Dear Graduating Class of 2014,
If you are under 23 and think “I have plenty of time,” think again. September will be here before you know it, and so will 30.
Over the past 12 months I have met with your peers in classrooms and auditoriums across the country. We’ve talked about life after school and its financial realities. I’ve met a generation of people who care about each other and about society, are willing to be taught, are willing to work hard, but don’t like to be told they are wrong (few of us do). It’s ok to be wrong. We all are at times. Being unprepared is different. And it’s a condition you can control.
Last year’s Class of 2013 graduated with average per-student loan debts of around $30,000. You, Class of 2014, will have a little bit more. $30,000 is a lot of money, but by itself doesn’t represent a crisis. That’s because education is the greatest form of empowerment—whether college, high school, or other (college is not the only path to success).
But there is a crisis. Most of you have not been taught how to manage those very same student loans or how to avoid the many basic money mistakes that, cumulatively, can have crippling lifetime consequences.Money 101 is “the missing semester” in far too many of our nation’s schools and homes. Yet all of you will face important money decisions. Many of you have already made them.
Your financial decisions have consequences. That’s the first lesson.
The second is more promising. Age is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to take control— an opportunity so powerful that it could transform the lives of your generation.
One day, you will turn 65. And when you do, you will still need money to live. So would you rather?
1.) Save and invest $3 a day for the 10 years from the age of 25 to 35, and nothing thereafter.
2.) Save and invest nothing until age 35, and $3 a day for the 30 years from age 35 to 65.
If you choose wisely, and future stock market returns average what they have over the past 100-years, you’ll have $465,281 when you turn 65. Choose poorly and that number drops to $242,995. Choose poorly and you’ll also be working three times as long for half as much. And while, yes, there are ways to catch up, the best opportunity is now.
I challenge you, Class of 2014, to take control and stay in control by making responsible, intelligent money decisions.
You’re in charge! Now go do it.