A word of advice for today’s graduates

Published 5:03 pm Friday, May 14, 2021

Graduation season always puts me in a nostalgic frame of mind.

It was a great time in my life, both high school and college graduation. The world was my oyster, full of hope and promise.

I’m sure today’s graduates feel the same way. The future is bright. And like I did, I’m sure they think they know all the answers. Oh, to be that age again, but know what I do now.

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What would I have done differently? Probably not much. I know I would have started saving for retirement earlier than I did. I hope to work another 10 years or so, but I’m scrambling to push as much money as possible into my 401K, as I’m sure others my age — 59 — are doing, too.

Saving for retirement is much, much easier when you start young. If I had a message for new graduates, it would be to immediately upon being hired put something — anything — into your 401K or Roth IRA. I don’t care if it’s 1 percent or five percent of your gross pay. Get in the habit of having that money taken directly from your paycheck and deposit into your 401K. You won’t miss money you don’t see.

You will be amazed at how quickly that money grows. And you won’t look up one day when you’re nearing your 40s and realize you haven’t started saving for retirement.

It’s so critically important. Don’t think about it. Just do it. It won’t kill you to miss that small amount of money each paycheck. It will pay you big dividends when you are nearing retirement and don’t have to worry about perhaps having to work forever because you have no retirement savings.

If you don’t listen to any other advice, please listen to that. Start saving right now.

Another bit of advice: Don’t be in such a hurry to get out of college, like I was. You’re going to have plenty of time in your life to work. Take the opportunity while you are young to get as much education as possible. Get a master’s degree. Go for a doctorate.

If you think, I’ll wait until I work for a few years and then go back and get an advanced degree, forget it. You won’t. You’ll develop a life, get used to the money, maybe get married and have a couple of kids, and going to grad school or law school will move permanently to the back burner of your life.

I lived in dorms for my entire college career and worked while in school to pay my tuition and books. No one wanted to finish college more than I did. I wanted to move into my first apartment, get that first full-time job and get on with my life.

About a week after being in that apartment and going to work every day, I knew I had made a big mistake. Graduate school sounded wonderful. But, it was never to be.

Things turned out pretty well for me. I’ve worked for the same company since days after I graduated. Just don’t be in such a hurry to get out of college, particularly if you don’t know exactly what your career path will be. You have time to figure it all out.

Jan Griffey is editor and general manager of The Natchez Democrat. You may reach her at 601-445-3627 or by emailing jan.griffey@natchezdemocrat.com. Readers are invited to submit their opinions for publication.