How College Grads Can Invest Without a Job

by Alyssa Oursler | May 24, 2013 11:30 am

My mom, a middle school teacher, is getting giddy because the end of school — and thus the start of summer! — is right around the corner.

youngInvestorsB.png How College Grads Can Invest Without a Job[1]For many college kids, though, school already ended … and I mean really ended. This summer isn’t a break, but instead the beginning of their journey into what many love to dub “the real world.”

Now that the off-campus apartments are cleaned up, the cap and gown are folded up and the diploma is packed up, what’s next?

Well, chances are you’ve sent out your resumes, harassed a handful of employers and are playing the waiting game — living in that awful, awkward lull between being an undergrad and being an entry-level worker.

If that’s the case, investing is probably the last thing on your mind.

It’s no wonder, then, that when I strike up conversation with fellow millennials about investing, they usually roll their eyes, look at me like I have three heads or declare that they don’t know anything on the matter.

In fact, I sometimes wonder if the title for my column actually scares off a good chunk of 20-somethings who are put off by the I-word. “Investing is for old men, professionals or businesses,” they must think. “People with money — not fresh-out-of-college kids looking for the means to escape Mom and Dad’s basement.”

But that’s really not the case.

Investing isn’t just about opening a brokerage account or signing up for your company’s 401k (although those things are important). It’s about doing something now with the expectation that it will give you more in return later.

Heck, as I mentioned earlier this week, going to college itself is an investment[2], which means all you recent grads essentially are “investors” already.

So even if you’re not actually able to put money into the market and toward your future today, that doesn’t mean you have to sit around with your hands tied. These three quick tips for recent grads still on the job hunt can help you stay above water financially, and get you prepared to invest your money when your time does come:

Live Within Your Means

It might seem tempting to enjoy your free time while you have it — maybe plan a beach trip, visit some out-of-town friends or traipse around Europe. That’s all well and good, but be sure that you don’t dig yourself into a massive hole — namely, by racking up credit card debt — to do so.

Whether that means simply doing a better job of budgeting, or taking a few odd jobs to hold yourself over, or being “lame” and not spending money out on the town every weekend, do your best to not spend more money than you have.

That way, when you finally land a regular job, it can go straight toward what you want to do — and not toward paying off what you’ve already done, with interest.

Set Short-Term Goals

So many people I meet who are fresh out of college — as in, they actually graduated less than a week ago — have a defeatist attitude about their future. They have lofty goals like getting a job, moving to a metro area and buying other big-ticket items that feel oh so far away to them, but worse, they see lots of their friends already achieving them.

Cue discouragement.

A million cliches apply here, but I like this one: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Whether it comes to getting the “right” job, getting out of your parents’ basement, adding to your savings or starting to invest in the stock market, settle for baby steps.

An easy one: Budget your money on a weekly basis. While you should have long-term savings and investing goals, the only way you will reach them is by making smart decisions day-to-day.

Stop Selling Yourself Short

Another common sentiment from recent grads: “I don’t know anything about finance.”

This is another example of how an attitude can affect actual results. If you think you don’t understand finance (or worse, you think you can’t), you’re likely to spend less time trying to budget, save and so on.

It’s possible that you know more than you give yourself credit for. But even if you don’t, take the next step past admitting the problem and start asking questions, start searching for information. You’ll go much further.

In between applying for jobs, get ahead on some reading — whether it’s investing advice covering 401ks or brokerage accounts, or even personal finance advice discussing student loans and personal budgeting.

Like I said, just because you don’t have the money to invest today doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for tomorrow.

But first, you have to stop telling yourself you’re not capable.

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Endnotes:
  1. [Image]: http://investorplace.com/hot-topics/young-investors-series/
  2. going to college itself is an investment: http://investorplace.com/2013/05/college-grads-kudos-on-a-great-investment/
  3. Sign up for our Young Investors e-letter: https://order.investorplace.com/index.jsp?sid=QL8104

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