3 Things Recent College Grads Should Know and Do
Graduating from college is equally exciting as it is terrifying. There are few things that the College Grads should know about. You’ve done it—finally crossed the finish line, completed all those final exams, survived the many late nights studying, and mastered ways to cope with stress during school. Now what? Looking back on what might have felt like a never-ending term of torture, you probably realize it passed by with a blink of an eye.
Many college students are so ensnared by their coursework and competing priorities, not to mention their social life, that they rarely have time to think about what comes next. If you’ve been proactively planning for post-grad life, props to you! Refining your resume, interning, attending job fairs, and reaching out to potential employers are all things you could (and should!) have done to set yourself up for success.
Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t. Either way, most college graduates find themselves wondering what to do next—especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. College Grads should know that entering the official world of adulthood can be pretty scary, so we’re here with some advice on three essential things you should do and know to develop personal, professional, and financial well-being.
1. Do Some Deep Diving
Have you ever felt like you’ve just been following all the steps—maybe down a path that isn’t yours? Go to school, earn a degree, land a job, find an apartment, get a pet (pro tip: start with house plants), marry someone, and live happily ever after… that’s what society says we should do, right? But is that actually what you want to do?
Before you find yourself in a career you hate or a companionship you question, ask yourself what it is that really sets your soul on fire. Unfortunately, it’s pretty rare to find a job that you love, are good at, and pays the bills. We’ve been sold that idealized dream since we were kids, but it’s pretty rare to find that Golden Ticket.
While it’s true that life is all about sacrifice, those choices are yours to make. You don’t have to settle for a job that pays well, but makes you miserable. If you enjoy the autonomy of being single, you don’t have to get on dating apps to search for someone. And if you don’t really know what it is that you want, that’s fine too. We suggest going on a day trip to clear your mind.
2. Start Saving, No Matter What
Coming out of college with an entry-level job, you might think that saving money is nearly impossible—especially if you paid for school yourself, and are faced with a mountain of student debt. But setting aside even just a little bit of money every month could make a huge impact on your future due to the beauty of compounding interest.
If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, you should automatically contribute at least 3% of your paycheck to the account to begin building a retirement fund. If you don’t have an employer-sponsored plan, then look into setting up an IRA instead. Both options are great because they offer professionally managed and diversified portfolios. That means you don’t need to decide between investing in gold, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and so on—they’ll handle it all on your behalf, and adjust your asset allocation according to your level of risk overtime.
Note that these tax-deferred savings accounts are specifically designed for retirement and you’ll face a penalty for early withdrawals. That’s why a College Grads should know that it’s important to have a personal savings account, or “an emergency” fund to cover unexpected costs. You don’t have to do a lot to build up savings; you can simply link your bank account to an app that lets you set rules, such as rounding up each transaction to the nearest dollar and putting the extra amount into savings. As a result, you’ll have a better idea of the timeframe and your future income, and this might change your mind on what degree to pursue. Calculate how long it will take to fully repay your student loan using a debt payoff calculator.
3. Recognize That Health is Wealth
Finally, remember to take care of yourself. If you don’t have health insurance coverage through your company, it’s really easy to sign up for one. There are also dental plans with no waiting period and plenty of low-cost clinics across the country.
Last tip: your mental health is equally important as your physical well-being, so remember to always take care of your mind and don’t let the stress of post-grad adulthood get the best of you.