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Tuesday, November 05, 2013


Steve Cole writes notes to young people, those just about to graduate and start their adult lives.

1. You're focused on getting to the day after graduation, but you need to have a good idea of where you're going to be at age 25 and how you're going to get there. At age 25 (plus or minus), you should have finished school (and perhaps a term in the military), paid for your education, married your forever-spouse, bought a house, and planted some trees. Do you have the job skills to get a job that affords that house? Are you serious about who you're dating and would they make a forever-spouse? By the way, get to age 25 (true adulthood) with a clean credit history and no police record.

2. You're in for a shock when you move into your first home and find out that it doesn't have in it everything your parents spent the last 25 years accumulating. All of that stuff, from a hammer to a pair of scissors, has to come from somewhere. With a strong family, you can probably start with the old (now surplus) copy of everything.

3. When you buy a major appliance (or a car, or the heating and air conditioning system for your house) understand that nobody promised you'd have that forever. Those things last a few years (from five to fifteen). When you need a new one, you need to have the cash in the bank to pay for it, not plan on putting it on a credit card and paying interest on it.

4. Buy the right house, and when you can, throw a couple of hundred (or thousand) extra dollars at the mortgage. (Do not plow your entire cash reserve into it; you might lose your job and need that cash.) Those first few house payments on that mortgage actually contain only a hundred dollars or so going on the principle, so adding a few hundred here and there shortens your mortgage by months and saves you interest at the end. Be careful because no matter how much extra principle you pay, you still have another payment due next month.

5. You need to make the right kind of friends, people who are serious about their own future and career, not people who do drugs or are always in trouble with the police.

6. By the way, while you're getting that college education (or other education for an adult career) be sure that you do three things: get a degree that leads to a job, get a broad degree that can open the doors to a wide range of jobs, and pick up a few electives and other courses that broaden your view of the world. You also need to learn to write effectively, spell correctly, use punctuation correctly, and clearly state what you're trying to say.

7. Just personally, I think everyone needs to spend time in the military, but then, it's frankly not for everyone. Even for people who might enjoy learning a little about that life and gaining a little self-discipline and some team-building skills, giving up a few years isn't always practical. (Even joining the reserve, these days, all but guarantees you a year overseas at an inconvenient time.) One alternative is the State Guard, where you could be a soldier, never get shot at or go overseas, not travel far from home, and leave any time you want. If the military isn't for you, at least go take the Red Cross first aid and CPR courses.

8. When looking for a job, use a shotgun, not a rifle. Go for any job you'd enjoy in a field you know, not one specific narrow job. Go for a line job, not a support job, because support people get laid off first. Look for a job with a bigger company where there is more training and more different routes up the ladder.

9. Stay out of debt. Don't go to an expensive college. Don't use student loans for anything other than education. Avoiding spending anything on a credit card you cannot pay off that month. If you have to, work from a written budget (with a reserve for flexibility).

10. The single most important decision you will ever make is the person you will spend your life with. Choose wisely.