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Addressing the Commencement of Real Life


Members of the Class of 2000:

As I look out, this glorious spring morning, on your bright and shining faces glimmering with . . .

Excuse me. Hello. Would everyone mind taking off their headphones? . . . If this commencement address is going to work, you need to be able to hear what I am saying. Thank you.

Where was I? Oh--glimmering with endless possibility, I am tempted to talk to you about the usual stuff: endings and beginnings, and paths, and dreams, and seizing the moment, and how you are the future, the hope of mankind. But instead, I thought I might take a more practical approach. I thought I might relay some expert advice.

. . . And I'll get to that advice just as soon as the security people can get hold of the large beach ball being batted around out there. . . . Great, thanks.

Moving on.

After you leave here today, obviously your first priority is going to be scoring a really first-class set of wheels. After all, you are a college graduate now, and you require--no, you deserve--a mode of transportation befitting your hard-earned status.

Unfortunately, there is a catch.

Unless your parents are giving you a car for graduation, which is highly unlikely given the cost of your education and current bankruptcy laws, you are going to need money. And to get money, you are going to need a job. And even after you get a job, you are going to need to manage your money to be able to afford your chariot of choice.

Granted, this sounds a bit daunting, so let's just take it one step at a time.

The good news is that getting a job should not be a problem. You are about to enter the strongest job market of all time; employers will literally hire anyone (no offense implied). In short, they need you a whole lot more than you need them.


Having said that, let me just add that this is probably not a good attitude to cop when interviewing for a position.

Rhona J. Roffer, a career counselor from Farmington, Conn., says that the two main things employers are looking for when they interview are focus and fit.

"You should go into the interview showing you know something about the company, and how you fit into the company because of the skills you have," Roffer says. "Graduates usually have all sorts of excitement and enthusiasm but are lacking in experience. You need to play up these assets and emphasize your desire to learn."

Of course, half the battle in getting a job is getting the interview, and in this regard, Roffer has two other nuts-and-bolts suggestions:

* Prepare a one-page resume that highlights your skills and accomplishments.

* Contact your college's alumni association, which can be invaluable in terms of helping you get your foot in the door to your chosen profession.


Once you have a job, you will suddenly find yourself dealing with more money than you have ever had. The two things you should know about money are:

* It doesn't grow on trees.

* And the more you have, the more you spend.

Robert Mauterstock, a certified financial planner from Wethersfield, Conn., says the smartest thing you can do is to begin saving 10% of your salary as soon as you start working.

"Develop the habit," Mauterstock says. "Pay yourself first. Get used to living on 90% of your pay right off, and in a few months you won't miss the money."

Mauterstock also says you should get a credit card.

"You need to establish credit," he says. "But make sure you pay off the balance every month. You don't want to be paying 16% interest. Use credit wisely. Don't get behind."

As for buying a car, Mauterstock suggests you go for something used, maybe a couple of years old, off a lease program.

John Casey, sales manager at Manchester Honda, has these hints:

"Go through a reputable dealer. If you get your car through a dealer, it will come with a warranty, and you can be assured the car has been gone over and all the appropriate maintenance has been performed."

What's the biggest mistake people make when buying a car?

"They let their emotions take over," Casey says. "They buy it because they like the color or they like the model. When you are going to buy a car, you need to drive it. You need to see how it handles: Is it solid, do you like the visibility, are the controls easy to operate? Basically, you need to make sure the car fits, and fits your needs."


Having gotten a job and secured a suitable ride, the other huge decision you are going to face as a new college graduate is where to live. Your options come down to:

* On your own.

* Back with your parents.

The advantage to living on your own is that when you roll in at 3 a.m., you won't find a sleepy gray-haired woman in a living room chair waiting up for you.

The disadvantages to living on your own include expense, annoying roommate, laundry, house cleaning and such health risks as plague and scurvy.

What to do?

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