May 14, 2019
It’s that time of year when young adults excitedly graduate college, start their careers and begin living independent lives. My fellow Forbes contributors have offered sage advice to the graduating class of 2019, including “What The Future Holds For The Class Of 2019,” “How Parents Can Help a New Grad Get A Job,” “An Open Letter To The Class Of 2019” and “A Crash Course For College Graduates On How To Get Their First Job” (the last one’s from yours truly).
After some time has passed since I’ve previously written about this topic, there’s more for me to offer the upcoming graduates than advice on how to find a job. I’d like to share some unpopular, hard-hitting and real-life gritty advice to the new graduates, their families, and friends. Be forewarned—this is not the squishy, feel-good, save-the-world stuff you hear at endless commencement speeches while standing in the hot sun for hours just waiting to break free.
After completing your degree, move right back home with your family. Yes, your friends will mock you when you do this. The media know-nothings will wag their fingers and say, “Look how lazy and spoiled Millennials and Gen-Z kids are. They’re moving back in to live with their mommies and daddies.” Ignore them, as they are giving you terrible advice. Look at the math. If you are over $100k in student debt, the deficit will be even greater when you factor in the interest on the loans and the penalties you’ll acquire when you miss payments. You’re carrying a huge financial burden that will last for most of your lifetime.
An apartment in any major city or suburban town, even if you have roommates, will cost more than $1,000 a month. This total doesn’t include the cost of food, furniture, and utilities. Add in health insurance, a car, your phone bill, and ordinary living expenses and the financial costs become enormous. At a starting salary, there is no way you can pay for all of this without maxing out your credit cards. Once you start purchasing stuff on your credit cards, you won’t have enough money to pay your bills.
You’ll be shocked by what your net salary is after taxes are taken out. The interest rates charged by credit card companies are worse than dealing with mafia loan sharks. At this rate, you will never be able to save any money. How could you ever buy a home, get married and have a family or retire one day with all of the debt you’re carrying around? It’s not financially viable.
Living at home for the first few years is a really smart alternative. You save on rent, food, cable costs and everything else. So, what if you have to deal with silly dad jokes and your mom criticizing your outfits? Fast forward 10 or 20 years, and you’ll miss them. Let others run themselves into debt and financial ruin. You need to play the long game by saving as much as you can. You can invest it, put money in the bank, buy some real estate or start a business. It adds up quickly. Soon, your invested money will offer a second income for you.
I’d suggest the same strategy with other things, such as going out every night and partying, going on exotic vacations, ordering from GrubHub instead of cooking at home and buying all of the latest gadgets to keep up with the trends. Here’s a secret: society pushes you to become a vapid consumer. Advertisers entice and lure you into buying their products with the promise that you would live a better, more fulfilled life. Senseless spending will bleed you dry financially and you’ll end up making bad life and job choices because of the lack of money.
Almost every commencement speech echoes the sentiments of changing the world and being unique. It’s nice lofty thoughts. Before you change the world, you have to get your own life in order. Focus on yourself first. Decide what you want to do with your life and career, think of what will make you happy and how you can also earn a living doing it. Once you get your act together, obtain some stability and build a strong foundation for your future, then you can worry about saving the world.
Your parents, professors and celebrity commencement speakers will pander to you and offer limitless possibilities. I have no hidden agenda, except to offer you a glimpse of the reality ahead—and would say the same things to my own kids. This advice may sound cold and harsh at first. However, knowledge is power. If you understand how the game works, then you can play it better than everyone else and succeed in the long run. I could easily sum it up for all of you: defer immediate gratification in the short term, and it will enable you to build an amazingly successful future for yourself.