that we live in a time of thriving technology and the internet can be your best friend. There are so many resources online where you can sign up to do some freelance work while you take the time to apply for the job of your dreams. Here are some useful sites: Elance.com, UpWork.com, Tutor. com, and the list goes on.
2. The First thing you should do once you join a company with benefits: Sign up for the 401(k) up to the company's match (if there is one). Otherwise set aside a ballpark of 5-7% of your salary or more if you can for retirement. Taking advantage of a company's match is paramount ("free money") and you will be surprised how that money compounds and grows over time. Before I knew anything about 401(k), I only allocated 1% of my salary to retirement. Thankfully my dad (and other more experienced co-workers) talked some sense in to me and I soon increased it up to my company's match at that time which was 7%. There was a time I even went 'wild' and increased it to 15%. Trust me on this.
3. Stand out at work by doing good work AND tooting your own horn: The best way to stand out in a corporate setting is not only to work hard and do your job well but also to speak up and chat with your boss about your accomplishments from time to time. The idea of working in silence and hoping someone will notice, is a bit dated. So, make sure your boss knows they type of quality employee he/she has. However, as with everything, be very careful with coming across as arrogant. There are ways to brag about yourself without sounding annoying or it being a turn off.
4. Save, save, save, save and save some more: Did I mention save? Listen to me closely- you have your entire life to pay bills and worry about various living expenses. Do yourself a favor and take advantage of your tender youth by doing everything you can to save money. Although I did live on my own for one extra year after college graduation, I made sure to find the most frugal apartment I could find. I was able to move in to a house with a roommate in Albany, NY for $200 a month. I eventually moved in to a studio on my own for $640 per month. After about a year, the company I was working for was awesome enough to transfer me to an office closer to my family in New York City. And you know what I did? I moved back home.
As much as I was a bit skeptical about moving back in with my parents after 5 years of being on my own, it turned out to be one of the best financial decisions I ever made in my life. If you have the opportunity, the blessing, the privilege to live with your parents for some time after college graduation, do it. Save your money. You will have the rest of your life to live alone or with an spouse or whatever the case may be. Take advantage of the fact that you are young and "straight out of college" to seek shelter in your parents home and save a nice chunk of change. The purpose of these type of "sacrifices" is to save money so please don't go around splurging in extravagant shopping sprees or attending happy hour Monday-Friday. The point is to save. You will thank me later.
5. Split your paycheck in to three buckets:
- Immediate monthly expenses that are non-negotiable for you (this can include anything from required monthly bills (i.e: cell phone), to anything that makes you happy like a monthly gym or yoga class membership or anything that brings you joy. It might sound like a splurge but happiness is an 'essential' in my book).
- Emergency fund/Savings.
- Money for investing purposes.
6. Start investing in the stock market (I repeat, investing NOT trading): First of all, take your time to educate yourself. To be completely honest with you- you don't need a fancy financial adviser nor do you need to pay anyone any fees to do this for you. As I always preach, investing is something that anyone can learn. It is so simple yet so many people fear it because the people that want to charge you to invest your money, want you to find it difficult (so they can charge you). Education is power.
Pick some quality companies that you like and that you see being around for the next 10, 15, 20 years. Think about products or services that you know and love and come up with a watch list. Buy shares of your favorite companies and continue adding to your position as you feel comfortable. Trust me on this. I am not only saying this because I have a passion for investing but because I am speaking from experience.
I started investing when I was 25 and wish I would have done it sooner. It is one of the best skills I've ever learned and put in to practice in my entire life. Also, remember that money you invest should be discretionary income (money you wont need for several years). The purpose of long term investing is to buy quality companies, collect your dividends (if they pay any), and let them run for as long as they remain competitive and successful within their respective industries.
7. Dont buy property just yet: This may be up for debate but I do not recommend buying any property in your 20s, specially early or mid 20s. Your 20s can be a time of uncertainty and you dont know where life may take you. You dont want to be in a situation where you get an amazing opportunity far away and then you have to deal with the headaches of a mortgage and/or trying to find someone to rent your place (and wonder if they'll take care of it) or going through the burdens and time consuming process of selling your property.
One of my favorite books "Think and Grow Rich" refers as a mortgage as a "Death Pledge" (that is what mortgage means in Latin). Scary, huh?!
Not saying that owning a home is a bad idea. Is a great idea once you are established in a career and have a pretty clear picture of how your life will look like (and can afford it!). You also dont want to be stuck in a job you hate simply to pay off a mortgage. Wait until you have more clarity about your life and your future. In the meantime, find an affordable apartment that maybe you can share with friends and SAVE your money. Or, just keep your parents company for a bit longer.
I was one of those eager people in their mid twenties that wanted to buy an apartment as soon as possible. Most of the deals didn't go through for one reason or another and looking back, I am so thankful things worked out that way! Thing eventually fell in to place in my late 20s, and that was the perfect time for me.
8. Travel domestically and abroad as often as you possibly can: If you have the opportunity to travel either around the country or around the world do it but do it frugally and be smart about it. Don't ever charge trips on your credit card unless you are doing it for the points or perks and already have the money set aside in a bank account to pay for it in full. Traveling will fill you up with soul-enriching experiences that will stay with you forever-- and this is the time to start. We have a whole world to explore. Get started early.
9. Dont quit a job you hate just yet: If you immediately find that you 'hate' your first job out of college and often find yourself thinking or saying 'I feel miserable', 'this job sucks', and the list goes on, don't quit just yet. Take advantage of that bi-weekly paycheck to continue fulfilling your savings goals (see #4). Save, save , save, save as much as you can from that steady salary. On your spare time (after work, weekends, etc) take the time to either work on something you are passionate about (that may eventually turn in to a business) or, search for a job that you may enjoy more.
Don't go crazy and quit at the first sight of feeling miserable. Think about why that may be the case and ponder on the idea that maybe you can find another job within the same company that can bring you more fulfillment. A job is a blessing no matter how you slice it but never settle. Keep searching until you find what fills your soul.
10. My two cents on Graduate school: Graduate school is nothing to take lightly. It is not a game and it comes with a tremendous amount of sacrifice- aside from student loans and expenses, you'll spend a whole lot of time alone with zero social life. You'll also be living under a constant cloud of stress because of projects, exams, and everything else that comes with it.
It took me 4.5 years to finish my MBA degree considering I worked full time the entire time and took courses at night. I will be honest-- things were so difficult that numerous times I wondered if even wanted to finish the degree. I questioned the purpose of it constantly and every semester I didn't know if I wanted to go back.
However, I was pursuing an MBA in Finance and as many of you know, finance is one of my great passions. Hence, the only thing that kept me going towards that finish line was my passion for the subject I was learning and accomplishing my goal of an MBA. I also picked up a second concentration along the way, entrepreneurship, which I enjoyed greatly.
With that said, don't go to graduate school simply because you feel you have to. It is expensive, stressful, difficult, and the list goes on. Only go to graduate school if you have a clear picture (or mostly clear) or where you want that degree to take you and only if you have a passion about what you are learning. Otherwise, it is not worth it. I always advise people to intern for a job they want to do after grad school if they can (for free if you have to) and see if this is something you really see yourself doing for a long time. Why spend thousands of dollars only to find out is not the career you expected? think about it.
BONUS: Pick up these two books as soon as you can-- The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach. You're welcome.
And that is all ladies and gents. Thank you for reading. If I can help at least one person with these tips, that would be awesome. These are based on life experience and it is my pleasure to share with all of you.
Have a great day and cheers to profits!