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[MUSIC PLAYING] So we've been talking a lot on this Guide to Getting Good With Money about how to save your money or how to make it work for you in the long term by investing.

But it's so important, when you're putting money away, that you have specific goals for it. Not only is it difficult to find the motivation to save for things when you don't really know what you're saving for, it's also difficult to plan things out when you don't have exact ideas in mind.

And as a college student, whether you realize it or not, right now is when you're starting to make huge lifelong financial decisions. And it's not just about what you are or aren't saving. All of the life choices you're making right now will have a huge impact on your financial future.

One of the biggest examples, of course, being how you're financing your college education. Some of you might be graduating school with six figures of student loan debt, which is a huge defining factor in what your money life will look like for the foreseeable future. Now, of course, for many of you, the decision about taking out student loans or how much you're taking out or what kinds of loans have already been made.

And if you feel like you didn't necessarily make the best choice, do not beat yourself up. Because one of the biggest things to understand about money is that once a choice has been made and it is no longer in your control, it's important that you make peace with this choice, forgive yourself, and move on to practical next steps. But just because you may have already made one big money decision doesn't mean there aren't other ones you're going to be faced with.

A common one, of course, is whether or not to go to college, how you go to college, for how long, for what degree, and all of these will have huge impacts on the next years of your life. About 69% of the class of 2019, for example, had some form of financing for their college. And according to a recent University of Washington study, about 53% of new college grads are unemployed or underemployed.

So just because you're in college right now does not mean that you have to continue getting higher and higher degrees, because there is not always a one-to-one ratio about more education meaning more employment opportunities or higher earning potential. Some of us, when it comes to schooling, tend to have this feeling of in for a penny, in for a pound, that you're already doing it, so you might as well keep doing it. And you can have a similar mentality about taking out student loans, especially if the number just feels big and overwhelming.

Why not take out a little bit more on top of it so you can live a better lifestyle while you're going to school or live off campus or not have to have a job? But remember that just because one college-related decision has been made doesn't mean the rest of them have to follow. Every dollar that you take out to finance college and every day that you dedicate to going to school should be a decision weighed carefully against other options and never taken for granted.

And when we come out of college, we're immediately faced with more money decisions. For many of us, it will often be our first adult out-of-school living situation. And forget buying a home.

Even just renting is a huge financial decision. The median rent in the US is $1,535. That's about 45% of the average recent college graduate's monthly salary, which means that they're rent burdened, as, ideally, rent should only take up about 30% of your income.

None of the largest 50 metro centers are available for recent graduates. So if you recall your budget, that means that the average 2019 graduates started with 30,000 in debt, which will need to be paid back in monthly student loan payments, and has to dedicate almost half their monthly salary to paying rent. So this is where one of your first big financial choices come in and why so many young adults choose to live with roommates.

There's also, for many of us, the option to go back and live with parents or relatives for a little while, while you help save up an emergency fund and get on your feet after school. There should be no stigma around choosing to go back and live with relatives for a while. And frankly, the fact that the stigma exists at all is kind of a uniquely American thing.

For many cultures around the world, living intergenerationally as adults is the norm. Remember that what might be the most on-the-surface cool or immediately appealing living situation is not necessarily the one that is going to help you in your financial goals. And depending on where you live and what your job is, beyond just paying for somewhere to sleep every night, you will likely need a car.

But even in the decision of owning or leasing a car, there are so many factors to consider. First of all, is it truly necessary that you have a car at all to begin with? Here in New York, we're obviously so used to taking public transportation and walking everywhere, but many people in other communities don't consider that option, but they probably should.

Often, we can classify things like having a car and a parking space and all of those other things that go with it to be a need to have, which will put it in the necessary expenses category of our budget and make it indispensable. But one of the parts of making those big financial decisions is really deciding whether something like that is truly a need to have or it's just a really, really nice to have. In all of these decisions-- your schooling, the jobs and internships you're taking, the car you're driving, the place you're living-- this is another great opportunity to think in terms of cost per use, which we discussed in a previous video.

