A Tip to the Graduating Class of 2012

5 years ago

It was the start of my first semester in college and I was being led by my friend into my University's on-campus bank to apply for a credit card. 

"You'll find that you can't live without it.  It's soooo convenient.  It's better than having cash!" she excitedly exclaimed.

While on our short trek, I wondered how I would qualify for a credit card since my only job at the time was to be a studious, make your parents proud, student.  I soon learned that being unemployed was no reason for the bank to close its doors on me as I was approved in seconds.

"You'll receive your card in the mail in about two weeks," the banker said with a smile. 

Just like she promised, my plastic card came in exactly two weeks.  I wish I could say I was financially ready for my first credit card but I had just turned 18 the month before, was very naive, and lacked ANY (if not all) financial budgeting skills and self control.  My new card with a maximum credit line of $500 begged me to be brought out into the world and be swiped.  And to be honest, while making my first few charges I felt good; like a true adult. 

A month later I maxed out my credit line and lacked my own funds to pay my minimum balance.

As the school year comes to an end and high school seniors are excitedly anticipating their rite of passage into adulthood, my graduation gift to them is what I had wished someone told me:

Dear Seniors High Schoolers:

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: "Learn from the mistakes of others.  You can't live long enough to make them all yourself."

I admit, being an adult is wonderful.  But as an adult in the 'real world,' one must quickly master the art of budgeting -learning to buy needs and weighing, and most oftentimes extinguishing, the wants.

I made the mistake of opening a credit card before I knew what APR meant but most importantly, before I had my own job.  I hope you will at least abstain from applying for a credit card your first year out of high school.
May the force (of willpower) be with you,

Treading on Debt

What is your financial advice for the Graduating Class of 2012?

Credit Image: US Department of Labor via Flickr

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