Author Topic: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?  (Read 2675 times)

EfficientEngineer

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You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« on: December 14, 2017, 10:20:15 PM »
Hi everyone,

Looking back, if you just graduated college again is there anything you would have handled/done differently?  Was there something that you did right and you're still glad you made that decision? 

I have a similar thread going on for career optimization but I'd really like to open this to life optimization.

I'm in the constant search of trying to live a life without regrets and I thoroughly believe that getting advice from a smart group of people who've been there before me is a way to avoid a lot of mistakes.  For context I'll be graduating in the spring and am curious as to everyone's opinion.

Bonus points for unorthodox answers!

foghorn

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2017, 06:22:01 AM »
Interesting question.

As I am now 50 years old, I guess I have had enough time post college to have some perspective. 

The one thing I wish I had done was put more money into my the 401k at my first (and subsequent employers).  When I was 22 and just starting out, the easy answer was to put 6% of pay into the 401k and then get the 4% company match.  The total of 10% seemed like a nice round number and I did not give it much thought beyond that.  While it was good move to invest that money, when I look back at how the market has performed now for 28 years - I think about how much more I would have if I had invested more.  I was paid a reasonable salary and had a company car - so I could have done more.  But at that age I also wanted to buy "stuff" after being a poor college student.

I wish I had a more provocative answer for you.

Bumbles8

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2017, 07:44:19 AM »
I have been out of school for a year and half, so I will answer a little differently.  Also, as a preface, my money situation I have been happy with (maxing 401k, HSA, and Roth). 

Right after school I took a month trip to Europe.  And I highly encourage anyone about to graduate to take a big trip - whether to Europe, across the US, wherever - before they start that first real job.

My only regret was that I didn't stay longer.  When I booked the tickets I wasn't sure how my money situation was going to look but I should have been more aggressive

Once you start your first job, no longer will you be able to take those long vacations

Millennialworkerbee

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2017, 07:48:28 AM »
I am only 6 years out from graduation, so I'm not sure I'm really "looking back" but I'll throw my two cents in here.

I am glad that I got a good grip on my financial situation right away and that I picked a company that puts 10% of my salary into my 401k on top of whatever I contribute. I am still at said company and my 401k looks awesome for a 27 year old. Don't underestimate good benefits even as a single person.

I'm glad I lived on my own. I know it doesn't make financial sense to do so, but if you have the means, you should do it, even just for 1 year. I learned a lot about myself in the 1.5 years I lived alone and it gave me a lot of self confidence that I could do it "on my own".

So far no big regrets.

Hirondelle

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2017, 07:49:26 AM »
Right after school I took a month trip to Europe.  And I highly encourage anyone about to graduate to take a big trip - whether to Europe, across the US, wherever - before they start that first real job.

My only regret was that I didn't stay longer.  When I booked the tickets I wasn't sure how my money situation was going to look but I should have been more aggressive

Once you start your first job, no longer will you be able to take those long vacations
Totally agree with this. Took a one year trip to Asia (including some time working there) and it was the best decision ever. Just get yourself a one way ticket and see when you feel like heading back. Extra advantage; upcoming trips will be cheaper due to having friends all over the world who are happy to show you around and maybe even host you.

PlainsWalker

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2017, 08:14:06 AM »
I took on too much in college. I stitched together a part time job, a work study, and some part time as needed gigs to make ends meet. The workload on top of the class work led to me being a zombie when graduation rolled around. When job hunting I was happy for any full time gig that meant just 40 or so hours a week. This led to my first job out of college not being the best in terms of pay and benefits. I worked there for a year and a half and moved on to my current employer with a solid competitive salary and benefits package.

If I were to be back in my shoes as a fresh graduate I would be more confident in my abilities and the value I could bring to a company.

My second job out of college required a lot of travel. For a mostly fresh out of college graduate with no ties full time travel was a blast. I got to see a lot of the country and had virtually no expenses. I lived out of a suitcase for about five years on the company dime. I strongly recommend considering a job that requires travel, at least for a few years. I was running a 90% plus savings rate and still felt like I was living it up. When I got tired of airports at 4:00 am on Monday mornings I was in a good place financially and had the knowledge and skills to transfer to a new position in the company that required far less travel. It worked for me.

reformingSucka

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2017, 10:04:09 AM »
Right after school I took a month trip to Europe.  And I highly encourage anyone about to graduate to take a big trip - whether to Europe, across the US, wherever - before they start that first real job.

