When I was asked to give you a commencement speech today, I was deeply humbled. The fact that I wasn’t actually asked to give you a commencement speech is the main reason for my humility, although my lack of qualifications also helps. I haven’t invented anything, been a pioneer, starred in a movie franchise, or gotten elected to office, so you might as well stop reading right now because I have nothing inspiring to say.
The fact that you are still reading this just confirms how we all can be delusional.
I only have a limited time that I can devote to your not-commencement speech, so I’ll try to get to the point. Some of you are graduating high school, some college and a few of you, grad school. Well, way to go! You are now ready to learn a few things.
Most of you have already heard your real commencement speaker tell you really helpful advice like “follow your passion”, “do something amazing” or “take some risks”. One speaker I read about decided to pay off everybody’s student loans. Wow. Those speeches sound amazing and really inspiring. Go your own way! Make your mark! Serve the public! Be your travel agent to awesomeland!
These are all great pieces of advice. I hope you do these things because you only get one shot at this life thing and you don’t want to waste this chance. So…listen to those people. They’ve hit it big and actually did get asked to give a speech!
I’m now going to bore you silly. While you are following your passion, also do these things I tell you to do. These things are dull. These things are not risky. These nine things are so blah you may want to claw your ears out when I’m done. Why nine? Because it’s my speech, that’s why:
- SAVE CASH in a bank savings account until it gets to $5000. AND KEEP IT THERE! ALL THE TIME! If you don’t have that (and I didn’t until I was 30) then you will fall into debt (see #5 below). Start with $50 a week into savings. You can do this!
- SAVE FOR RETIREMENT! I don’t care if it’s your new 401(k) account at work, an IRA, Acorns or another bank account. Take your salary, multiply it by 5%, and save that amount. Every six months increase the percentage by 1%. Don’t stop doing it. Future-you will thank young-you.
- RENTERS INSURANCE: If you rent, get renters insurance. I don’t care how little you think your stuff is worth; it’s worth insuring. One stupid roommate leaves a candle burning and then all of your things are gone.
- FLUIDS: The best way to make your car last longer is to zealously change the fluids often. More often than you think, like every 5000 miles. Seriously, it will make your car last a long time.
- AVOID DEBT! Gosh, this is boring advice, but nothing will make you have a better life long-term than to be debt-averse. Yes, some day you will buy a car or a house with debt, but man, oh man, do not get into any other kind of debt! (by the way, if you are going off to college and I hear that you got yourself a credit card, I’m going to punch you in the nose. Don’t do it. Sponge off your parent’s credit card as long as they’ll let you, but don’t do it yourself! Don’t worry about “establishing credit”…that’s credit-card company mumbo-jumbo)
- CHECK your bank accounts and your credit-monitoring service EVERY DAY! What?!! Hey, I know you have the apps on your phone, and don’t tell me you don’t have time! You do. Check them, and set alerts up to tell you when weird things happen. The point is…you are responsible, but you have tools. Aww…am I boring you yet? Shut up. This takes 30 seconds a day.
- Always have HEALTH INSURANCE. Think you can go without it, or you can go with slimmed-down plans? Are you kidding? Do you know what happens if you get sick or injured and you don’t have coverage? You bankrupt your family, that’s what. They will do anything to help you, including spend all of their life savings. Don’t make them do that. Cover yourself. You are not invincible, Sunshine.
- VOTE! Don’t you dare give me some crap excuse like “it’s too hard to register” or “I forgot” or “I’ve got an important thing to do that day”. If you don’t vote, you have just voted for the person you loathe. Old people like me vote, and we are doing terrible things to your generation. Don’t blame us; blame yourself.
- READ! I don’t mean magazines or the scroll at the bottom of Sportscenter. I mean books: novels, biographies, self-help…whatever seems interesting. If you read, you will automatically have a more interesting life. Think of the most interesting person you know…I bet he reads 15 books a year.
Look, I’m all for being passionate, taking a risk, job-hopping or jumping off a mountain. Just remember that the sailor needs to be a slave to her navigation…if she doesn’t know how to navigate, she will never be able to leave the sight of shore. She can follow her passion BECAUSE she’s done the boring things like change her car’s oil and save for her retirement.
Wow, that was riveting. I bet somebody is going to read this and ask me to speak at graduation next year. Well, maybe a middle school, at least.