Last week we had a few hopefully-useful specific financial tips for new college graduates. But there are even more important decisions younger adults will have to make that will have a great effect on their money, and their lives.
Here are few things that some of us who are older had to learn from experience, and wish we had known a little sooner.
1. Salary only means so much
As you’re considering job offers in different locations, keep in mind that there is a reason an employer in one area might pay more than an employer in other part of the country: it costs more to live there.
Before jumping at the highest offer, take a look at your prospective housing costs and commute times in the area near where you’ll be working.
If you’re thinking about having kids, see if there is a decent public school system, or if private school tuition is a virtually-unavoidable expense.
Check with prospective employers to see where current employees live, and then explore the potential housing expenses of the preferred areas.
You can also to Bankrate’s “Cost of Living” comparison tool (tinyurl.com/bkrtcol) to compare living expenses between two cities.
2. Marry right
Often when people fall in love there is an abundance of excitement and romance. But if you’re going to be spending decades with a particular person, try to find one who will be a good partner in your relationship.
It doesn’t have to be someone who is just like you. In fact, your partnership may be stronger if you can find someone who complements your skills and attributes, as long as the two of you can maintain a mutual respect for each other’s views and strengths (and weaknesses).
Look for someone who honestly shares your big goals for life, work, family, and money. Little differences are to be expected, but it’s better if you have at least a few common interests and activities to share.
Like most worthy goals, a strong relationship requires regular work and sacrifice. If you feel like you’re doing a little more of that than your partner, you’re probably doing just enough.
And if you don’t find that person right away (or ever), remember that it’s better to be happy and on your own rather than stuck in a miserable marriage.
3. What about kids?
Having a child is a decision that you will never regret (at least, most days), and once the child is born you won’t be able to imagine your life without him or her.
That said (and please forgive our bluntness), having children is one of the dumbest financial moves you can possibly make. Start with the quarter-million dollars it takes to raise a child to 18, and then add college costs on top of that.
Being a parent will also affect your ability to work full-time or overtime, or pursue a more lucrative career opportunity in a different location.
Speaking of which, your kids don’t need a big house, a nice car, and lots of stuff that your work and income can provide.
What they do want and need is as much time and attention as you can provide. If that means making some material sacrifices so that you can be around them more often, both you and your kids will be happier for choosing time together instead of more or nicer stuff.
## 4. Do what’s right for you
Pay attention to the choices that older family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors make, and listen to what they have to say. They can be good examples of what you should (and shouldn’t) do when you’re at their respective stages in life.
But don’t let their opinions or actions dictate what you should do in your life, and when you should do it. You have to live with the decisions you make, and nobody else knows what’s best for you.
Well, other than newspaper columnists, of course.