It’s hard to believe, but it’s that time once again when high school and college students will be graduating. I first want to take the opportunity to congratulate all the graduates and their families and to wish them much success in the future. I also would like to remind the graduates that even though many of you will be completing your formal education through school, it doesn’t mean that you can put education on the back burner and forget about it – it just doesn’t work that way. It’s important for graduates to remember that we live in a world that is ever changing and that it’s important that you stay current and therefore it’s important that you constantly re-educate yourself and to update your skills.
For high school graduates, my advice is that you must continue your formal education past high school. It is important that graduates recognize the reality of the world that we live in. Back in the 70s, when I graduated from high school, a high school graduate could get a job in one of the auto plants and earn a very nice middle class living. Not only would they be fairly compensated, but they would also have pension benefits and healthcare for life. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Pension benefits and healthcare for life are extremely rare today. In addition, the job environment is also different. When I graduated high school, Michigan would be competing with states like Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania for jobs. Today, in this global society that we live in, in Michigan we are competing for jobs across the globe. Corporations today go across country borders like you and I cross city lines. Therefore, if you want to be able to compete in today’s ever changing job market, you must have a good education. Whether the high school graduate continues to pursue their education at a four-year university, community college or even a trade school, it is important that you make the investment in yourself to continue your education. Unfortunately, for those who only get a high school degree you may find that you’re permanently locked into low-paying jobs. Therefore, I encourage you to do what is necessary to continue your education past high school.
For the college graduate who is done with their formal education and entering the job market, my advice is to learn good financial skills. All too often, college graduates enter the job market without the necessary financial skills and have problems in the future. Even college graduates who earn a very good living run into problems financially, because they don’t have the necessary skills to manage their financial affairs properly. Therefore, for the college graduate who is entering the real world, my advice is to spend some time learning good personal financial skills. Always remember, it’s not what you make; rather, it’s what you save, and I can guarantee you will save much more if you obtain good financial habits.
In order to help the graduate with their future, whether high school or college, I recommend that for those of you looking for graduation gifts, you do something that will help them continue their education. For example, for a high school graduate, family and friends can get together and set up a 529 education savings plan for the graduate. The Michigan Education Savings Plan (www.misaves.com) is a great vehicle to use for this. In that regard, I recommend that high school graduates’ parents set up a 529 plan for their graduate and recommend to people that as opposed to gift cards or other type of gifts, that they consider a contribution into the college savings plan.
For those of you looking for a present for a college graduate, once again, I recommend something that would increase their financial skills. Whether it is a software program, a good book or a magazine, as long as it helps the college graduate obtain the necessary skills they will need to manage their personal financial affairs.
In today’s world education is more important than it’s ever been; particularly, financial education. The mistakes a high school or college graduate makes with regard to their finances may be a stain on their record that takes decades to erase. Therefore, for those of you who want to truly help the graduate, a gift relating to education is a great way to show the graduate that you truly care about their future.
Once again, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all the graduates and their families on a job well done. I also want to tell the graduates that the best investment you could ever make, better than any mutual fund, stock or real estate investment, is in a good education and to remember that education is lifelong.
Rick is a fee-only financial advisor. If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org.