My only regret was that I didn't stay longer.  When I booked the tickets I wasn't sure how my money situation was going to look but I should have been more aggressive

Once you start your first job, no longer will you be able to take those long vacations
Totally agree with this. Took a one year trip to Asia (including some time working there) and it was the best decision ever. Just get yourself a one way ticket and see when you feel like heading back. Extra advantage; upcoming trips will be cheaper due to having friends all over the world who are happy to show you around and maybe even host you.

+1

I worked full time the summer after college, and went straight into law school. If I could have optimized that time (and had the resources) - I would travel internationally. If you don't have the resources, which I didn't - I recommend taking time off (2-3 months) and camp/hike/ staycation. Basically, decompress - both to ease out of the college mentality and to prepare yourself for the next step.

Not taking breaks/ vacations, large or small, will have unintended consequences later on. I graduated college over 10 years ago, and while I don't regret the decisions and the subsequent leanings I gained from them... if you can optimize it - awesome! 

honeybbq

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2017, 10:10:50 AM »
I'd have taken a gap year.


Schaefer Light

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2017, 10:16:31 AM »
From a financial perspective, I wish I had maxed out my 401k and Roth IRA right from the start.  I had a high enough salary that I could have done this, but instead I wasted money buying a new car and a house sooner than I should have.  I'd probably be retired by now if I had simply maxed out my tax advantaged accounts from the very beginning.

From a personal perspective, I should have made it a priority to develop some new friendships.  It's easy to make friends when you're in school and surrounded by other people with similar interests who are all roughly the same age.  I found it much more difficult to make friends after I entered the workforce.

YoungGranny

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2017, 10:58:46 AM »
I'm 27 so I'm going on 5.5 years of being out of college. For starters, I would not have bought a new car. I had a car from 16-21 that needed to be replaced and I bought a brand. new. car. UGH! I would have found a nice used car for $5k-$6k.

However, I think that mistake and graduating with student loan debt prompted me to live a more frugal lifestyle. I now have a net worth just shy of $500k because I was very focused on debt payoff (took 2 years) and then wealth building for the last 3.5. Now I kind of feel like I'm in this awesome place where I have plenty of FU money even though I'm not ready to retire. Also, despite what some comments say above about not being able to travel once you start working, I've been able to negotiate more vacation time and spend 1.5 months traveling each year. It's a good compromise and now that I've saved first and built up the reserves spending $5k for me and my husband to spend a month in Europe doesn't hurt our financial picture at all. 

TLDR; Save while you are young; compound interest doesn't F around.

IrishMustacian

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2017, 11:38:39 AM »
I would also recommend a gap year if you can.

When I finished undergrad, I got a job back home for 2 months in retail, and worked as many hours as I could to save some money to go travel. I had top grades from a very well-known school, so probably could have gotten a more highly paid job, but I figured it would take to long to go through the process. The store I worked in was very popular and had just opened so I actually did pretty well out of it - I usually worked well over 40 hours per week and worked nights, and got paid extra for both.

I then went to Guatemala for 2 months and studied Spanish intensively, at a total cost (room, board and one-on-one classes for 4 hours per day) of about $150/week (8 years ago). Then I spent the rest of my time in Colombia, and lived very inexpensively and worked a little bit so that my two months of retail went a long way. By staying most of my time in one city and hanging out with locals who didn't speak much English, my Spanish reached a pretty reasonable level of fluency by the time I left, which I have found useful ever since.

I consider myself very lucky and have had lots of great times since then, but that year in Latin America is probably still one of the best I have had.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2017, 12:41:38 PM »
Maxed out my 401k earlier, had first kid earlier, bought house later.

EfficientEngineer

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2017, 12:51:05 PM »
I'm seeing some recurring themes here - max out 401k/Roth/Tax advantaged accounts, don't make dumb financial purchases, and travel and explore while you're young and have few commitments.

I'll likely have a job offer (to a really awesome company) immediately upon graduation so I don't think I can take a gap year, however I might be able to start 4-6 weeks post graduation.  Anyone else been in a similar situation?  Perhaps my route will be work hard for the first few years and then 4-6 years in negotiate some sort of break?  I also could move into a traveling position and get my travel in that way - I'll most likely pursue that route.



Are there any habits you've established now that you wish you would've done earlier?  Not just automatic investing but perhaps a particular structure to your day, fitness, meditation, reading etc?

acroy

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2017, 01:12:02 PM »
I think I stated in the other thread, 'live with purpose'. Know why you are doing everything. Easier said than done! ;)

As far as identifying & sticking to good life habits, our very own MMM gives a lot of good brain food for 'life optimization'. It's not so much what you can get 'out of' life as what you 'put into' life. Somewhat oddly, the more you 'put into' it, the better it gets! Positive feedback loop baby!

