The City Magazine Since 1975

Reality Check

May 2018
Reality Check

Some humorous advice for soon-to-be college grads

Every spring, tens of thousands of young men and women graduate from college. They are as prepared for life as an Irish setter sent forth to untangle string theory. Here, I propose some nuggets of wisdom you might pass along to the new grads in your life. They will, of course, ignore them, but then you can revel in the joy of roaring with laughter and saying, “Not only did I tell you so, I told you in writing.”

First, the biggie: even though you’ve scored your first salary, understand you are now living in the horrid reality of “gross” versus “net.” The government takes a huge chunk, and you’re going to have to pay for car insurance, car repairs, phone and Internet access, food, rent, and health insurance. You don’t know it, but in college you lived like a millionaire. Now you are broke and need to be prepared for it.

Along those lines, you do not need a new car, computer, or the iPhone-Zillion.

Do not get or use a credit card. Period. Trust me. Me and every adult in the nation over 30.

Do not get an apartment by yourself, no matter how much you think you “deserve” it for having successfully earned a degree in beer drinking—roommates divide up the bills. In this same vein, do not buy a new TV, gaming system, or furniture. One of the dummies you move in with will already have done this for you.

Do not let the amount of stuff you own exceed what you can put in your vehicle. Once this occurs, you don’t own the stuff—it owns you.

Save some money for one good vacation—you’re gonna need it. But if you put a vacation on a credit card, you have the intelligence of a Charlestonian buying a car without AC.

At a young age, purchasing a house shouldn’t be viewed as an investment: it is a lifestyle choice. If you enjoy spending weekends fixing stuff and working in the yard, go for it. Otherwise, rent.

If you rent, you are not “throwing money away.” You are paying for a roof over your head and an insurance policy that allows you to sleep like a baby knowing you don’t have to pay for the recently exploded hot-water heater. Or the leaking roof. Or anything, for that matter.

Here is what your boss and your company owe you: nothing. Anything they give you beyond a paycheck is a blessing. If by some miracle your company offers a matching retirement program, max it out.

Unless you are in a drawer with a tag on your toe, do not miss a day of work your first year. If you think you’re going to cough up a lung, wear a lung-colored shirt.

During the first few years on the job, know that skydiving, snowboarding, rock climbing, and motorcycle riding are done at your own peril. Missing work for fun-related injuries is considered “extremely poor judgment” by most bosses. They don’t believe in “YOLO.”

If you must post on Facebook or Instagram, think in terms of your grandmother seeing it, because your boss surely will.

Every e-mail you send will, one day, be read by the person you wrote it about.

Leave your personal phone in the car and check it during lunch.

Within a year, you will wonder how your company ever got by without you. If you want to find out, start voicing that opinion.

Ask every person you know about their car mechanic. When someone loves their mechanic so much they get choked up discussing the topic, you’ve found your man.

Tips are 20 percent.

You never knew this, but going to the dentist costs money. Do it anyway. While you’re there, get your teeth bleached. People with bright white teeth look successful.

E-mail does not qualify as a thank-you note.

Join AAA and carry jumper cables in your car.

Call your mom. She still thinks of you as the rug rat she taught to use a spoon.

Remember this: Today, young men and women in the military are standing post to keep the wolf at bay. Every night before you climb into bed to sleep warmly under the blanket of freedom they provide, hit your knees and offer prayers for their safety.

Finally, have fun. Work hard but don’t kill yourself doing so. If you drop dead, they’ll have filled your position before your obituary goes to press.

Prioleau Alexander is the author of the SIBA-bestselling You Want Fries With That? His latest, Dispatches Along the Way, about his hike across Spain, is available on Amazon and at Buxton Books.

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