I got called by Insight Magazine to give some advice to new grads on what they should be doing about their finances, many years ago. It was so long ago, the magazine no longer exists. I gave some answers to the interviewer, but as usual, I was not sure I was very clear or eloquent, so now I will attempt to be more clear to those that might have read the article.
Get The Heck Out of Debt
You have just graduated from University, and you might be carrying upwards of $70K in debt (hopefully in student loans only). You most likely won’t be paying that debt off in your first year of working (should you find a job right away). If you can pay it off, good for you! However, you should put together a plan on how you are going to pay off that debt and WHEN it will be retired.
Carrying debt is a drag on your finances, and the sooner the debt is retired, the easier your financial life will be. You should not aspire to “get used to living in debt”, this is the one thing my generation does NOT want to hand down to you.
Don’t Fall In Love With Having Money
Just because you have graduated from University and you no longer have to eat Kraft Dinner with Hot Dogs for dinner, does not mean you must go out every night to eat. You have lived a frugal lifestyle as a student (I am assuming), but if you continued that frugal lifestyle for a while longer, you may be able to pay down your debt faster and then be on a much stronger footing financially.
Yes, you deserve to enjoy life, but it is very easy to get used to the “Let’s go out to dinner tonight we deserve it” lifestyle, and once you are in that lifestyle the habit is very hard to break (speaking as a 49 year old, I can attest to that issue).
You cannot live your parents’ lifestyle (yet) so don’t try. It took them 30 years to get where they are, don’t rush your spending habits to mimic their spending habits.
If your parents paid for you to have a Samsung or an iPhone or paid for your Cell phone bill, maybe it’s time to get rid of this expensive toy? You don’t need $120 a month cell phone bills. Discretionary spending (i.e. money haemorrhage) is a bad thing which you must watch diligently. Middle age mens’ wastes spread, but their spending spreads like that as well, don’t let it happen to you.
Have a Savings Plan
The sooner you start saving, the better it will be for you when you reach my age, however, saving while still carrying discretionary debt (i.e. non-mortgage debt) is paying Peter to feed Paul. Lowering your debt is first and foremost, if you have left over moneys from your year, yes, starting an RRSP early is a good thing to do, but pay your debts first.
Savings is good, getting out of debt is better.
Get the Heck out of Debt
Banks Can be Negotiated With
As I have pointed out before Free Banking is possible, but it is more likely for old farts like me, who have a good track record with the bank already. Paying $12-$25 a month in bank service charges you should try to avoid, since you most likely don’t use enough services with the bank to justify this charge. Go with as cheap banking as you can.
The Three Worst Ideas After Graduation
- I deserve a new car! -or- I deserve a vacation in Las Vegas!
- I’m a little short until my next pay cheque, I’ll get a pay day loan
- I am only carrying a few hundred dollars on my credit card balance this month
Keep this in mind, did I mention Get the Heck Out of Debt?
Last Pieces of Advice for New Grads
- Don’t move back in with your parents if you can help it. They love you, but maybe it’s better to stay away.
- Always buy the first round if you are out drinking. Seriously, that is a bit of Life Hacking I was glad I was taught.
- Marry someone who has similar financial aspirations as you. Money destroys more relationships, than religion.
- You will make mistakes financially, the important thing is to learn from them.
- Get out of debt, not sure I mentioned that one.