Open Letter to a High School Graduate

Open Letter to a High School Graduate

What would you tell the high school graduate in your life?

When I receive graduation announcements in the mail from friends and relatives, it automatically takes me back to my own high school commencement.

The excitement of completion and the anticipation of college is like no other.

But I also remember how unprepared I was to begin making my own decisions about banking, saving money, spending wisely, and developing a budget.

That’s where this letter comes into play. Hopefully, this open letter to high school graduates can provide some useful personal finance tips as you begin to face life in the real world.

To All High School Graduates,

First, congrats to you on your many successes and achievements. Take a moment and be proud of yourself . . . you deserve it. Newton D. Baker is quoted as saying,

“The man who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow is uneducated the day after.”

In light of this statement, I offer you the chance to continue your education with a few words of wisdom and counsel pertaining to personal finance.

Now is a Perfect Time to Begin Saving

Whether you receive a financial gift or earn a paycheck, make sure you hold back a percentage of every dollar that comes your way and deposit it into a savings account. Yea, you’ve probably heard this before.

But chances are high that you’ll listen to me since I’m not your mom or your dad. Trust me, saving a portion of each dollar is the smartest thing you can do at this point in your life. You don’t need to make big bucks to make a big impact with your savings. If you can develop a habit of saving money now, it will pay off in accumulation and in future financial self-discipline.

Understanding How Much College Actually Costs

I can still remember back to when I got my tuition difference check. My student loans paid more than my actual tuition costs, and I thought I had hit the lottery. Needless to say, I wasn’t making wise decisions with the leftovers. Don’t make my mistake.

Even if you receive scholarships, most students will pay for college through the use of financial aid student loans. This is not free money. When signing up for financial aid, do not take on more student loan debt than what is absolutely necessary. Fill out more scholarship applications than loan applications. Remember, you will be the one making the payments after college.

Beware of Credit Cards

Welcome to adulthood. Now try to avoid debt at all costs. If you didn’t receive many credit card applications in the mail while living at home, that’s about to change. Don’t listen to their sales pitches and don’t throw away your financial future for a free t-shirt.

A credit card can help you begin to build your credit history, which will be needed for numerous things later in life. But using a credit card and using it wisely are two drastically different things. Don’t use a credit card to bankroll your lifestyle or pick up dates. Instead, make smart purchases, develop a budget, and begin using your financial brain to become a responsible spender.

The Importance of a Mentor

No matter what your circumstances may be, there’s always going to be someone else who has experienced what you’re going through. Find that person, learn from them, take notice of their warnings, and learn some wise life skills. Don’t think you’re too smart to learn from others.

Well, that’s it. Again, congratulations on your high school success. May you have an excellent future and successful bank account.

Sincerely,

PT from PT Money

Do you have any other advice for a graduate? Leave it in the comments below.

Image by CarbonNYC



Last Edited: May 10, 2012 @ 12:30 pm
About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a husband and father of two. He created PT Money back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money and to meet others passionate about managing their finances. All the content on this blog is original, and created or edited by PT. Read more about Philip Taylor, and be sure to connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or view the Philip Taylor+ Google profile.

Comments

  1. I would tell college graduates -

    There is no wrong answer to anything – but there is a foolish answer. When entering into any endeavor – financial or otherwise – do your research, sleep on it, and ask more than just your friends and close family for their opinion. Listen to older, smart, successful people and don’t write them off as ones who aren’t “with it.” But don’t let go of your dreams for pragmatism, either.

    I remember clearly one time in 2005 when I was talking with a coworker about some things I was going through in my life. He was 15 years older than I was and his advice was not advice I wanted to hear. I thought he was being strict, and unforgiving, and silly. But on my walk home I realized that he really knew what he was talking about, and after weighing all the options, I decided to do what he had recommended. Two years later, I am so, so, so happy I listened to him and his wisdom. When I told him the next week what I’d done, he laughed and hugged me and told me, “Wow. You’re the only kid I’ve ever had actually listen to me. You’re going to be wiser than all of your friends if you actually listen to what older people have to say.” And he was right ;)

    Thanks for posting this, PT! It made me think about this happy memory, and about what I wish I’d known when I left school!

  2. Shanti – Wow. This is probably the best comment PTM has ever received. This should be a full post. :)

    I agree. I consider myself a pretty cool guy but I get the “your not with it” vibe from those young ones in my life that I offer up just a little advice to.

    You’re right, there is no wrong answer. In fact, the foolish answer is often praised and rewarded in society.

    Thanks for sharing, Shanti.

  3. bhardeman says:

    I would advise new high school grads entering college to KEEP applying for scholarships. I received new, merit-based scholarships each year of college. Turns out it literally paid to do well and get on your professors’ good sides.

  4. This is a very informative post.  And Shanti is right. It pays to listen to older people. Experience is the best and worst teacher. I had a slice of this cake. The initial years of my marriage was really rocky road financially. It’s very sad that I had to go through that experience to learn how to be financially literate. I’m better off now..we’re better off now.
     
    Currently, only 15 states are teaching finance related courses to high school students. I hope schools would give more importance to this subject than sex education!
     
    Best regards,
    Belinda