Let me guess, you’ve just graduated, you’ve started your new job, and you feel like you’re rich and on top of the world? It’s the feeling we all get if we’re fortunate enough to be employed by graduation. It’s an immensely pleasant feeling, but one that only lasts a few months. Once routine expenses begin to take hold, the sense of financial bliss will disappear. This is the tipping point. The realities of adult life are upon you, and you don’t know how to stop it. With a new feel for what your parents went through to get you where you are, let’s take a look at what they probably did to stay afloat.
After the fun’s been had, and you’ve broken your wallet in, don’t slow down on life. Get to work building your future self so that you’re all set up for success. Make a plan and stick to it so you’re not stuck walking through it on a day-by-day basis, prone to mistakes. Regret is a terrible feeling.
Here’s what you should do after graduation. If it’s not the first thing you do, at least let it be the second:
Decide on the perfect you, 2050.
Do you have an idea of who you want to be when you’re older? This was something I hadn’t considered in full until 6 months of foolishness had pass post-graduation. I did have some vague idea that I wanted to be successful, and that it would happen somehow. But my plan wasn’t concrete.
Life picks up a sickening pace post-graduation. There are fewer ‘checkpoints’ to look forward to, and the days and weeks will begin to blur together. If you forego thinking about who you want to be by 45-50, you may just find yourself in an undesirable place at 30.
Give it some thought; you’ll appreciate the meditative process. If you did it right, nothing but fear should strike your heart, “I have to do what to be CEO of my company?!” Yes, you do. And you have to start now! Don’t waste any more time.
Probing questions to get the mind churning:
- How do you imagine yourself at 50? What do you look like?
- What two celebrity careers would you emulate and fuse if you could?
- When do you want to be a loving father or mother, if ever?
- If you were fearless, what would you do right now? What would you do tomorrow?
- How far are you willing to go to make a million dollars?
- Lastly, what will be your lasting impact on the world?
Develop your road map.
With your life goals figured out, it should be pretty clear what you need to do next.
If you decided to be a celebrity hairstylist and Youtube sensation, then you probably have to get yourself to New York or Los Angeles and get to work styling people’s hair. Build a solid clientele and get good promoting your videos. Do a good job and you’ll be off to the races.
If you decided to be a vehicle Chief Engineer, say for the Corvette, then you’ll have to find your way to Detroit, work 4-5 years in engineering, another 4-5 in engineering management, and then your chances will be good.
Planning for the future is simple when you pick your destination first. Working backwards to the present does a good job of determining exactly what you need to do. Each step in the succession should be integral to the role that follows.
This all being said, a warning: don’t fall into the trap of constant planning. If you’re always planning, then you’re never doing. I’ve found my way into this cycle many more times than I care to remember, but the lesson out is always the same: growth and progress is found only by doing.
Facilitating questions to spur your road map development:
- How long will you need to be in your industry before you can hold the job you want? 2yrs? 5yrs? 10 yrs?
- How many milestones between where you are now and the final destination?
- Will you need to uphold a certain persona?
- What seeds do you need to lay now so you’re golden for the future?
Set financial goals.
Being fresh out of school is full of financial firsts. The view you have on finances is much rosier than it really is. You lack perspective because you haven’t been through a full financial year yet on your own. It’ll likely be the first time you seriously tackle your taxes, budget for the holidays and vacation trips, or deal with car and transportation troubles amidst the expectations of your job. Without a financial plan, you’re just getting blown around in the wind, completely at the mercy of circumstance.
You’ve probably heard this a million times, but decide on a saving target–10%, 20%, 30%. Whatever it can be, put it somewhere. I know personally, given my circumstances, I can save 25% of every check. Some months are much more difficult than others–if not just down right impossible–but the desire is always there.
If you aren’t using Mint.com to track your income, expenses, and net worth then you’re behind the eight ball. Sign up, hop on that now, it’s for your own good–and no, I’m not an affiliate marketer for Mint. I just highly recommend their product–it’s powerful.
I’m constantly tracking my expenses and making sure my net worth is on a steady climb each month. Given enough time, I should be able to put a down payment on a house, or make a large investment in the stock market–real wealth builders.
With retirement completely on you in the 45 years, financial planning is more crucial now than it’s ever been. Subsidies like Social Security or pensions won’t be here for our retirements. To compensate, contribute to your 401k and IRAs monthly, and take a look into other pecuniary vehicles, e.g. indexed universal life insurance (IUL), an extremely effective avenue to hold and grow your money.
A few questions to get you thinking about your financial health:
- How much can you afford to save each month? 20%? 50%?
- What’s your net worth target for 2020?
- How much money will you have invested by 2018?
Make a change now.
Having determined where you want to be in thirty years, and built your road map, you need to take a hard look at what you’re doing right now. If it falls in line with your ultimate goals then swell! But more than likely, you need to make a change. None of us are doing everything exactly right. We can all do a little better, and I challenge you to make that change now, before it feels too late–or is too late.
Fear is such a limiting factor in our lives. While you may have entertained the idea of what you want to be in life, you may not have committed because it scares you. It’s easy to think staying on your current track will bring you there if you stay the course and just give it enough time, but you know that’s a lie.
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” It’s that easy, and that simple. Overcome fear, and live the life you always wanted to.
A few probing questions:
- Are you doing everything you can today to reach your goals?
- What are you afraid of? When will you face it?
- Do you believe you can get there?
- What’s it going to take?
Start making time for you.
It’s difficult to say “no” sometimes. It’ll be your friend, coworker, or acquaintance that invited you to a party or BBQ and you don’t really want to go. You had your expectations set for the coming weekend to do work, but going to this function will completely blow it.
If saying yes to someone else is saying no to yourself, then don’t do it. You’re holding yourself back from what you’ll truly want down the road. Most of us have been taught you must do things you don’t want to do sometimes, but that rules doesn’t apply when it’s fun over success. It’s important to choose yourself when necessary because you can be sure no one else will.
Humans are social creatures, and do have a need for socialization to stay healthy, but recognize when you’re just saying yes to avoid disappointment or hurting someone’s feelings. If you’re really in charge and the master of your fate, then you’ll have the confidence to say “no” when the time comes.
A few key questions:
- Have you wasted a weekend recently getting too drunk and paying for it on Sunday?
- Are you doing the things only you want to do? Or were you pulled into an organization you don’t really care to be a part of?
- How much time are you spending doing things for other people?
Despite the seriousness and high expectations on your life goals, always remember to step back and smell the roses. It’s tough to slow down in today’s world, but you owe it to yourself to step out of the frenzy every now and again.
- Take a trip to a park
- Hike a local trail
- Spend a night out with friends
- Go see a movie with the significant other
- Call your parents and let them know you appreciate them
The simple things in life matter. At the end of the day, you’ve only got your friends and your family. Even if none of your plans actually come to fruition, they’ll still be there, and life will go on. All this is just stuff we do in the meantime. Stay busy, stay healthy, and stay strong.
Best of luck with your endeavors!
When’s the last time you checked in with your immediate family members? Extended family members? How on track are you in achieving your goals? Let me know in the comments below!