Who says there’s never any good news these days?
The 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College received more than their diplomas at their recent commencement ceremony. While speaking at that event, technology investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith announced that his family would pay off the Class of 2019’s student loans.
Smith’s commitment to pay the debt of the nearly 400 students in the class at the cost of almost $40 million was unprecedented in its generosity. But this act of kindness and faith in the students will have an impact that can’t be valued solely in dollars — it is truly priceless.
“This is my class,” he said, “and I know my class will pay this forward.”
Indeed, they have been given the opportunity to “pay it forward.”
As a financial professional, I have some thoughts for recent college graduates who are fortunate enough to graduate with little or no student loan debt.
My first thought is that if you’re in your 20s and relatively debt-free, then you have a certain amount of freedom that your peers may not have: You have the privilege and the financial independence to invest in yourself.
To invest in yourself means doing the thing (or things) you love most, without the stress of a stretched budget or large monthly payments to loan servicers. Consider pursuing your entrepreneurial dream, or a graduate program in an area you have a passion for, travel to a different part of the country or world and create positive change. Do anything that ignites a spark in you and gives you the opportunity to grow, both personally and professionally, into the person you want to be.
Now is not the time to live your life in reverse; you could make riskier decisions while you’re in this “beginner’s” phase so you can potentially set yourself up for more security later. So, really think about whether you should take the “safe” job over the job that challenges you, that pushes you, that may not be as secure. By taking risks now, you could open yourself up to many more options than if you just opt for the corporate ladder.
Entrepreneurs, take heed of this opportunity to take more risk. If you have no monthly debt obligations weighing you down, you can more easily stomach the risks associated with starting a business, creating something completely from scratch, and generally swinging for the fences! The greater your personal and financial obligations are, the less likely your entrepreneurial spirit will come out. A spouse, children, a mortgage and other debt can zap your risk appetite and hold back your entrepreneurial spirit. So while you’re still unencumbered and having been given the gift of zero college debt, this is the time to allow your entrepreneurial spirit to take center stage.
And this brings me to my next point — money. Don’t shy away from jobs that pay less if they could ultimately get you closer to your goals. This point is especially true if you have the opportunity to work for someone you respect and admire. If you put in your best efforts, who knows? Maybe one day, that person will notice your hard work and put you in touch with someone who can supercharge your career.
Speaking of money, don’t ever let the dollar be the only reason you show up for work. If you do that, you’re in a grind, not a fulfilling profession. Follow your passions and do what you love — even if that means you won’t have the fanciest car, the nicest shoes or the biggest house. It matters so much in this life that we enjoy what we do professionally. After all, we spend between 40 and 60 hours a week at it, so unless we like what we do, those hours of our lives are misspent. And no amount of pay can make up for that.
My final bit of advice is not to panic if you don’t know your life trajectory just yet. Philosophically speaking, none of us do, really. But in the practical sense, if you haven’t found your passion piece or life calling yet, don’t sweat it. It’s out there. And by taking risks and trying new things, you’ll figure it out along the way.
Graduates, keep your mind (and your options) open. Now is the time to sit back and enjoy the process of exploration, while you have the freedom to do so. Don’t worry — your craft will emerge, your career will start rolling, and you’ll have the time of your life.
Here’s to the first day of the rest of your life.
The original AJC article appears here.
This information is provided to you as a resource for informational purposes only and should not be viewed as investment advice or recommendations. This information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance, or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. This information is not intended to, and should not, form a primary basis for any investment decision that you may make. Always consult your own legal, tax, or investment adviser before making any investment/tax/estate/financial planning considerations or decisions.