Welcome to the New World – Part 1

By Mark Fadden

Special to the Star-Telegram

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Millions of high school and college students will be graduating soon. So parents, if you want to make sure they don’t end up back at home couch surfing all day, let’s get them prepared for their working life.

My kids are far from being in college. But whenever the subject comes up, I remind them that once they graduate from college, they will be welcome back with open arms for short visits and on holidays, but that’s it. Besides, there won’t be any room in the RV that their mother and I plan to purchase to travel around in during our retirement. While the RV joke still gets no laughter from my beautiful bride, and we have no intention of leaving our home, I hope my point resonates with my boys. Once they finish college, they are on their own and we are confident that they can handle the transition.

If your child is graduating in the coming weeks, or you are a soon-to-be college or high school graduate, first, congratulations! I’m sure you’re almost as tired of hearing some variation of, “So what do you want to do with your life?” as you are of the mountain of schoolwork you’ve had to climb to get where you are. But whatever your transition will be in the coming weeks – maybe you’ve got the summer off before going to college, or you’re taking time to travel before starting a new career, or even if you’re heading full stride right into a new job after graduation – there are some important things to consider. My wife calls these little pieces of information “knowledge nuggets.” While doing research for this article, I came across some inspirational quotes from successful people that might just help us keep our eyes on the prize now and in the future. I think that they’re timeless and, more importantly, very useful. I hope that you can store these knowledge nuggets away and pull them out whenever you need a boost in your work life. So, for the rest of May, we will be unpacking these quotes and see how we can use them to inspire us in our work lives and beyond.

“Your network will become increasingly important as you progress in your career. Once you build a reputation and build the right contacts, then you’ll never have to apply for a job again — opportunities will come to you. When you encounter an interesting person, grab their e-mail and add their info into a master list of network contacts. Write an annual e-mail during the holidays to your master list to keep your contacts warm and updated; you’ll be amazed how effective this tactic is.” - Eric Bahn, Product Manager at Facebook; cofounder of Hustlecon

This quote is spot on. College and high school is a time to get educated, but it’s also a time to meet people. I wasn’t the biggest “joiner” in high school or in college, but while I was in grad school the guy I was interning for made me join a professional development group. While I no longer work in that same industry, every industry needs writers, so I was able to drum up freelance business with my old contacts from that group. And, perhaps the best part about that group, it was where I met my wife. So, you never know … business, and love, works in mysterious ways. Oh, and I love the annual holiday email to contacts. We do it with greetings cards to our personal contact lists, so why not make it a business tradition as well?

“Relax. Almost nothing you’re worried about today will define your tomorrow. Down the road, don’t be afraid to take a pay cut to follow your passion. But do stash a few bucks in a 401(k) now.” — George Stephanopoulos, ABC News chief anchor; co-anchor of “Good Morning America”

This one’s hard to do … on both parts. While graduating is a time for celebration, it’s also a time that can be ridden with anxiety. What am I going to do next? What if I can’t get a job? What if I get fired? Part two of Stephanopoulos’s quote might seem even tougher – saving money??? I can’t do that now! I barely make enough to pay rent…and that’s with a roommate!

Let’s tackle the first one first. Yes, absolutely, relax. It’s an exciting time and you should enjoy every minute of it. While we will never get to re-live any moment in our lives, there are times in our lives that we really need to savor the moment. Whether you were a straight A student in all AP classes, or you’re a student-athlete that is graduating on scholarship without owing anyone a dime for your degree, or if you barely graduated and have racked up serious student debt, go celebrate. It’s been a long struggle and you climbed that mountain, you tamed that beast. No one can ever take that accomplishment away from you. Please, by all means, relish the moment for a good long while.

On to point two. No matter how much money you’ll be making in your new job or career, you need to start thinking about retirement. Yup. You heard me. You need to act now, TODAY, to make sure that you can stop working one day.

Perhaps the best way to do that is by “paying yourself first.” Investopedia defines this tactic as, “automatically routing your specified savings contribution from each paycheck at the time it is received.” In other words, as soon as you get paid, put money into your savings account first. Before you pay your bills or buy groceries, set aside a portion of your income to save, whatever you can afford to do at the time. Think of it as a bill to yourself and it’s the most important bill you have.

Why? Because you have time on your side, lots of time, to grow your wealth into a substantial figure. Here’s a case in point from Jesse Haller, certified financial planner and vice president of Compass Financial Group: “Let’s say you begin investing $200 a month at age 24. But your friends who bought their new cars and took their dream vacations on credit end up delaying saving for retirement until age 34 while they pay off their debt. At age 64, you’d have almost $1.2 million in retirement savings. However, your friends would only have $424,200. You’d be ahead by $775,800!”

Like these knowledge nuggets? Well, stayed tuned for the rest of May, especially you newly minted graduates. You ain’t seen nothing yet!