Dear recent graduate:
Your parents are thrilled that you chose to move back home to "regroup" after graduation. They've truly cherished this precious time with their child, chatting over morning coffee and regaling visitors with your teenage antics that only recently morphed from "painful" to "funny" family memories.
But let's be honest: They want you out.
Mom and dad have endured enough -- from dirty diapers to public tantrums to piercings, missed curfews and fender benders. I'm sure you're aware of the huge debt burden they took on to send you to the college of your choice. Those tears in the student union parking lot weren't simply about their baby leaving home. As you slept through Biology 101-403 and skipped three and a half weeks of classes to follow Phish, your parents put off replacing the gutters and an Alaskan cruise; they started buying generic just so you'd get an education that would enable your future tattooed, eye-rolling child to go to college someday.
We all recognize that after four years (not counting those six months overseas with your ex), you have now begun the next phase of life. Over the next decade, you're going to buy cars, pay taxes, receive a regular salary, manage home mortgages, decipher insurance policies, and suffer through countless drudging staff meetings. When you're 35, do you really want to be "that guy" -- you know, the guy still sleeping on the twin bed in his childhood bedroom in what is now the cat's/exercise equipment storage room.
That's what I thought. So get on with it already.
1. Live like a poor college student for as long as you can stand it. You might not be a starving student anymore, but don't stop acting like it for as long as you can stand it. Even after you get your first 9-to-5 job, keep the roommates and the beater car. Eat cereal for dinner (but don't tell your mom). Take a bartending job or a part-time gig at a bookstore to make ends meet. Do whatever you need to do while you can still get by on four hours of sleep a night.
2. Debt happens. Don't let it happen too much. We know you need stuff -- Tevas are not appropriate office footwear -- when you transition into the working world. When you do reach for your wallet, please do so responsibly. (We could go on and on about this topic.) Still, there's no bigger buzz-kill than credit card debt. Unfortunately, it seems to be a rite of passage in America. You probably got a credit card (or four) in college. (If not, then you're one of the 8% of coeds who aren't packing plastic.) Now you'll be offered an increased line of credit and lots of perks that are designed to help you spend all of it. Don't do it. Only buy what you immediately need on your credit cards and cut costs whenever possible. Buy cheap beer; don't bother picking up the coolest mountain bike. Live within your means. That's what Phish would do.
3. Say "no" to The Man. Without finals to cram for, you have a lot more time for important stuff, like watching TV. For those too lazy to TiVo, you'll be inundated with countless pitches for shiny new items that you really don't need. Here's an opportunity to make your accounting professor proud. Remember that insufferable lesson about "depreciating assets"? Most of what you see parading across the boob tube falls into this category: stuff that loses value over time. Don't acquiesce to The Man. You have willpower: Identify all the stuff you're going to buy that will lose its value over time -- cars, bicycles, and stereo equipment. Then plan to spend as little money as possible on them. Doing so will keep your debt down and your studio apartment feeling roomy.
4. Don't pimp out your ride. Speaking of depreciating assets, this one's a biggie. The moment you drive a new car off the dealership lot, it loses a big chunk of its value. In fact, on average, new cars and trucks lose more than 20% of their value in just their first year. If you bought a sleek convertible last year for $20,000, today it's worth less than $16,000. Yes, even with that monster stereo you recently installed. Besides, fussy cars make you look desperate to the opposite sex.
5. You've got it. Flaunt it. What you've got that the rest of us want is time. (And gravity, but that's another issue.) You're young, nimble, and probably run circles around the rest of us on the office softball team. You can also kick butt when it comes to savings. A 25-year-old investing $200 each month for just 10 years will have $402,797 in her retirement kitty by age 65 (assuming an annual 8% return). If a 35-year-old were to invest $200 each month until age 65 -- that's two decades longer than the 25-year-old in the next cubicle -- she ends up with a little more than $300,000. When you get a job, ask your HR person how you can sign up for the company's 401(k) (or other work retirement plan). Fill out the paperwork and brag about your brilliance at happy hour. Better yet, open your own brokerage account and start picking stocks for yourself.
It is true that you have been both a source of much joy (and more than a few gray hairs) to your mother and father. Trust me when I say that your parents had your best interest at heart when they arrived on this page after Googling "getting your grown child to move out of the house."
But enough is enough. Comb your hair and get your own place to mess up.
On behalf of your parents, I wish you all the best,
The Motley Fool/www.Fool.com
Dayana Yochim spent four months under her parents' roof "transitioning" into the working world after college. The Fool has a disclosure policy that many parents may wish to modify for their live-at-home adult.