As a fresh college graduate, you’re finally at that point you’ve been hearing about since at least your high school graduation: Your journey into “the real world.” There has probably been no shortage of advice, good and bad, about what to do at this point, but you may find that a lot of what people offered to you really doesn’t apply to the situations you’re facing.
Part of that is because everybody is different, but a lot of it is simply because it’s coming from people of a previous generation, many of whom grew up in very different circumstances. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” They mean well when they say things like that, but they aren’t living your life so it’s tough to draw much from their platitudes.
Now is the time for you to get a real idea of what’s ahead of you, to hear the unfiltered truth about what happens at the age of 22 and beyond. It’s probably a perspective you’ve never heard before, but it’s reality. As rough as some things will be to deal with, the good news is that going in with your eyes open will make it a lot easier. So with that said, let’s look at some of the real issues coming your way.
Caring for aging parents and grandparents is an issue that is becoming more important every year. Generations are spreading further apart in age. Your grandparents probably had your parents at a much earlier age than when your parents had you, and if the trend continues, you’ll open the gap even further.
Why does that matter if you don’t have kids yet? Because kids are typically the first caregivers as we age. In other words, your grandparents reached old age when your parents were probably 40-plus
You need a plan for this possibility, so be sure to communicate with your parents about things like long-term care insurance. Make sure they understand that you won’t be financially prepared for it. And think about issues they’ll deal with at home, like finding a good pill identifier for medicine mixups or getting estate plans made.
You probably still feel indestructible as you graduate from college. But those four years of instant noodles and beer are behind you. It’s time to eat better. And all those miles you logged walking around campus? They represented some accidental exercise, thousands of calories burned up without any official exercise. Now they’re getting traded in for hours at the desk and in the car. You’ll have to get serious about your eating and exercise habits.
And you’ll have to think about stress, too. Yes, college brought long hours of studying and the possible mix of a job, but a lot more is ahead of you now. There will be work stress, relationship stress, and plenty of issues with getting home to see Mom every so often. And don’t forget about money.
You’ve heard money advice from your parents and teachers for years now, and certainly they’ve told you the truth. It is very important to save money. It is very important to live beneath your means. But college wasn’t nearly as expensive 30 years ago if they went to college at all. So just how aggressively can you save when you are in student loan debt up to your ears?
The best advice on finances is to reduce debt at every opportunity. Get an emergency fund built up for that vehicle breakdown or emergency room visit, but whatever margin you have beyond that, attack your debt. If you don’t take on your student loan debt, the government might.
All the advice you’ve heard over the years about what your life would be like at this point is probably well-intended but was, at best, very general and at worst, totally irrelevant. The reality is that you’ll be dealing with lots of things that your parents never thought about, or on a scale that wasn’t likely in their day. The important thing is to prepare yourself for these things and to get started on the right foot. It is so much easier to do that than to change bad habits later.