Advice for Recent College Graduates

General Suggestions

  1. Buy some property (a house or condo).
  2. Invest in stocks regularly.
  3. Date many people.
  4. Find yourself.
  5. Find a job you love.
  6. Travel.

How many of us wish we could go back in time and give our younger selves some advice? I know I do.

I'm not sure anything I would say to my younger self would be astonishingly profound, but in terms of financial advice, I think I'd end up a lot more financially secure than I am, and I'm reasonably financially secure. It just seems like a truism that we're not all that smart with money when we're young and we don't realize the impact our financial decisions can have in the future.

I guess that's called learning and wisdom. So since I can't go back in time and give myself the advice I wish, I want to pass that advice on to any younger person willing to listen. Seriously, this is the exact advice I'd give to myself if I could. Ultimately, when you get to be my age (late 40's), you won't have as many regrets.

And it's not all financial. There's a little bit of love and little bit of learning in there too.

Houses are good investments (CC-BY 2.0)
Houses are good investments (CC-BY 2.0)

Buy Some Property

As soon as you have a steady job, the first thing you should do is buy some property. You should buy as much property as you can reasonably afford. The standard piece of advice on a mortgage is that your monthly payment should not exceed 36% of your income. In other words, your debt-to-income ratio should not exceed 36%.

I merely provide this number as a jumping off point because understanding what you can afford is important. Whether that turns out to be a house or a condo is up to you. And, of course, purchasing the right property is always important as well. That's where finding a good, trustworthy real estate agent comes in. Tell that person you want a property you're going to enjoy, but one that's going to appreciate in value as well.

Sure, there are a lot of variables buying property, but generally speaking, it's a way to build wealth and credit and those will be important down the road.

I made the smart choice to buy a condo not long after I got out of college and it appreciated quite well. The mistake I made, however, was in selling that condominium and moving into a townhouse instead of buying a house. Had I bought a house, I would be much more well-off now. Perhaps that's a bit of hindsight on my part, but what I should have actually done was rented the condo instead of selling it and purchased another property. I could have then owned an income-generating property while living elsewhere. The rent would have paid down the mortgage and, by now, I would own the property outright.

Basically, I wish I would have been more informed about the impact these decisions would have in the future. At the time, I just didn't consider all my options and wish I had better advice.

Wall St. (a place to invest some money, albeit wisely) (PUBLIC DOMAIN)
Wall St. (a place to invest some money, albeit wisely) (PUBLIC DOMAIN)

Invest in Quality Companies (Buy stocks)

Consistent investment in quality companies over time is a true key to financial independence. Recent college graduates who've been lucky enough to find a job should immediately begin investing some portion of their money in stocks and keep doing so for their entire life. This will allow them to weather the ups and downs in the markets.

The key to investing well is to find reliable investing advice. There are many sources of such advice, but I can think of no better one than The Motley Fool. For very little money, a novice investor can join a community of investors, develop an investing philosophy, and get recommendations for which stocks to buy. The Motley Fool has a track record of success. There are many other services one can consult as well, but this is my personal favorite.

My story of the ramifications of not knowing how to invest well goes back to the 1990s when I knew I should invest, but didn't know where or how. I got caught up in the dotcom bubble and put my money in questionable companies because everything seemed to be going up at the time. Suffice it to say, I lost most of that money. Had I followed the advice of The Motley Fool at that time, I would have put my money in good companies like AOL and Amazon and probably been a millionaire by now.

The stock market isn't a speculation game that works for most people. It's a place to invest for the long-term. Buy good companies and hold them. I would also strongly recommend opening up a Roth IRA. A Roth encourages the buy-and-hold mentality that will pay off in the long run.

Don't get married too young (CC-BY 3.0)
Don't get married too young (CC-BY 3.0)

A Poll for You Old Folks

What One Thing Would You Change in Your Youth if You Could

  • Invest in property earlier
  • Make regular stock investments
  • Date more people
  • Find a job I enjoyed and stay there
  • Travel
See results without voting

Date Many People

I wish I hadn't been so afraid to meet new people and go on dates and get rejected. Your 20's is a time to put yourself out there, date lots of different kinds of people, and figure out what you want in a person and who you work well with. Trying to discover that information when you're past thirty gets increasingly complicated.

When I write "date many people" I'm also suggesting that people not focus on getting married. People change a lot from their 20's to their 30's and I suspect that one reason the divorce rate is so high in this country is that people get married too young. People in their 20's think they know what they want, but usually what they want changes by the time they're 30.

Search hard. (CC-BY 3.0)
Search hard. (CC-BY 3.0)

Find Yourself

Do whatever you have to do to find yourself. Whatever it takes. Nothing is more important than learning who you are and learning to love and respect yourself. You may think that you already know who you are when you graduate college, but generally speaking, your 20's is when you'll really learn about who you are, what you want, and what you love. If you think you know everything you need to know after graduating college, odds are really good that you're wrong.

There are so many things you can do in your 20's that become infinitely harder in your 30's and 40's, so that's why I say "find yourself". Taking chances, dating a lot, traveling - all these things let you discover who you are and what you want. While I'm sure there are plenty of people who get married and have children right out of college and are happy, there are probably more who do that and regret that they didn't live life and explore.

There's so much to learn about life after college, so I highly recommend new college graduates not limit their options in any way.

