A Message to Graduates: Sometimes it’s Good to Ignore a Few Wrong Way Signs

Wrong Way Sign

On the road of life, you’ll see many signs telling you how fast to go, when to stop, when to take a detour, and when you’re going the wrong way.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to ignore those signs posted by society and go your own way.

1. Society will tell you to buy a brand new car before you have the money

It might sound tempting when you hear things like “No money down”, or “only $150 a month”, or “only $5 a day.”  Don’t do it!  Save up cash and buy a cheap, used A to B car with no payments.  Until you have the cash, walk, ride a bike, take the bus, or use Uber.  When you finally buy a car, set aside around $150 per month to cover maintenance and repairs.

2. Society will tell you to spend as much money as you can on a house

Don’t rush into buying a house.  It’s okay to rent until you know where you want to put down roots.  When you’re ready to buy, don’t take out a loan that’s more than 15 years long and don’t commit to a payment that’s more than 25% of your monthly income.  No matter what the bank says, too much house payment makes life harder than it has to be.

3. Society will tell you to use a credit card to get what you want now

A good credit rating is important for things like insurance rates, low interest rates on home loans and even getting a job.  But, use credit wisely.  Get a credit card or two, not because they have the best airline miles or cashback, but because you need them to maintain a credit score.  Always pay your bill off completely every month.  I can think of much better ways to spend 20% of your credit card bill than paying interest and late fees to the card company.

5. Society will tell you to go to the most prestigious (usually the most expensive) college you can

How about just going to a community college?  Unless you know you want to be something that requires the fancy education like a doctor, a lawyer, or a scientist, you generally don’t need a pricey four-year degree.  What you really need is experience.  If you do decide to get that degree, shop around for deals and look for scholarships.  Choosing a high-priced private medical school over a cheaper state school isn’t going to make you a better doctor.  Also, be careful how much money you borrow to do it.  Student loans are with you for life – they won’t go away, even if you declare bankruptcy.

6. Society will tell you to find a nice, secure, well-paying job from which no one gets fired

Don’t be afraid to try out many different kinds of jobs until you find the one you like.  If the one you like doesn’t pay well, find a way to make it pay well.  Work harder, start your own business based on that job, or take on a second job to support the job you love.  If you’re not sure what you want to do after high-school or college and aren’t afraid of some hard work, try a trade school.  As Mike Rowe points out, there are quite a few good paying blue-collar jobs out there.  Some of which can lead to six-figure incomes.

Often times society will tell you to join the crowd and take the easy route, or to go down the slide.  Don’t be afraid to go up the slide, even if the people across from you are yelling, “You’re going the wrong way!” (Thank you Planes, Trains and Automobiles)

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