It’s graduation season once again. I know a number of people graduating this year from both college and graduate school. Some have jobs, some don’t. Most are glad to be done with school, though the idea that graduation means that you have to think about being a grown-up is weighing heavily on their minds.
I was discussing this yesterday with a co-worker. When I graduated from college, I didn’t have a job, but I had a line on a job. I graduated on a Sunday, interviewed on Tuesday and got an offer that afternoon. I then went on a family vacation for a week, came back, took the LSAT, and started my job. I worked a little over a year, quit at the end of July, and started law school mid-August. I worked every summer (and during the school year as well), graduated from law school and had a whole weekend off before starting law review classes. Took the bar exam, came home, spent a week recovering, started packing, went to a friend’s wedding in Canada, came back, went to a college football game, and then moved to D.C., where I started my job not two weeks later.
As you can see, I never took any time off for myself. My sister’s roommate is planning a trip for this summer where she and a friend road-trip across the country. Another friend is planning to backpack through Europe for a month. I’m a little jealous of these people. I’m at a point in my life where unless I quit my job, there probably aren’t going to be any opportunities to take a month or two and just travel or enjoy life. At least not until retirement. Or until I win the lottery.
So I have some non-traditional advice for graduates. Take time off.
Now, I know that seems strange in a blog dedicated to personal finance. After all, graduates have debts to pay. They have to start work, or they have to work on finding a job. And all of this is true. By not taking time off, I had that much more money saved up when I started law school. And sure, it did make a difference. But I do regret never doing anything crazy and going off and just having fun before delving in to real life.
While a trip to Europe might be out of your price range, what about a road trip? Get a friend or two together and you can split the costs. Get a tent and stay at campsites. Have fun and be ridiculous.
Or better yet, take some time and do something good for others. Take a roadtrip and dedicate it to service. See if you can drive around the country and work at various Habitat for Humanity houses. Or other sorts of charities. In addition to having fun, that’s not a bad thing to put on your resume. I don’t think any potential employer would see that you spent a summer doing charity work and use that against you. Also, if you’re still looking for a job, maybe you can do phone interviews while you’re off in another state volunteering. Again, it might look good to an employer, and you would still get to experience some freedom.
All right, so maybe it’s not the best advice. Finding a job is important, and working to pay off your debts and start saving for the future is also important. But I think it’s important to also remember to live for today every so often and enjoy life. You can always be a grownup tomorrow. You’ve worked hard. Reward yourself, even if it’s just for a week or two.
Megan is a 40-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.