Wednesday, July 28, 2010

10 Things I Wish I Had Done as a High School Grad

Teens that have just graduated from high school have been recently turned loose on the world. Below are ten things that if I would have known (and/or adhered to) as a recent high school grad, would have set me up financially for life.
  1. I should have paid my way through college with cash and scholarships, even if it was a slower way to go, instead of taking out massive student loans that went for tuition, my apartment, food, and the occasional party. Student loans will haunt you FOR LIFE until you pay them off and there is no worse way to start your life as a college graduate than by getting a bill for a whopping $60,000 (!) in the mail.
  2. I should have gotten into the habit of saving at least 10% of everything I earned instead of spending every last penny I made.
  3. I should have never got credit cards. Credit cards equal debt. Some people say you HAVE TO HAVE credit cards to build up your credit so you can take out a loan. How about a novel your money and pay cash for the things you want and skip loans all together?
  4. I should have skipped getting a car and taken public transportation instead. Of course as a teenager I wanted the best car I could possibly get (which meant a huge car loan) because I wanted to be "cool". Now I look back and see that I would have been much "cooler" if I had a huge stash of cash instead of a huge car payment.
  5. I should have got an apartment with a dozen other kids and lived as lean as possible. Being a teenager in the '80s and being unduly influenced by Dynasty and Miami Vice, I wanted the flashy lifestyle which meant my own beautiful apartment, eating out every day, and working more than full time in order to afford my extravagant life.
  6. I should have worked part time and enjoyed life more. I started working full time at 16 and haven't stopped. While I like working, your teenage years should be spent exploring your options and the world as opposed to worrying about getting "your hours" and trading your life for a tiny paycheck.
  7. I should have traveled around the world. In many countries, world travel after high school is a rite of passage. In my case, I went to Japan for a month after I graduated but had to rush back home so I could work and pay my bills. Dumb move. Really.
  8. I should have been lots less serious with my boyfriends. I was engaged at 16, engaged at 18, then married someone else at 19 (who is my current wonderful hubby but I digress...). When you are a young adult you should spend more time focusing on yourself instead of trying to be "all grown up" with "all grown up relationships" to match. You don't need to rush to be an adult, you will have plenty of years to enjoy adult responsibilities.
  9. Plus one for me--I didn't have a baby as a teenager like many of my friends. Of all of the teens I knew who had babies before their mid 20's, probably 90% or more ended up divorced, broke, many on welfare, and old before their time. Now they are grandparent in their late 30s and early 40s! Again, you will have plenty of years to be a parent. Rushing to have a baby as a teenager for whatever reason isn't fair to you or the kid.
  10. I would have been open to more options. Many people get on one track and stay there, mostly because they are afraid of change. They stick with one so-so man because they are afraid they won't find anyone else (note, you usually find someone better), they stick with one so-so job because they are afraid they won't find anything better (note, you usually end up with an even better job when you switch), and stick with one so-so town because they are afraid of moving to a new place that seems interesting but scary (note, people move all the time and often become even more happy and successful when they find their 'right place').

Anyway, that's what I would have/should have done. Hopefully someone, somewhere will take some or all of this advice and enjoy tremendous success.

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