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by Alan J. McMillan | August 03, 2016

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The precursor to a life out of school is 16 years of education, all of which passes in a flash of homework, lectures, and ends with a few agitated years of planning. It’s no wonder, then, that students leaving college are often confused as to what they want once they leave. Students often indicate common desires—to be happy, employed, successful—but many forget to set concrete plans to achieve these.

Parents send off their children with the intention to have a “better life” with a college education rather than just joining the workforce. Although data suggests that chances are far better to become successful with a college education, this aim isn’t enough. College is here as a tool to help you get to a place in your life. You cannot be expected to know exactly what you want, but with room to navigate as you grow, it is empowering to have a more substantial answer as to what to secure in your post-college life and newfound freedom.

Here are a few tips:

Secure a lifestyle that makes you feel happy, successful, fulfilled and proud. This varies for all of us and is a personal decision to make. Some people want to live more lavishly, some modestly, but the decision is yours.

Make that lifestyle debt free. You will find that debt is the enemy. Initially, often unavoidable, because you are starting with little to nothing. But over your career you must eliminate it and certainly not take it on unnecessarily. By the time you want to retire, you must be debt free. That has to be a goal. Recent data suggest ~28% of peoples gross income goes to the mortgage on their house, and another ~20% goes to credit cards and short-term debt. That means, once eliminated, life is half price. Caution, those Baby Boomers who are retiring are doing so with more debt than ever before. Avoid that.

Acquire enough income producing assets to produce a free cash flow in order to cover you expenses, including the cost of quality healthcare, without you working.

These could come in the form of:

A business
Real Estate
Paper (Stocks, Bonds, Mutual Funds)
Policies (Pensions, Social Security, Policies such as Annuities)

You want to accomplish this at an age where you still have your health and mobility. Why? Because then you will have the discretionary time, and discretionary money to follow you heart’s desire. 

This doesn’t include quitting work altogether; if you want to work, keep doing so. It is just that after this, work would be at your pleasure. It would come as a time to work on whatever and whenever you wanted to.  

Unfortunately, most do not get to this state, but the chances are higher because you are becoming aware of what you want at 20 years old! The caveat on this one is if you become aware and take appropriate action as early as possible.

Take matters into your own hands:

Print out those four bullets and place them over your work area

Figuring out how you are going to get there. If you struggle for the answer, fine, just keep digging for a plan that works for you. 

A version of this post appeared on Learn Earn Retire

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