Goodbye, College! Hello, Life!

Noah Hartung

Congratulations! Graduating from college is one of life’s major accomplishments and, like myself, you were able to get through all the trials and tribulations that came along with the pandemic. I recently finished my bachelor’s degree in May and I have been able to see firsthand how much the current events in the world are shaping our generation as we enter the workforce.

Recent college graduates are also still experiencing the impact that COVID-19 has on the workforce. There are more remote jobs available than ever before. Add the impact of inflation on the economy for graduates, they may attempt to live close to their workplace to save a buck at the pump. Serious considerations are necessary in these areas when deciding where to apply for a job after graduation along with the usual such as job responsibilities, type of employer, company values and culture, and of course the big dog in the decision, your salary or hourly wage and retirement plans. Many students graduating from college also must navigate the repayment of their student loans when, on average in 2020, an undergraduate student has about $30,000 of student loan debt, including yours truly

So, what is next in your journey? Looking for a job? Starting one right away? Maybe you are even going back to graduate school at some level! Whatever your next stage of life is, just know that while it is exciting, it is also and frightening at the same time. I am here to offer some advice that can help you ease your way into this wild ride we call “adulting.” 

  1. Make sure to pay yourself first

“Pay myself first?” you might be asking yourself as you read this, but it is not exactly what you might be thinking. I am not talking about going on thousand-dollar vacations or spending all your money going out with friends every weekend. By paying yourself I encourage all young professionals to start investing their money for retirement. A retirement account can be something sponsored through your place of employment (401(k), 403(b), SIMPLE IRA). Sometimes these accounts come with a contribution from your employer which is a benefit to you. The employer contributions are literally FREE MONEY. Contributions can be made in different forms but most commonly are made in a matching formula.  One catch with a match is that employers require you to contribute a certain percent of your own paycheck before they give you the matching deposit so be mindful of that! 401(k) and 403(b) plans are capped at $20,500 of contributions per year since you are under the age of 50 and the SIMPLE IRA limit is at $14,000. You also can invest in an individual retirement account (IRA), either Roth or traditional. A Roth IRA is funded with after tax dollars and all withdrawals after age 59 ½ are 100% tax free! A traditional IRA, on the other hand, is taxable upon withdrawal, however, the amount you deposit annually is tax-deductible so it might be favorable if you are trying to lower your tax bill. The Roth and traditional IRAs are both limited to $6,000 in annual contributions until age 50 and it increases thereafter.

2. Create a Life Roadmap

I know thinking about your life five or even ten years from now is the last thing you want to do after the past four years of hard work finishing your education. Having said that, most people are motivated by having goals they want to achieve in their life. They do not have to be huge accomplishments such as buying your first home or getting a high-level job within your company. It is smart for young professionals to have smaller, attainable goals that they can accomplish along the way to build momentum. An example might be starting to save a couple hundred dollars each month into a separate savings account for a down payment on a home. You may even have a professional goal of wanting to achieve a certain certification in your industry and setting a near-term plan to achieve that certification might be an easy goal that you can set for yourself. The importance of creating a roadmap is to look at the broad picture of your life and then break it down into smaller, achievable goals.  Before you know it, success will be all yours. 

3. Have fun in your 20’s

Too many people put pressure on themselves to have their life completely figured out when they are in their 20’s. Many look back and wish they had taken more opportunities to do things they would have enjoyed. In your 20’s you have your whole life ahead of you and it is okay to make mistakes along the way if you learn from the experience and grow. You should not be afraid to spend the weekend with your friends going on that trip to the city.  Do not be afraid to use your time off benefits or vacation days when starting your career. The worst thing any young professional can do is burn themselves out.  Finding the optimal work-life balance is important. If you do not it can lead to resentment of your career and finding yourself unpassionate about the work you thought you would love.

You are the architect of designing the life that you want.  It is easy to listen to outside noise, getting distracted, and find yourself off track.  Do not compare yourself to others because everyone has a unique path in life and that is exciting! If you know what you want from this crazy ride that we call life and how to achieve it you will capture everything you want.  Start planning now and make an impact on the world.

Noah Hartung is an Operations Specialist at Birch Wealth Management (  Birch Wealth Management is an Investment Adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. All views, expressions, and opinions included in this communication are subject to change. This communication is not intended as an offer or solicitation to buy, hold or sell any financial instrument or investment advisory services. Original content provided by Iris is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice.

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