For example-- and I know this might seem crazy for a video series geared toward college students-- I actually don't have a college degree, and I never went to a traditional school. I went to a community college, because I figured out early on that the loans I would be required to take to go to the school programs that I was interested in would just simply not be worth it or accessible for me. At the time, I felt embarrassed and disappointed and uncool for going to community college.

But looking back, it's probably the best decision I ever made at the time, because student loans have not really had to be a factor in any of my financial life since graduating or, I guess, not graduating. I also did have a car for part of my time during and immediately after college, but often didn't, including in times when I didn't live in super dense metro areas. I took buses in places where it was not particularly cool or convenient to take a bus.

And in the financial decisions I've made since then throughout my young adulthood, it's been important for me to weigh out things in terms of cost per use, but also in terms of quality of life. For example, for myself here in New York, although public transportation is basically a reality for everyone, there can be huge variations in the length of your morning commute, for example. I knew that, for me, a morning commute that is door to door under 30 minutes and that I could walk or bike if needed sometimes was of the utmost importance, which really dictated where I lived.

For you, a long commute may not be such a big deal. I have coworkers who have long commutes by choice and like to listen to audiobooks or podcasts. And for example, if living insanely far away from your job is going to save you hundreds of dollars a month but represent a three hour daily round trip commute, maybe that's a trade-off that's not worth making for you.

And maybe you could even consider other ways of earning side income with those three hours that you'd otherwise be spending commuting. But that's a decision that you have to make for yourself. And only by analyzing that cost per use factor with the quality of life factor and really weighing what is and isn't important for you will you get the answers about which are the right choices for you and which things are truly worth it.

If you're currently in school, one of the life choices that you're probably weighing right now is whether or not to work during school, which, as I mentioned earlier, can be something you easily shirk off if you have access to extra loans and could offset the costs that would otherwise need to be supplemented by working. Because let's face it, working a part-time job during school is way less fun than all of those other cool college experience stuff that you could be doing. But at the end of the day, every dollar you could potentially save on something like student loans will pay huge dividends throughout the rest of your adult life.

And working during school is much more common than you might think. In 2017, 43% of full-time college students worked at sometime during their schooling. And of course, this is another area where that quality of life and cost per use factor need to be weighed.

Because for example, if having a job is going to seriously interfere with your studies, it may not be worth it, even if it could save you some money. But it's important that all of these decisions are made with a clear head and with rational, productive thinking. Because only by deciding what our priorities are and what our goals are can we start to work backwards to what our financial strategy should be.

And of course, for many of us in college, as I mentioned, there is always the looming question of, should I go for more college? And we'll explore the whole concept and the pros and cons of grad school in a later video. But it is important to remember that while the return on investment can, for some of us, be very, very high when it comes to a graduate degree, it is by no means a guarantee of the life or job that you're looking for.

And there are vast differences in terms of the qualities of programs, how likely they are to land you gainful employment after school, or how much they really stand to enhance your resume. One of the worst choices you can make coming out of college is going back for more schooling because you don't know what to do or you want to delay real life. Racking up massive student loan debt in a desire to offset entering the real world is basically taking a crowbar to that little car that you're driving in, in the board game Life.

Or setting it on fire, which is something that happened to me in college. But you'll have to come over to the Real TFD to get all the tea on that. Anyway, I can't tell you what are the right big life choices for you.

But what I can tell you is that each of these seemingly obvious decisions you might be making-- where to live, what car to drive, whether to go to school for more time or less, how much student loans to take out-- are all incredibly impactful and should never be taken lightly. Only you know the truly right decisions for you, but only you are capable of being honest with yourself about what those right decisions really are. Don't forget to check out the next episode in our Guide to Getting Good with Money for college students.

And for all things talking about money, don't forget to check out The Financial Diet here on YouTube or all around the internet.