For developing and sticking with a plan, I'll post a link to a thread I just started:
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/throw-down-the-gauntlet/2018-badassity-resolutions/
Post 8, actually printing up the specific resolutions and reviewing it very single day, has been a step-change in the motivation / mindset dept for me.

good luck!

Lady SA

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2017, 01:14:45 PM »
My DH and I graduated in 2014, and we purposefully negotiated with our employers to start later. We graduated in early May, and DH started working mid-June and I had a start date of mid-July.

We spent that month backpacking and camping in 8 national parks, and to this day that was the most fantastic trip we have taken. 5 weeks of having the time of our lives exploring gorgeous landscapes, meeting interesting people, and learning to live out of our tiny car. Most employers will be perfectly fine to delay your start date unless you are entering a rotational program or something that has a hard start date (some larger companies do this, and as a side note, highly recommend rotational programs for your first job out of college if that works out for you).

I think we spent maybe $3k for 5 weeks for the two of us, including park passes, food, gas, etc. We spent the months before the trip looking out for deals on equipment.


This isn't a post-graduation wish, I actually wish I had kept up my exercise routine in college. I was in sports all year during high school but didn't continue that in college, and my motivation for working out without a group isn't all that high. I still struggle to remember to do my workouts because I refuse to pay for a gym membership/classes and I'm healthy and in pretty good shape, but I miss my muscles/fitness. So I guess I would say set a workout schedule/plan and commit to it. It has improved lately once I made a weekly schedule, where I actually chart out the hours I'm at work, making dinner, grocery shopping, watching TV, reading, hobbies, etc. Scheduling an hour after I get home from work every day has helped a lot--I find if my butt hits the couch, I have a hard time getting back up, so I have to get my workout in before settling in for the evening.

I'd also suggest figuring out better sleep hygiene once you graduate. College is horrendous on sleep habits and I remember after graduating that I struggled to fall into a regular sleep pattern now that I had to be up at the same time every day. So as part of my weekly schedule, I have an hour of reading before bedtime so I'm not fiddling around on my laptop, mindlessly watching tv, scrolling fb, etc right before I need to be asleep.

tralfamadorian

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2017, 02:31:40 PM »
I would have maxed out my tax-deferred accounts. I would have tried to find a cheaper apartment within walking distance to work then bought a quadplex within biking distance instead of a relatively expensive apartment within walking distance then a house in a much prettier location 15 miles/20 minutes drive. (See the book Set for Life for what I think is a thorough explanation of this reasoning)

I would have starting applying to new jobs at 18 months tenure. W2 income growth comes at employer changes, not raises within one company. I started work the day after I graduated. This I would not have changed- make hay while the sun shines and all that. But I would probably have baked in 1-2 month mini-sabbaticals between jobs hops. 

EfficientEngineer

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #16 on: December 15, 2017, 02:42:38 PM »
I think I stated in the other thread, 'live with purpose'. Know why you are doing everything. Easier said than done! ;)

As far as identifying & sticking to good life habits, our very own MMM gives a lot of good brain food for 'life optimization'. It's not so much what you can get 'out of' life as what you 'put into' life. Somewhat oddly, the more you 'put into' it, the better it gets! Positive feedback loop baby!

For developing and sticking with a plan, I'll post a link to a thread I just started:
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/throw-down-the-gauntlet/2018-badassity-resolutions/
Post 8, actually printing up the specific resolutions and reviewing it very single day, has been a step-change in the motivation / mindset dept for me.

good luck!

Thanks acroy!  I just checked out that thread and I think its great!  I've been compiling my resolutions for a few weeks now and I will definitely steal a few from there!  I will definitely be printing out my goals and reviewing them every morning, that's a surefire way to ensure that you start each day motivated to achieve your goals. 

Lady SA thanks!  I've been struggling to truly establish my own sleep habits but I will definitely lock in on that and get it squared away.  I'll have to give starting 4-5 weeks after graduation a real shot!

tralfamadorian, I'm going to make a note of that 18-month timeline to start looking elsewhere to see if that is something that might apply in my future situation(s), thank you!  I also added that book to my reading list :)

Cranky

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #17 on: December 15, 2017, 04:52:20 PM »
Hmm. My dh and I graduated in 1977. I donít think there *were* any IRAs at that point, but we didnít have any money, so it didnít matter.

