I wasn't invited to give a graduation speech this spring. Still, I was prepared. And since a good speech is a terrible thing to waste, I offer it to you now.
To the Class of 2012:
You did it. You worked hard; you stuck it out even when you wanted to quit. You persevered, and for that I offer my sincerest congratulations. Lest you conclude you've just crossed the finish line, let me point out that you have just arrived at the starting line. Now it's time to run the race.
Get a job. I know it is your intention to get a job, but do not give yourself the luxury of taking the summer off. There's a belief that Really Great Jobs await those with degrees. Yes, it is true that your lifetime earnings will surpass what your peers without degrees can expect to earn, but not in the beginning. To achieve lifetime earnings, one must actually become employed.
Plan to start at the bottom. This is called the "entry level." There are no Really Great Jobs at the entry level. That means the lowest pay. If you think you had to scrape and scrimp in college, think of that as the dress rehearsal for what is to come. In fact, in this employment climate, entry level might mean two jobs, or an internship in your field plus an entry-level job somewhere else.
Attack your debt. Statistics suggest the vast majority of you leave college with student and credit card debt. The decisions you make for how you manage your debt will significantly impact the direction
Live frugally. Never allow yourself to spend all that you have. Strive to live below your means. Make it your personal rule of life to give away part of what you receive. That will keep you from greed. Likewise, save some for your future. That will keep you from fear and worry.
Keep driving your old car. There's no new car that feels as good as a car payment feels bad.
Be careful whose advice you follow. Learn to decipher what really matters to you so you won't waste your time and money on things that don't.
Do not try to impress others. To do so gives them the power to make choices for you.
Do not focus on what you lack. Determine instead to want what you have, and to be truly grateful. Strive to be content, for that is how you will find joy and peace of mind.
Write to email@example.com or Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.