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The Road After Graduation

For years our parents told us “get good grades” and “do your homework”, we were lead to believe that would get us into a good college. Then we completed college applications, applied for student loans and went on awkward road trips with our parents to check out some campuses. The mantra evolved because in college we believed good grades would lead to a good job. Four years later, if you got all your classes, we walked across the stage thinking about our next steps venturing out into the world.

Millennial’s have earned the title of the most indebted graduating class in history, with over $1.2 Trillion in current student loan debt. In addition to that we aren’t earning as much as our parents did when adjusted for increases in the cost of living, and we’re highly skilled at spending money. With high expectations for our future, we’re off to a dismal start. The job market has been tough for recent graduates, under-employment is at historically high levels and barriers to starting a business have made it more difficult and expensive to begin. With school loans to pay and the living expenses adding up there’s a lot of pressure related to our future and our finances. We can choose to sit back as a victim of the times or take responsibility by standing up in the drift and moving forward.

Personally I feel I’ve come a long way since graduating and believe there are three things, in particular, that helped me build a solid foundation for my future. If it weren’t for the advice below I would not be where I am today.

Be a young active citizen in your community. Through all your years in school you’ve developed many relationships, now that you’ve graduated it’s crucial to continue expanding your network. While social networking online has value, it is difficult to establish meaningful relationships without personal interaction. Make it a point to meet with people face to face, you don’t have to be a social butterfly, introverts will naturally attract one another in conversation. There are so many opportunities for young people to step up and it can have a major impact on their futures. Networking geared towards young professionals is a great way to start and there are plenty of groups that facilitate this. For example, the United States Junior Chamber is a great place to start and there’s probably a local chapter near you. I’m a long standing member of my local Junior Chamber, it was the first board of directors I ever served on, and I gained valuable leadership skills from those experiences. Another good place to start is with local non profit organizations or your local city council. Get involved on a committee or take a board position. These types of organizations need more young people with aligned interests to be involved. If you’re more comfortable connecting through culture or religion, there are likely several cultural and spiritual groups in  your community, it’s great to align yourself with people that share similar values. And if you’re still looking for more ideas, check out the alumni association at your alma mater.

Know your money. Start by taking inventory of the money you have and everything you owe. Be honest with yourself, this is not a game about making the numbers look pretty. Whether you’re in the red or in the black, these are the facts, and you need to be aware of it. Next, get a bit more detailed. Use statements and online banking to help keep track of the money coming in and out of your accounts and get a handle on where you are spending your money. If you’re spending a lot of cash, and by this I mean physical dollar bills, this is a bit more difficult because it’s a manual process to track it. If you spend using a debit or credit card, online banking tools and other technology can help you keep track quite easily. If your up to it separate your spending into different categories; be as detailed as you are comfortable, the more specific the better. I could go on talking about budget goals and ways to reduce spending but the key here is awareness. If you make time to connect more with your finances to know what’s coming in and how it’s going out, you will naturally catch yourself thinking more about your spending, in a good way. Appreciate this heightened sense of awareness and act on it. For now don’t be concerned with the amount of comma’s or zero’s, when you’re young, time is on your side.

Save early and often. From the day we were born we’ve been sold on spending; marketing is a science and there’s a war over your wallet. Right now we’re losing that war, take a moment and think about a recent big purchase you made. What were the circumstances? Was it something you needed or something you wanted? And most important, how did you feel prior to making that purchase, and then right after? When it comes to making decisions about spending money we are largely impacted by our emotions. Ask yourself these same questions about the small purchases you make almost instinctively, like that cup of coffee every morning or the new smart phone that just came out.

Now switch gears and think about the last time you decided to forgo a purchase or not go out with your friends to the bar. Did it feel like you made a sacrifice? In that moment were you suffering from the fear of missing out? Chances are you’ve developed a negative connotation with saving and didn’t even realize it. How does that make you feel… kind of sick right? For some of us saving comes naturally, we were presented with a situation early in life that helped us develop that mentality. But for the masses, saving for the future isn’t tangible and with no immediate benefit we don’t make it a priority. Bottom line, saving sooner rather than later is more important than how much you can save. Time is the most powerful factor especially if you’re investing what you save. Hopefully while you were getting good grades and doing your homework you learned about compounding interest and inflation. Long term that will have a tremendous impact on how much savings you’ll accumulate in the future. If you’re just getting started, make it a point to put aside money every month, start small but be consistent and committed. If you have the opportunity to save in a retirement plan at work or on your own, just do it, you’ll be surprised how fast it adds up.

These three pieces of advice have helped me start my own business and establish meaningful relationships with current and future leaders in business across the country. We have the power to impact the future and a responsibility to do so, learn to stand in the drift.

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About Stephen Rischall

Stephen is an award winning fiduciary financial advisor. He began learning to invest at the age of 13 and helped manage the University Corporation Student Investment Fund while studying finance in college. Stephen has been featured as the financial expert for millennials on live radio and in the news. He is an avid adventurer and is passionate about helping people make smarter financial decisions.
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