We assumed that dh would get into grad school immediately, and he didnít, so we spent a gap year working at crappy jobs, which was educational.

In retrospect, Iíd write his essays myself.

Gone_Hiking

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #18 on: December 15, 2017, 07:19:07 PM »
I would get a mentor.

It never happened to me to get a mentor when I graduated.  I was used to figuring it out by myself.  I didn't understand how important communication skills were and as a result, I was preparing to be a lab rat with graduate degree.  A mentor would point communication deficiencies to me and alter path of my career and earning potential earlier.  I have had mentors for the last few years and their input made a lot of difference to me: confidence, skill level, earning potential, job enjoyment.

Get a mentor who is successful in his/her path who can point out potential opportunities and ways to improve how you do things.  Best of luck!


Imma

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #19 on: December 16, 2017, 12:42:50 PM »
I can't really tell you for sure yet, as I'm only in my late 20s myself, but here's what I see among my friends currently: all of us setlled down immediately after college, in our early 20s, many with a partner they'd been with since high school. As soon as they found grown-up jobs, they bought two grown-up cars, a grown up interior, a golden retriever and a family home and started living the life their parents lived. Now they're around 30 and all bored out of their minds, but too scared to end the relationship and start again on their own.

Now, I'm guilty of this too: I bought a house with my s/o when I was 24 (we met when I was 22) which is young, but before we met we both lived independently, travelled, lived a bit. We are still very happy together, but if we weren't, I wouldn't be too scared to break up. I know I can live on my own if I have to. I'm glad we both lived independently before we settled down together.

Many people also grow fat those first few years out of college, when they can finally afford to drive a nice car everywhere and all the fancy food they like. You're going to want to lose that weight again, so try to not gain it in the first place. Avoid driving when you can, exercise frequently, eat healthily, drink in moderation.

BuffaloStache

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #20 on: December 16, 2017, 02:04:06 PM »
Right after school I took a month trip to Europe.  And I highly encourage anyone about to graduate to take a big trip - whether to Europe, across the US, wherever - before they start that first real job.

My only regret was that I didn't stay longer.  When I booked the tickets I wasn't sure how my money situation was going to look but I should have been more aggressive

Once you start your first job, no longer will you be able to take those long vacations
Totally agree with this. Took a one year trip to Asia (including some time working there) and it was the best decision ever. Just get yourself a one way ticket and see when you feel like heading back. Extra advantage; upcoming trips will be cheaper due to having friends all over the world who are happy to show you around and maybe even host you.

+2 on this but with a BIG CAVEAT. Don't let this trip/gap year become lifestyle inflation or lifestyle creep once you start working- take the trip for what it is, but realize that it's a rare event and shouldn't become a regular thing until you are FI. That was probably the only thing I wish I would've done differently. After graduating I took a big trip, but then I kept taking big trips often throughout the first couple years of working. While I certainly enjoyed each and every trip I took, I would be a lot closer to FI now if I just enjoyed that one trip and didn't try to repeat it with my newfound salary.

Another thing I may have liked to have done was to use my early career to develop a good side-hustle. Seems like most of the best side hustles I've heard of require a lot of time up front, but a lot less once you get into it. The time before you settle down/own a house/etc. seems like the perfect time for this, in my opinion.

Good luck!

MrsPete

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #21 on: December 16, 2017, 02:46:08 PM »
I did exactly what a lot of people here are saying is right:  I continued to live like a student, and as soon as I got my first professional job I maxed out my 401K.  All that is excellent advice, and if I were suddenly back in that same spot in life, I'd do those very same things. 

What I didn't realize until after graduation:  In my first two years after college, I was MORE POOR than I was while I was a student.  I didn't see that coming AT ALL.  Thing is, I picked up on "how to college" right away.  I had a job that gave me a free room on campus, I knew how to go to the right club meetings on campus to scam a free meal, I knew where to get books and clothes cheaply ... but most of those things changed (all at once) after graduation. 



Bracken_Joy

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #22 on: December 16, 2017, 02:48:53 PM »
I wish I had made building and continuing friendships more of a priority. I wish I had picked a community earlier on, and built ties to it, rather than moving around so much.

marty998

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #23 on: December 16, 2017, 04:27:50 PM »
I wish I had made building and continuing friendships more of a priority.

Total agreement with this one. At the end of it all, this is where happiness can be found.

Sibley

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Re: You just graduated college - what would you do differently?
« Reply #24 on: December 16, 2017, 05:11:45 PM »
Put more money into 401k. Not buy quite so much crap. Work harder to pay off the student loans.