Ben Bernanke's 10 tips for college grads

The Fed chairman offers some life advice -- such as how to find a spouse -- while also dissing economics.

By Aimee Picchi Jun 3, 2013 2:09PM

Ben Bernanke walks in a processional to deliver the commencement speech to graduates at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey on Sunday, June 2, 2013 (© Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images)Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered some philosophical and surprising advice to Princeton University graduates on Sunday, including a diss of his own world of economics. 

"Economics is a highly sophisticated field of thought that is superb at explaining to policymakers precisely why the choices they made in the past were wrong. About the future, not so much," Bernanke told the crowd, according to a transcript on Business Insider. (Bernanke was a tenured professor of economics at Princeton from 1996 to 2002.)

That might be surprising to hear from one of the people responsible for guiding the country's monetary policy.

Under Bernanke's leadership, the Fed's response to the financial crisis and recession created a plan to boost the economy by buying Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities. He also supported the rescue of financial companies such as American International Group (AIG). 

But throughout the speech, Bernanke took a down-to-earth approach, joking about his future while keeping mum about where he might go when his second term at the Fed expires in 2014. 

"I wrote recently to inquire about the status of my leave from the university, and the letter I got back began, 'Regrettably, Princeton receives many more qualified applicants for faculty positions than we can accommodate,'" he said. 

He added that a colleague had sent three children to Princeton, a proud accomplishment, but from a financial standpoint, it was like "like buying a new Cadillac every year and then driving it off a cliff."

Bernanke provided 10 broad observations about life, which he pointed out "have nothing whatsoever to do with interest rates." Here's a summary of his words of wisdom:

Life is amazingly unpredictable. No one ends up doing what he or she thought during college. 

It's still important to plan. Consider your life as a "grand, lifelong project." Think about how you'll spend your life and keep developing your abilities.

No system is truly meritocratic. People luckiest in health, family support, income, education and career opportunities have a responsibility to share their luck with others. 

Make the most of your advantages and disadvantages. People who have coped with adversity or made the best use of their advantages are those most worthy of admiration. 

Don't be cynical. "Cynicism is a poor substitute for critical thought and constructive action."

Economics isn't so good at predicting the future. However, it's great at "explaining to policymakers precisely why the choices they made in the past were wrong."

Money is a means, not an end. Make your career decision based on a love for the work or a desire to make a difference. Choosing it for money "is a recipe for unhappiness."

Failing is essential. "If your uniform isn't dirty, you haven't been in the game."

When picking a spouse, look beyond beauty. "The two of you will have a long trip together, I hope, and you will need each other's support and sympathy more times than you can count."

Call your parents. "A time will come when you will want your own grown-up, busy, hyper-successful children to call you. Also, remember who paid your tuition to Princeton."

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi. 

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Jun 3, 2013 3:08PM
Hahaha!!!!!  Did he just tell a bunch of Princeton grads:  money is not that important, you don't want one of the beautiful people, and share all your good fortunes with others???
Jun 3, 2013 3:18PM
And it looks like Ben will get out of Dodge with a wonderful retirement before it all hits the fan. He followed orders well.
Jun 3, 2013 2:26PM
There is only one Tip College Grads need to know, Uncle Ben is a Crook. You don't take advice from criminals. Uncle Ben is one for the ages.
Jun 3, 2013 3:27PM
People who have money are the ones who say that.  He is full of sh!t. 
Jun 3, 2013 3:30PM
Well whats new...a thieving banker talking to future thieving bankers...From Princeton to the Wall Street Slimeball investment firms.
Jun 3, 2013 3:49PM

I could give a sh** what that shyster has to say. Regarding FED monetary policy he also famously lied: "We are not printing money."

Jun 3, 2013 3:48PM
He should have told them to have fun trying to find a job that is nonexistent or working for minimum wage with no benefits.
Easy for a millionaire, like Bernanke to say, money isn't everything. Looks like things fell in Bernanke's lap, his entire life. Probably never did a hard days work, his entire life.  
Jun 3, 2013 3:14PM
I think he meant to say, "Money is nothing." His type of money at least.
Jun 3, 2013 3:25PM
Second term at the Fed expires in 2014.His expiration date should have been sooner because now everything is going to be sour.
Jun 3, 2013 2:28PM
Smug look in his photo... for a guy who can't possibly outrun all the damage he's done. Ben Bernanke is the Enemy of the World.
Jun 3, 2013 3:18PM
"Economics is not good at predicting the future however it  is great at explaining to policy makers why they were wrong in the past and Failing is essential"  No system is TRULY MERITOCRATIC and life is truly unpredictable ....Hmm........
Jun 3, 2013 3:20PM

Smug advice from a man that pretty much singlehandedly ruined this country's $ system for the next 15-25 years.

I say singlehandedly cuz you could add Ken Lay, Tim Geithner as well.

Jun 3, 2013 5:03PM
Jun 3, 2013 4:46PM
NO......But He sure as hell wants all of it.
Jun 3, 2013 4:23PM
Jun 3, 2013 5:04PM
We'll see how the bank responds when a graduate writes them and says "Money isn't that important.  Don't be upset if I don't pay back my student loan"
Jun 3, 2013 4:35PM
Sounds more like the confession bf a dying man than a graduation speech!
Jun 3, 2013 6:44PM
money is the root of all goodness. and the people who tell you otherwise, always want more of yours.
Jun 3, 2013 4:39PM
Yes money isn't everything.  So share the wealth.  Great advice.  Please share your wealth with me.
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