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A Commencement Address for Grads, Grads-to-be, and Beyond



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GRADUATION ADVICE FOR GENERATION Y:
Money and the American Dream

 
   

Good afternoon, class of 2013. You made it through the last four years alive and with your sanity; congratulations on your graduation. It isn’t an easy accomplishment, however with your determination, hard work and diligence you succeeded. Now take a moment to soak that in, pat yourself on the back and remember this day. Remember this day years from now when life seems to be throwing you curveballs you think you just can’t handle. Remember your life is controlled with your willpower.

As you prepare yourself for the “real world” and as you decide how you want to define yourself and your life, you will face countless hurdles and encounter numerous haters. But don’t ever let these obstacles throw you from your original goals. Remember where you came from because you will never get anywhere in the future without embracing your past. Your experiences and the people who pass through your life are variables that define you. Embrace the good and bad moments. The good ones remind you how magnificent life can be and the bad help you refine who you want to be and what you want to contribute to society. So always be reflective, thoughtful and most importantly always ask questions.

There is nothing more real in the “real world” than money and your finances. Everyone uses it, likes it, wants it and at one time or another has problems with it. As you start your adult life, I’m sure you have a picture of what it will be like. On average most people picture “the American Dream”. Most Americans define the dream as a secure career, two-story home with the white picket fence, 2.37 children, family vacations, nice car, stay-at-home parent, etc. think “Leave it to Beaver”. And why not strive for this? It sounds lovely and happy. But what the recession taught us is this isn’t attainable for everyone even with a college degree; and that is OK. Money will control your happiness and emotions if you allow it. So the best financial advice is happiness and money need to always be separate elements in your life. Anyone can live a content and fulfilled life on $10 an hour or $100 an hour salary and everywhere in between.

You know the drill; create a budget, stick with it, pay off debt, have a safety net, invest etc. But I would like to focus on a newer concept of “living beneath your means”. Even if you can afford the bigger house, choosing to purchase the smaller one will have tremendous benefits in your future. Seek out hobbies and entertainment you enjoy that are free because those you can always enjoy no matter what your income. By “living beneath your means” you are released from the stress involved with finances, such as debt and financial competition. You will always have enough money. And knowing that you could have more but that you choose not too is a power that can never be taken away. Don’t fall into the role of an American consumer. Know the difference between needs and wants. You don’t always need the newest iPhone or a brand new car. Being satisfied and happy with what you do have is something to strive for. If you have extra money left over, give it to a cause close to your heart, and invest in society and your fellow humans. In the long run these are the issues that matter. Your self-worth should never be determined by your career or the amount of money you make because these things are judged by external variables and may be taken away in a New York minute.

Always invest in your personal growth and education, even if it isn’t traditional schooling. It will help your confidence and self-esteem to accomplish new endeavors consistently through life. And yet again education and knowledge can never be taken away and will constantly be of assistance in your future.

Before you go out to celebrate your accomplishments with friends and family, just one last thing; be kind to yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself when you fail, and you will from time to time, instead encourage and lift yourself up. You are an important part in this world. Now go out into it and show them how it’s done. Be the best you can be. No excuses. Congratulations class of 2013.

This speech was written as part of our submission to NerdWallet's Gen Y Credit Union Contest. [external link disclosure] 

 
         
   

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