Caps, gowns, and graduations — it is that time of year. For those of you who are graduating from college in the coming weeks, it is time to take those dreams that were nurtured in chemistry, calculus, and computer science lecture halls and turn them into realities of new careers, new families, and new friends.
Take a moment to bask in the glory of your accomplishments. Now roll up your sleeves and get to work. We need you. The world needs you. The fresh ideas from your uncluttered minds will play an important role in addressing the many challenges we face today.
Write your dreams down on a piece of paper, but make sure they are your dreams, not those of your parents or friends. Now tune in to your dreams and tune out the negative voices of the world. Recognize the friends who will further your ambitious pursuits, and distance yourself from those who will not.
You will be challenged to embrace your dreams in a country that thrives on free-market competition. This is good; it will bring out the best in you. But be careful — that competition can cause you to lose sight of your dreams in favor of the empty pursuit of “more.” It is the American way: More is better.
But is more really better? Striking a healthy balance between quality of life and quantity of things is possible if you continue to focus on your dreams and hold on to the youthful optimism and idealism that fill you on graduation day.
You will make mistakes and stumble along the way. This is good; it means you are giving it your all. Just remember to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and give it another shot.
Graduation celebrations quickly fade, and soon you will be faced with the enormous responsibility of saving for and investing in things like new homes, college education for your children, and retirement for yourself. Right now you are blessed with the greatest resource any investor could ask for: time. It is on your side, but only if you begin saving and investing now.
Don’t get sucked into the daily stock market commotion that emanates from Wall Street. The more you try to deftly navigate the trends and cycles of the market, the worse your portfolio will perform.
Want to build wealth? It is as simple as making sure you save more than you spend. Make a pact with yourself. Sock away at least 10 percent of your salary in an employer-sponsored, tax-deferred savings plan such as a 401(k). If that isn’t an option, establish an individual retirement account with a low-cost provider like Charles Schwab or Vanguard. Contribute monthly to a target-date fund comprised of low-cost index funds; your allocations will automatically adjust as you age. Remember, the amount you save isn’t nearly as important as beginning to save in the first place.
The process of saving and investing can be as complicated or as easy as you make it; I prefer the latter method. Following these suggestions will allow you to focus all your attention on the journey that counts most of all — pursuing today’s dreams.
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of “425 Business.”