The graduation season is upon us, both for high school and college students. I am amazed at how quickly the time goes once those milestones are achieved. This is the year of my 10-year high school reunion, and I’ve now been out of college (at least for undergrad) for six years. It’s crazy because I can still remember things from high school and college as if they happened yesterday.
Today’s post is for the college graduates. Congratulations on earning your degree. I know it took a lot of work, and you should be proud of yourselves. But don’t think the hard part is over with, because it’s not. The end of one journey is simply the beginning of another. Here are some tips to help you get started with real life.
Keep Living Like a Poor College Student
I know that once you graduate and land a job, it feels pretty good. You get those first few paychecks, and you more than likely now have more money in your checking account than ever before. It’s ok to spend some of it. After all, you’ll need some clothes for work and furnishings for your apartment/house. But don’t go overboard. The best thing you can do for the first few years after graduating is to keep living like a poor college student. Rather than taking all this money and splurging on the latest iPad, brand new furniture, a new car, designer clothes, etc., take a step back and do some planning. Go against the grain and really think about how you want to use your money. You have the rest of your life to buy things, so living like a poor college student for another year or two isn’t going to hurt you.
Pay Down Those Student Loans
If you’re an average college student, you’re graduating with some pretty hefty student loan debt. One of the best things you can do is to pay those off as early as possible. The standard student loan repayment term is 10 years. That’s a long time to be paying on a school loan. Within 10 years of graduating college, chances are you may want to buy a house, get married, have a child, etc. All of these things will be so much easier without a student loan payment to worry about. If possible, try to pay those loans off within 5 years by being really aggressive with making extra payments.
Start Contributing to Your 401k
If your employer offers a matching 401k plan, start contributing up to the company match as soon as you’re eligible. If you start contributing as soon as you enter the workforce, you will be well on your way to building a healthy retirement fund. I know that retirement is probably the last thing on your mind right now, but that is precisely why it’s so important to start contributing now. By starting early, you have more time for compound interest to work in your favor. And if your employer doesn’t offer a matching 401k plan, open a Roth IRA and start contributing there.
Take Ownership of Your Work
When you start that first job out of college, take pride and ownership of your work. Don’t be a robot, doing exactly what you’re told and only what you’re told. Take it up a notch. Take on those extra responsibilities and go the extra mile. Make sure you do top-quality work. Take every opportunity to learn on the job by asking questions. Those kinds of things won’t go unnoticed. Not only will it help you out when it comes time for annual reviews and promotion opportunities, but it will help you learn valuable skills that will help you in the future at this or future jobs.