Find a Job You Love

There's nothing worse than spending your days in a job you hate.

Recent statistics suggest that an astonishing number of people work in jobs they can't stand. Among the best things that you can do for yourself is to find a job that you really love because that's how you're going to spend a whole bunch of your time. Life is too short to do work that you hate. Many, many people find this out too late in life. You have lots of time after college to find the job that's right for you, so if something isn't working out, start looking for something that will.

When I first got out of college, I was hired by a firm that managed trusts. This was not what I wanted to do at all, but it was a job. Suddenly I was a professional. Unfortunately, they had me filing all day, every day. It was torture. Surprisingly, I got called into the VP's office one day and she notified me that they loved me and saw me on a fast track to great things. I quit pretty soon thereafter and decided to go back to school and work on my graduate degree. Although I didn't use that degree the way I imagined, I found the job I loved working my way through school and have been there ever since, now almost 24 years.

This is Somewhere I've Been

Macchu-Pichu (CC-BY 3.0)
Macchu-Pichu (CC-BY 3.0)

Travel

See the world so you're happy with where you are.

Traveling is one of those things that's easiest to do when you're single, free, unmarried, and without children. For most of us, that's after we graduate from college. Of course, traveling isn't cheap, so work is usually required. Still, I recommend saving up and planning some great trips. They will be things you'll remember for the rest of your life.

I was never the type to travel, but eventually visited some friends in London and realized that traveling could be great fun. Although I've never really had a bug like some people, I did plan a couple of two-week hiking vacations and ended up going to New Zealand and Peru. I didn't go with anyone either, just by myself, though the trip was with a group who I met at the locations. These were pretty intense trips with lots of physical activity and were very memorable.

More by this Author


12 comments

theBAT profile image

theBAT 2 years ago

Great advice. Travel and find yourself... I think these are great advice to those who are in their 20s. But, age is really nothing but a number. It is never too late to find our passion at whatever age we are in. I am happy reading your hub. Thanks.


gamerjimmy23 profile image

gamerjimmy23 2 years ago from California

These general suggestions for recent college graduates are all great, but realistically line items 1, 2, and 6 are typically beyond the reach of the average young adult. However, I definitely agree and couldn't stress enough the importance of finding meaningful work that you enjoy.


crankalicious profile image

crankalicious 2 years ago from Colorado Author

Thanks everyone for reading! It's fun to get Hub of the Day.


CrisSp profile image

CrisSp 2 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

Great advice specially on not rushing to get married. :) Absolutely passing along.

Thank you.


Hui (蕙) profile image

Hui (蕙) 2 years ago

Wow, you are in late 40's to suggest a 20's to date many people because you did not do that!

Investing in stock market may be not a bad idea, but what if develop personal potential (everybody has unique potential, everybody has dreams), then invest in one own company?

The travel is good, which makes you widen eyes and grow knowledge, then find self, define self, then would not drift life with the current.

Congratulations on the hub!


PapaGeorgeo profile image

PapaGeorgeo 2 years ago

thanks for sharing your wisdom. My best investment was buying a house 5 years ago at the age of 20 with my dad. That accelerated me into a good position, renting the other rooms out.

Saving for my next (yes i will keep them all : ] ) but will eventually look into stocks.

I agree with everything but one thing for some people that could be considered "taking risks" is investing in your own business.


rontlog profile image

rontlog 2 years ago from England

I'm in my late 40's and was chatting to a young work colleague today. She asked me what I most regretted not doing/having. After a few minutes thought, I said there were times when I didn't listen to my instincts / gut feeling / hunches. I often saw subtle behaviour in some people that I felt uncomfortable with. I often chose to ignore it as these people seemed respectable on the surface and I thought it was just me being silly / paranoid / prudish etc. As time passed though, these people eventually got caught out and revealed their true colours - one was caught stealing a large amount of money from their community another is now in prison for a very serious crime. Trust your feelings / instincts - if something doesn't feel right / add up - then the chances are high that something bad is going on. Don't ignore these red flags.


barryrutherford profile image

barryrutherford 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

! out of five or a bit less than half on each count. Great Hub. Every School leaver should have to read this.


Availiasvision profile image

Availiasvision 2 years ago from California

Travel:check.

Date: half check

Property: Yikes, better save harder.

Investing: check.

Job: I love what I do, but it is a dead end.

Find yourself: 2/3 check. Do you ever figure it out?????

I'm 27 and still trying to figure out this 20's thing. Still don't know what my passion is in terms of work. Writing here is helpful. If I could write full time for HP, I would.

Great advice, and congratulations on getting the Hub of the Day Award.


mochirajackson profile image

mochirajackson 2 years ago from Liverpool, United Kingdom

This is great advice. I work with teenagers who are in school and I often find myself giving out similar advice about taking advantage of all the opportunities they have now, so they don't have any regrets later - the trouble is, a lot of them are just living for the present and don't even see why they have to go to school. It can get quite frustrating at times! I hope that young people reading this will take your advice seriously. Thanks for sharing x


lmoyer92 profile image

lmoyer92 2 years ago

Based on the polls so far, it looks like investing in stocks should be my next time investment. I own a few already, but I don't invest in more on a regular basis.


NateB11 profile image

NateB11 2 years ago from California, United States of America

This is good advice. I wish I'd read it in my 20s. Don't know that I would have, though. But it makes good sense to me at 43. Good stuff.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working