Advice To A Soon To Be College Grad

A close family friend (Burjis) whom grew up like a brother is about to graduate from college with a degree in electrical engineering (which I think right now are the highest paid graduates). He’s recently started asking me question about money, but I sensed he didn’t really didn’t know what to start asking.

Even more sad, was I didn’t know what to tell him, or even where to point him.

There’s a million and one books on the subject, but of course they’re all too long and detailed to give any practical advice which can be acted on in the next few hours (although reading them is a great way to start).

So after feeling bad that I couldn’t immediately impart any valuable knowledge, I decided to write down what personally helped me when I was ready to graduate college.

My own brother Ashdin will also be in the exact same boat in one year, so I figured this is a good time as any to give this sadly un-discussed subject a shot.

So this post is dedicated to Ashdin and Burjis:

Just FYI:
I’m a little different in that I never started a job hunt (didn’t want to, need to or plan to), but at the age of 25 I’ve seen many close friends go through it, take jobs, and many of them regret their choices.

I can count the people I know my age who like their job on one hand, and still have several fingers left over.

So are the things that helped me most during those pre-real-world-transition years. If you want more detailed advice, go read a book (which is coincidentally tip #3).

I think the single most valuable thing you can have near graduation is options. This means you have a sufficient amount of money in the bank to live for a while without having to immediately accept a job offer just because they’re giving you a $3,000 bonus, and you have several different good job offers. This is why people usually end up in bad jobs, because they’re desperate.

If you manage to find your dream job before you even graduate, awesome.

By all means possible, avoid being desperate once you graduate. The list below is what I think helped me attain that.

1.) Save money
Stupidly simple advice that is in the #1 spot for a reason. If you go out on the town use a flask, only pay cash for your spending (so you can phsyically see and feel how much you are spending), don’t waste money on dumb stuff, use your money wisely. Whatever it takes.

I absolutely guarantee not spending a little money now will help A LOT later. If you work an internship, immediately put 50% or more away immediately before you can spend it. Let your friends spend $100+ several nights a week at the bar…good for them….your eye is on a bigger goal.

2.) Split up your bank accounts
It’s free and is possibly the greatest financial move I ever made, and you can do it online or at the bank in 15 minutes. Seriously, do it right now. It gives you a MASSIVELY better idea of how much money you can allocate to certain activities.

Do this anyway you like, but what I did in college was:

  1. General bank account: All money earned went into this account and was then distributed to the sub-accounts.
  2. Savings account: I didn’t know what I was saving for, but this proved to be amazingly valuable. When this account gets too big, I max out my Roth IRA with it.
  3. Spending Account 1: Going out, seeing a movie, having fun etc all came from this account. 10% of income was allocated here.
  4. Spending Account 2: I put 10% of my income to this account per month. This account strictly used for vacations and holiday spending (since buying gifts and going out during the holidays puts a strain on Spending Account #1).
  5. Investment Account: 30% of my money went here. This was money that could be used on anything that would help make money or continue my education.
  6. Bills account: 30% of my income went to this account. Paying rent, buying groceries (minus alcohol purchases or supplies for a party), gas, bills, insurance costs, phone bill etc. were all paid from this account.
  7. ROTH IRA: I opened one with Ameritrade even though I didn’t really know what the hell it was at the time. I just knew I needed it. It’s free and easy to open, and you can read a thousand books on how to squander the money in there. Point is, just open one now and learn about it later.
  8. Whatever you want: Open accounts that help you save for a cause like a ‘car account’ or ‘buying a condo in two years’ account. I opened many more, but the aforementioned 6 are the ones that helped kick it all off.

You probably won’t open this many accounts right away, but AT LEAST have 3 separate accounts for now.

3.) Read (about financial stuff)
Go to the public library (don’t bother actually buying these books) and start picking out books about personal spending. Go through at least two of these a month and you’ll start learning a wealth of different financial techniques and simple tricks. I’d say about 20% of what’s in these books is useful (and you’re both smart kids so you’ll know which 20%).

They mainly preach the same things, but they often throw in random gems of information. For example, I read the book “The Automatic Millionaire” which could’ve basically been summarized to this sentence: Setup your bank accounts to automatically transfer money to your savings accounts every month. Book done.

Read the stories, get inspired, learn from each book. I heard Jerry Seinfeld talking about all the books and classes he’d taken say, “I view all these things like supermarkets. I go into them, take what I need, then leave.”

I can’t stress how important it is to educate yourself on these financial matters. It’s enjoyable and will make your life a whole lot easier.

4.) The Investment Account
I liked experimenting with different small business ideas in college, so I create the Investment Account so I could use that coffer of money for anything I deemed would improve my understanding of something, satisfy my curiosity, educate me or make me money (primarily the last one).

I put a full 30% of my income into this account. In the past I have used it for piano lessons, guitar lessons, books, weird musical instruments, buying a tuxedo to crash parties in, making trips for business purposes and various money experiments for this blog.

Freely spend this account when needed. Investing back in yourself is absolutely imperative…and you’ve often gotta have money for it. I feel this particular account was a great help during those years.

5.) Have Job Options
Since I’ve never had a real job don’t take one bit of this advice…but hear me out:

Want to do electronics research…or maybe environmental design? Make sure you’re in the right place. Don’t be fooled by euphemistic job titles which sound cool but mean nothing. The term “Analyst” comes to mind.

The people I know who enjoy their jobs and learn the most from them are the people who made absolutely damn sure they get to do what they want on the job.

What I mean is they properly planned out the type of work environment they liked, what type of talents they’d like to develop, what industry they’d like to learn, and what type of work is the most intellectually stimulating to them. They then sought out companies which could offer this.

How could they do this? Because they had options. They had enough money to live for a while without having to take the first opportunity that gave them a starting bonus just so they could pay rent.

Oddly enough, these people were usually the FIRST to find great jobs and have offers thrown at them! I guess there’s something about a confident applicant who knows what he wants.

If the company gives you an offer you don’t like, you can tell them to, “Take this job and shove it” (of course never say that out loud…no matter how hilarious and satisfying it may be)! Your work will take up over 60% of your waking hours, you might as well get something worthwhile out of that time besides a check.

Don’t get ‘having options’ confused with laziness. The friends I see in good positions were also the friends who went to the MOST interviews and wisely and respectfully played company offers off each other.

…but I’ve never had a real job, so please don’t listen to me.

Good luck both of you, not that you need it.

In the comments anyone can impart their own advice to these young 20-somethings who are about to enter the working world. What worked for you? What didn’t work? If you could do it all over again, what would you have done?

Experienced advice is likely far greater than mine.