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25 years after graduation: Lessons to share

By Beth H. Watson

Have you ever thought about what you’d say if you were asked to give a commencement speech at your old high school?

I doubt I’ll return to Northpoint Christian School in Mississippi to impart words of wisdom. However, I have enjoyed an interesting and productive life, achieving several degrees and certifications as well as serving my community.

Like you, I suspect there’s a difference in what you thought was important as a younger person and what actually matters to you now.

Earlier this month, I woke up to realize that I’m now a quarter-century out from high school graduation (class of 1997).

As a student in grades K-16, my efforts centered around getting good grades. I did like school learning, and an “A” provided a tangible sense of accomplishment. The highlight of my formal education was receiving a 120 on a philosophy assignment my freshman year of college.

Looking backward, though, I value the wisdom I’ve gained through my diverse experiences far more than any trophy or certificate.

In honor of this last month’s graduates, here are a few of my observations:

  • Other people and ideas are interesting. Almost everyone I knew through age 18 was from church or the associated religious schools I attended. UT Austin provided a great culture shock, as a truly diverse school collecting people and their ideas from all over the globe. Life outside the bubble may be unsettling, but it’s never boring.
  • Savings gives you options at any age. Most people learn this later than they wish they had.
  • Know yourself. There are scientific assessments and tools to help you determine what to be when you grow up based on your skills and personality. Use them to save years. Many in my family benefited from aptitude testing at the Johnson O’Conner Research Foundation.
  • Not everything is a hill to die on. There’s a reason most activists are young (and idealistic). Not all older people are cynical.…It’s just that we may be better acquainted with reality. I direct my time toward the few areas where I’m passionate.
  • Be careful about who/what you get into a relationship with. This applies to business, friends, romance, and media. Mistakes in this department can be painful and costly. Surround yourself daily with people who motivate and uplift you. Through books or other media, fill your head with useful and productive ideas.
  • If you have kids, the foundation is laid in the early years. This is fairly settled science.

Imagine you were giving a speech to graduating seniors…I’m listening! I would love to hear what bits of wisdom you’ve acquired along your life journey.

The way I see it, as we spend more time in the world, the scope of our experiences expands and we see more gray–as opposed to black and white situations.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

In financial planning as in life, no tension is greater than the strained relationship between the present and the future. We want to enjoy today and still be comfortable as long as we live.

You, our client, definitely have much wisdom to impart as well. Rest assured that we here on the staff learn from every one of you–from both your successes and how you handle adversity.

Beth H. Watson is a Certified Financial PlannerTM at Corner Post Financial Planning.

 Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through ICA Group Wealth Management LLC, a registered investment advisor. ICA Group Wealth Management LLC and Corner Post Financial Planning are separate entities from LPL Financial.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Neither Corner Post Financial Planning nor LPL Financial provides legal or tax advice.