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9 money tips your graduation speaker forgot

Learn to cook, keep in touch with your friends, exercise and marry the right person -- these are all keys to financial success.

By Teresa Mears May 17, 2010 2:14PM

This time of year, college graduates are bombard with financial advice, career advice, life advice -- all the wisdom of their elders.


And we think they should listen. It's important to start your adult life on a strong financial footing. Our partner blogger Jim Wang at Bargaineering is providing an entire week of posts about financial nuts and bolts for graduates.


We agree with everyone who has advised you to get a job, make sure you have health insurance, avoid credit card debt, participate in your company’s 401k plan, draw up a budget, pay yourself first, pay off your student loans and live within your means. Quit sponging off your parents. And don't buy a new car.


But what key financial advice has been left out? Drawing on life experience (we are probably older than your parents), plus the collective wisdom of the personal-finance blogosphere, we came up with our own list of less repeated but equally important financial advice.


Learn to cook. "You will save a fortune, both by not eating in restaurants and by avoiding doctor's visits," wrote Anne of Portland, Ore., one of 32 New York Times Bucks blog readers who offered advice for new graduates. Consider learning other life skills, too, such as sewing, simple car repair, basic computer skills and home repair.

Do what you love, but don't expect the money to follow. If you keep your expenses under control, you have the freedom to follow a career path that may be less lucrative but more satisfying, writes Mrs. Micah at Finance for a Freelance Life.

What matters is that you can a) figure out what you love doing and b) learn how to live happily on what you make. … Learning how to live frugally, how to prioritize what types of spending will bring you the most happiness, combined with work you actually enjoy, will bring you a more fulfilling life than giving up what you love because you can't make a living at it.

Realize that less stuff means more freedom. Every regular monthly expense, from a car payment to a credit card payment, ties you down, writes RJ at Gen Y Wealth in "14 dumb mistakes that college graduates make."

One of the major advantages you have right now is that you can do almost anything. You can start your own business. You can get a job just because you can move across the country. You can travel the world. The moment you start creating monthly expenses for yourself such as rent, car payments (don't buy a new car), cell phone contracts, etc., you decrease your flexibility. That's a trait that you will never be able to get back.

If you marry or enter into a domestic partnership, choose the right person. "Choice of spouse weighs heavily on future success or failure," writes Jason at Frugal Dad in a post called "44 ways to ruin your financial life by age 30." "They say opposites attract, but I'm not sure they stay together forever. Find someone who shares your dreams on subjects that matter most to you."


Stay in touch with your friends. In the professional world, we call this networking, and it is one of the most important career skills you will ever learn. Ron Haynes, in a post at The Wisdom Journal called "12 things I learned by 42 that I wish I knew at 22," wrote:

Get in the practice of networking without expecting anything in return. Make sure you don't come across as a brown-nosing leech who is always trying to get an angle, but stay in touch with people. You never know who you may be able to help. The lesson learned: Stay in touch and make sure you come across as helpful rather than helpless.

Don't go to graduate school. Not being able to find a job is a bad reason to go to graduate school, especially if it means more debt. If you don't have a full scholarship or fellowship, and the new degree won't significantly increase your earning power, don't even consider it. Once you get a job, your employer may send you to graduate school. Or you may discover that on-the-job experience is all you need.


If you can't find a job, create one. Owning your own business may not be your long-term goal, but a business on the side can provide some extra cash, even after you get your dream job. Pet sitting, cleaning houses, lawn mowing, programming neighbors' computers and DVD players, tutoring, providing sports or music lessons, working as a disc jockey, selling stuff on Amazon or eBay -- all can provide a decent hourly return while you're looking for work.


Eat right and exercise. Of course you've heard this before, but it is important financial advice. Smoking and being overweight will cost you in money, in health and in years off your life. You'll never be this young again. Find a physical activity you enjoy -- aerobics, biking, dancing, hiking -- and build a fitness habit. If you need to lose weight, do it now, before age slows your metabolism. Are we going overboard if we remind you to floss? Dental work is really expensive.


Splurge on experiences. You'll never be 22 again. When I was 30, I realized I'd never been anywhere, so I saved money for a year, quit my job and spent $12,000 on a nine-month solo trip around the world. If I'd saved that money and it earned 5% a year, I'd now have $36,000.


I'd also be a different person. Some experiences are worth every penny.


It's important to save for the future, but it's also important to know what experiences are worth your hard-earned money now.


Studenomics asked 11 personal-finance bloggers to share their wisdom with new graduates. Kyle of Amateur Asset Allocator advised them to travel, especially to travel on the cheap. He wrote:

Retirement isn't a destination. Working 80 hours per week in the hope of ending up rich 50 years from now is silly. You may not live that long. Get your fair share of amazing experiences now, while you're still young enough to enjoy it.

What's your top advice for graduates? What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you were young?


Related reading:

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