raduation is the ultimate goal of all schooling-- none more so than college and graduate school.  Now it’s over…

And you have no idea what to do.  

Actually, you do know what to do.  You’re just nervous, and a lot of the lessons you learned over the last 20-odd years of your life add up to now.  You’ve just forgotten that you know them.  

Relax a little… we’re here to remind you, plus throw you some fresh ideas you may not have thought of!  

  • Financial security
  • Healthy lifestyle
  • Keep learning
A jar of coins beside growing stacks of quarters
Gotta get those finances right!  Image courtesy of Pixa Bay.  

Financial Security

What does Financial Security mean to you?  What does it look like?  

Financial Security refers to the knowledge and comfort of having enough income to cover your expenses, plus some set aside for the future and emergencies.  The trick to achieving that is going to take some time and some really good advice about your personal finances.  

The first thing to remember as you setting into post-grad life and (hopefully) start earning money, is that you’re going to need to pay back those student loans in six months!  You need to start setting aside money for that.  Act immediately once you receive your first student loan bill-- don’t wait-- get on the phone and wait your turn to talk to someone who can help you negotiate a reasonable payment plan.  This might mean that you need to wait on hold for a long time, so be patient.  

The next step is to figure out the rest of your budget.  To do this, you need to figure out what your take-home pay is, which you can do by looking at your paystub.  Most places nowadays have direct deposit, but by law you must have access to your paystubs at all times.  A paystub will detail exactly how much you worked and for which you were paid, the taxes taken out, and any 401K savings that were set aside.  

Your take-home pay should be the amount that was deposited into your bank account.  Hopefully, this amount will be consistent.  Sometimes-- like with retail or non-salary jobs-- this isn’t the case.  You might need to wait for a few paychecks and get an average of your take-home pay.  

Use this amount to create a budget.  Calculate and add up all of your monthly expenses-- rent, food, utilities, medicines, transportation, student loan payments, and-- if possible--savings and leisure.  

If you find that your budget overspends your paycheck, there are several options.  The first is to take your finances and expenditures to a financial advisor and see what they can tell you.  Many financial advice is free with your bank or a non-profit.  They may see somewhere to save or where you added wrong.  

The next thing to try is to examine how you spend your money.  You may need to start shopping at a cheaper grocery store-- Aldi’s is a great choice-- and use coupons.  You may need to find cheaper transportation-- public transportation is generally cheaper than owning your own car-- or even refinance your student loans.  

You also might just need to get a second job for nights and weekends.  Yes, this means that you won’t have much-- if any-- leisure time.  It’s unfair, but that’s adulting.  Sometimes you simply need to work extra in order to afford your life.  Thousands of people have second jobs-- some have more than that!  There are tons of options, including flexing skills you already have to work freelance, tutor, or babysit.  

If it is possible, do try to budget for saving money.  Planning for future emergencies and fun events-- like travel-- is always a good idea.  And if you have enough to do, consider investing some of your money.  

Finally, be wary of credit cards, especially if you’re already struggling to make ends meet.  You might already have one, and that’s okay.  Talk to a financial advisor before you accept a credit card-- fees are super high if you can’t pay off the balance each month!  It’s a fast way to dive into debt at out-of-control interest rates.  

Recent grads holding up pineapples to represent the importance of healthy living
Eating the right foods and exercise are only part of a healthy lifestyle.  Image courtesy of Pexels.  

Healthy Lifestyle

Lifestyle refers to the way you treat yourself and live your life.  This includes exercise, food, rest, and routines.  

We cannot expound the benefits of regular exercise and healthy food enough!  If you do NOTHING else on this list, PLEASE do these two things for yourself!  

Get up and move.  Consider joining a gym and start either taking classes or working out on your own-- sometimes the fact that you’re paying to use their equipment is enough motivation to go.  Don’t accept excuses from yourself about this.  You don’t need fancy workout clothes or even gym memberships-- there are plenty of at-home workout videos on YouTube alone to keep you sweating for years.  

Or maybe you go for a walk every day after work with your ears plugged up with music.  Whatever you do, MOVE.  Exercise for at least 15-20 minutes, as many times a week as you can-- three at minimum.  

Regular activity and exercise keeps stress levels down, which improves every bodily function from stress management to cognition to heart rhythm to digestion.    

Speaking of digestion, you cannot eat like you did in college-- unless you were one of the few people who already had established healthy eating habits.  You need to eat nutritious meals, and that means eating more fruit, vegetables, and lean proteins.  

You also need to learn how to cook, if you don’t already.  Whether you like it or not, cooking your own food is the best way to ensure that you’re eating well and regularly.  Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming-- learn to leverage flavors and techniques that work quickly without lots of salt and sugar.  

Make a habit of watching cooking shows that feature speedy cooking, pick up cooking magazines featuring quick meals, and start collecting and trying food that works for your time budget.  If you really don’t want to think about it, use this formula to put your meals together: protein + 2-3 veggies + whole grain.  

You’ve already heard about the benefits of meal prep-- so make the time and get it done.  Or, if you have the ability to expand your food budget, you can buy pre-cut veggies at the grocery store.  

Many people think that they can’t cook.  That’s a lie.  Everyone can cook-- you just have to be willing to learn techniques that work for you and use your herbs and spices.  If you’re really nervous about starting on your own, check out kitchen stores such as Sur la Table or Williams and Sonoma-- they offer cooking classes!  Or suggest a cooking class as a team-building exercise at work!  

It’s also super-important to rest.  This is often overlooked in healthy lifestyles, especially with the emphasis placed on movement and eating well.  Rest is just as important-- we’re not talking about sleep here!  Though sleep is necessary for healthy body function, you’re just closing and opening your eyes on trouble all of the time.  You need conscious time to relax and unwind.  Whether that means a bath, massage, or meditation-- turn your phone off.  Just be with yourself.  At peace.  

A recent grad browses the selection of reading material at a book store
Read!  Read to keep your mind open and growing!  Image courtesy of Pixa Bay.  

Keep Learning

Part of adulting is to never stop learning.  There’s so much knowledge out there in the world!  Part of what made school so wonderful was constantly learning and exploring while being supported from the top down.  The trick is to bring that to your post-grad life.  

So how do you keep learning if you no longer have the support and routine of school?  

Well, that’s the secret, it’s it?  Honestly, it will depend on a lot of factors-- do you have a regular work schedule?  Are you working days or nights?  If you’re lucky enough, your job will offer education benefits-- though you might have to limit your education to classes specific to your job position.  There’s nothing really wrong with that, but sometimes the restriction can chafe.  

So read.  We’re serious-- go to the library or the bookstore and get a book.  Read both fiction and non-fiction.  Don’t limit yourself!  

Watch educational videos.  PBS arguably has the best around-- they have everything from science to cooking to travel.  But YouTube shouldn’t be discounted, and neither should Netflix and BBC.  

So why keep learning?  

Keeping yourself in learning mode keeps you curious, passionate, and knowledgeable.  It expands your mind and gives you more problem-solving tools and points of reference.  Learning makes you a better conversationalist, and it’s just plain good for your brain.  Your brain is a muscle-- if you don’t keep it in top condition, it’s going to deteriorate.  

Live your best life and grow good things with it.  Image courtesy of Pixa Bay.  

There’s so much more to post-grad life than we can cover in one article.  But we’ve tried to discuss the most basic stuff.  

Just remember that your schooling has given you a great foundation.  All you have to do is keep growing.  

If you have any questions or topics you’d like to see us cover, please leave them in the comments!  Your feedback is welcome!

Mar 6, 2020