This past weekend, June 21st kicked off the summer, or as they call it while partying at sunrise at Stonehenge – Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year. Oh to be young and barefoot at a historical landmark. (Or at least carefree and barefoot. When am I going to get to take my world tour, anyway?)
My daughter may only have graduated from Pre-K this year, but I can’t help but think it will be just another fourteen short years before she’ll graduate high school and kick off of her golden summer – the summer after high school, the summer before an estimated 2 million start college, the summer before they head into the army or into marriage or the work force, but definitely the summer that they are all sent out into the world with all the hope and adventure and balls out spontaneous decision-making only eighteen year olds can perfect and exploit.
Me (center) 18 with Lindsey (left) and Rachel (right) in Puerta Vallarta, circa 1999.
The week I graduated high school, I found myself in Puerto Vallarta being pulled out of a ring of boys chanting “Body Shots!” by a male friend who had the surprising foresight to see through the margarita fog and change the outcome of said situation. Alice Cooper was right, “And we got no principles, And we got no innocence, We can’t even think of a word that rhymes….”
Oh, but I can. FINANCE. (Okay, sort of rhymes.) But seriously, kids – check yo’ finances! Instead of all the congratulations and best wishes with the whole “world is my oyster” theme, what I really wish I’d been told about my future is that it that the financial decisions I make at 17, will follow me well into my 30s, well into marriage, parenthood, and entrepreneurial hood. When I recently mentioned to a friend that my college student loans were the monkey on my back, he responded, “Oh no, they are the monkey inside of me.” Martini cheers to that! And with that, I dispel my internal monkey advice to you, pink haired Valley girl sunning herself with baby oil on top of a condominium rooftop.
Number 1. Don’t sign that private loan provided by that government-sponsored enterprise that ended up privatizing the shit out of everything and also financially contributed to the second inauguration of President George Bush. What they don’t tell you is that you can never consolidate that private loan. Don’t do it! Research grants, fellowships, scholarships, federal subsidized loans, work study, etc… Do the research!
Number 2. Rewind even further in time and stop spending all your money on frozen yogurt and fast food! This habit of instant gratification will only perpetuate into a healthy Starbucks habit, which will cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year in your self employed working mom stressball years.
Number 3. Learn how to balance a freakin’ checkbook. Write down your numbers. Take the time and invest in your financial clarity. Start today, even with that tongue piercing you acquired on Venice Beach. [“See: balls out spontaneous decision-making only 18 years old can perfect and exploit.”]
Number 4. Pay yourself first. As in any money you make, first pay yourself. Put that ten percent from your part time paycheck into your savings during this time when you will not be charged interest on that gargantuan loan awaiting you. Put yourself in a better financial position to start paying back those loans six months after college BEFORE you buy that pink hair dye and order Chinese take out for the third midnight in a row.
Number 5. You think this is bad, wait until you’re the parent co-signing the loan. That’s right – By the time, that adorable little bundle of joy of yours is piercing and tattooing herself up during her golden summer, public higher education will average at $55,000 a year! That’s FOUR ZEROS, people! Start saving NOW. The early bird gets the early debt-free future.
That’s where the 529 College Savings Plan could save your butt – a tax-free college savings fund that your little ones can use to fund their dreams when they’re big. And get this – if your kid is not the college type, and say, a budding tattoo artist, it can fund their dreams as long as it is career advancement. Martini cheers to college degrees and Venice Beach tattoo parlors, kids! Want to learn more, check out 529 Savings plans, and for you Californians (well, and everyone who thinks California is cool), there’s SCHOLARSHARE – saving millennial parents’ butts one college savings plan at a time. Because remember, while you feel like a grown up now, you won’t be sleeping with that Teddy Bear forever, and you might even find yourself debating whether or not it’s worth paying for the space it’ll take up in storage in another 10 years or so. Growing up is hard to do. Even harder if you don’t start grasping the concept of money NOW.
Yup. 18-year-old me with a Teddy Bear and a Six Figure Loan.
[I'm acting as a paid ambassador for Scholarshare this year, which couldn't be better timing because the education I've gotten from our meetings has woken me up to a whole world of future plans that I need to be making and following through on. Also they don't get to tell me what to say.]