Welcome to the Real World - My Best Advice for New Graduates
I graduated from college just three years ago, so the confusion and anxiety I felt after graduating college is still quite fresh in my mind. I moved out of my parents' house a week after graduation and started at my new job, and since then I have learned a lot of things about the "real world". Here are some of my best advice for new graduates who are transitioning from the safe structured environment of school to a seemingly infinitely larger world.
Learn to manage your money - It does not matter how much money you rake in if you do not know how to manage it and make it grow. You can learn about personal finance by going to the library or reading the great personal finance blogs such as this one. Everyone has a different money management style, but the bottom line I adhere to is to not spend more than I can afford. Basically, live below your means and you will always have something to fall back on.
Work towards financial independence - I would have said "save for retirement now", but when I heard the word retirement at age 22 I figured it was 40 years away and I had plenty time to prepare. Now I know that I do not want to plod along for another 40 years , but I want to be financially free much sooner. I am sure most of you do not want to be bossed around for another 40 to 45 years, so mark the date you will be free and work towards it by saving, investing, or building a business.
Explore the world around you - I wish that I had taken a year off after graduating and just traveled around the world. In the last three years I did have the opportunity to go to remote areas of Southern China, and I was amazed by how diverse my own country is. I truly believe that traveling and seeing how others live give you perspective and insight into how to live your life. Once you are settled down with young children it would not be as easy to run away to the end of the world for a long time. You do not need too much money to explore and travel. For example, David DeFranza wrote a great article about exploring your own world by walking .
Keep in touch - Since graduating many of my best friends have scattered around the world. It is tough to keep track of everyone, but a few emails and an occassional phone call keep us in contact with each other so when there are times we could see each other again we can meet up. I think keeping friends is always better than losing them.
Build new relationships - I think many new college graduates feel the pain of loneliness when they leave school and move into a place far away from friends and family. Like I said before, most of my old friends are no longer near by. So this is a great time to build new relationships. I found a couple roommates when I just graduated so I would not be so lonely. Then I joined a great church and found new friends. Making friends is not as easy when you get out of school, but it is possible, and somewhat essential for your sanity.
Never stop learning - School is out, but there is a lifetime of learning ahead of you. Now you can take the art class you never had time for in college or you could read about the newest web technologies. You can learn just about anything you want without worrying about tests and grades and you can Learn from everyone and everything around you. With the wonders of the internet, you can even follow along courses from some of the top universities in the world .
Stay active - When I was in school I walked everywhere and took physical education classes to stay active, but now I am working and my lifestyle has become extremely sedentary. It is important to stay fit and be healthy because whatever you produce and earn comes from your body and mind. Staying healthy lets you enjoy life much more and you can save money on healthcare in the long run.
Always be on the lookout for better opportunities - Face it, for most of us, our first jobs are not our dream jobs . So do not be afraid to move on to a better opportunity. Usually the better opportunities do not just fall into your lap, so it does not hurt to constantly search for what you really want to do. If you want to be your own boss, quitting a crappy job and starting your own business is a lot easier when you are young and do not have to support others with your income.
Talk to your parents - Both my husband and I found that after college our relationships with our parents got a lot better since we became independent from them. Our teenage angst was all gone and now we know that our parents are probably our best allies in life. I know every family is different, but the time after college is a great time to show your maturity to your parents or former guardians. Talk to them as adults, and ask to be treated like an adult if they do not do so already, and your relationships may improve.
Give back - I think all of us have a human duty to give back to the world and make it a better place to live for everyone. You do not necessarily have to donate large amounts of money to charities, but you could do small things like planting a tree, or even save energy. Every small gesture that benefits the environment and others will also benefit you and your children.
Finally, do not be discouraged if these years right after graduation are difficult and you feel like you are in a crisis. It is normal to feel bewildered by a completely different lifestyle. You are young, and you have time to figure out what makes you happy and what works for you. Have fun, and never give up on improving your life and yourself.
This post is a part of the MoneyBlogNetwork Group Writing Project focusing on financial advice to new graduates. Check out other great posts on this topic:
- Consumerism Commentary rattles off some financial tips for graduates
- Get Rich Slowly gives simple advice that works wonders
- Free Money Finance shares his money advice with graduates
- No Credit Needed shares the secret to saving $35 million
- Mighty Bargain Hunter warns that graduates might be shocked
- Five Cent Nickel listed four tips for recent graduates
- Poorer Than You gives some tips on how to budget without hurting yourself
- Plonkee Money serves up a few pointer for uni grads
- Think Your Way to Wealth reveals the two simplest ways for graduates to achieve retirement success