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More Advice For New Graduates

It is May, and that means graduations galore – college, high school, community college, and various grad schools.  About 5 million in all.  This means a LOT of new job applicants.  That has implications for our economy and our families.

What does it all mean?  Since we have a pretty broad perspective between Adam and I, having graduated quite a number of times, we thought we’d give the new grads some perspective from a couple guys who have been around for a while, though our graduations were decades apart.

Somehow, very little really changes!

So what is a graduate (or parent or grandparent) to do?  Here’s our advice.

Learn more about money.  Immediately!

My generation grew up in a time when certain things were not discussed in polite households; namely cancer, welfare and money.  Now we openly discuss cancer, including among celebrities, and we have come a long way in reducing, curing and preventing.  Our mortality rates from cancer are dramatically reduced.  We talked about it!

I wish I could say the same for welfare.  We made a huge step, starting in (our home state of) Wisconsin, when Gov. Tommy Thompson introduced Workfare.  It was a smashing success, and he was eventually invited to take it to the national level.  After vetoing the idea twice, Bill Clinton signed it into law, and it was a smashing success.  Again, we talked about it!

Now, however, we are changing the narrative, bestowing some sense of righteousness to being “on the dole.”  Safety net, sure!  But as a way of life for generations?  No!

What about money?  Certainly we talk more about it than people did in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.  I give credit to the Internet age for bringing discussions of money and investing into the homes of America.  Prior to the 90’s, we had also introduced the IRA and the 401(k), which made investors of a larger share of the population.  And when Charles Schwab made buying stocks affordable, the investor class really swelled.

But we are still behind in learning about personal finance.  It is partly the fault of our schools, where personal finance is not taught.  But it is failing at home as well.  And the strangest part is that most parents want their kids more involved in the family finances, and most kids want to be more involved in the family finances.  No one wants to break the ice.

Various radio shows, TV shows, and a myriad of books have spread information far and wide.  A lot of it is good.  But how can you get a young person to listen to the Van Wie Financial Hour, or to read a book published by the Lighthouse Press, or to watch a Suze Orman TV Show?  They are too busy texting!

So my Number 1 suggestion, learn more about money right away, is obviously easier said than done.  Where to start?

  • If you work with a financial advisor, bring your kid(s) to a meeting.  If there are sensitive topics, prepare the advisor to avoid those topics.  I have had several clients bring their child, and some who send the kid without the parents.  And believe me when I say that I have opened some eyes by speaking the truth to the young!
  • If your kids are young, you can give them an allowance, but make them save ½ in their own savings account, where hopefully they will start feeling the satisfaction of a growing balance.  I have watched for years as clients begin to concentrate on growing balances, and begin to understand that the process takes time.
  • Read a textbook on economics.  I recommend Thomas Sowell or John Tamny, although there are other great and understandable books as well.  I’ll bet it means more now than it did if you took it when you were younger.  If not, live and learn.
  • Learn something about politics.  I know it is largely boring and disgusting, but it is the public ignorance that allows elected officials to pick your pockets.  Decide which side you are on.  And besides, you never know when Jimmie Kimmel will stop you on the street, and you don’t want to be embarrassed!

Much more to follow next week, so tune in to the show at 10:00 Saturday on AM600 and/or FM100.3.  See you there.