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Advice from 2023 Graduation Speeches that Can Apply to Your Financial Goals

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It’s commencement season and graduation speeches are inspiring millions of graduates with great advice for living a good life. But, you know what? A lot of what they have to say can be relevant to your financial goals for the future and even retirement. Let’s take a look at the guidance being offered in some of the best speeches this year and see how it might apply to your future in retirement.

graduation speeches

Erin Jackson, an Olympic gold medalist, gave the commencement speech at University of Florida, her alma mater. Her advice? “Dream big, execute small.”

“Break it down into what needs to happen right now, in tiny, bite-sized pieces, to take one step, one stride toward that goal. Dream big, execute small.”

  • This is great advice for almost any kind of endeavor. You want to have meaty goals, but achieving those goals requires every day habits and the ability to take action in any moment. This is especially true of financial goals. It is important to remember that you make thousands of financial decisions everyday that eventually result in your future financial security. Learn more about micro financial habits.

Oprah Winfrey spoke to graduates at Tennessee State University. She urged the class to be good to at least one other person every single day.

“This is what I know for sure: there will never be anything in your life as fulfilling as making a difference in somebody else’s. Everybody here wants to see you take your integrity, your curiosity, your creativity, your guts and this newfound education of yours and use it to make a difference. Everybody always thinks you got to go do something big and grand. I’ll tell you where you start. You start by being good to at least one other person every single day. Just start there. That’s how you begin to change the world. By just being good to one other person.”

  • Oprah’s speech is about the importance of social connections and having purpose in your life. These are proven habits for happiness. However, maintaining friendships and fostering meaning in your life do become more difficult after retirement, so it is important to consciously develop those activities as you age. Here are 6 ways to find purpose in retirement.

Isabel Wilkerson is an author and journalist. In her speech at Occidental College, she said, “Our country is like an old house. And the owner of an old house knows that whatever you were ignoring will never go away. Whatever’s lurking will fester, whether you choose to look or not. Ignorance is no protection from the consequences of inaction.”

  • While Wilkerson’s speech was about the mess our society is in now, her message is undoubtedly true with regards to financial planning. Most people truly lack adequate financial know-how and just manage to get by month to month and year to year. But, that ignorance doesn’t mean that you will somehow be okay and enjoy a secure happy retirement. You need to take responsibility to learn about what the financial future you desire really takes to achieve. Explore financial basics.

Bill Gates reminded the graduating class at Northern Arizona University that “life isn’t a one-act play.” He meant that life is long with many chapters.

I have a college graduate this year and I know this is critical advice for him. He feels so much pressure to make the right decisions about his career. But, whatever he chooses to do this year, it is highly unlikely to be what he’ll be doing in 10 years or after.

  • The idea that life will continue to evolve is equally true of someone entering retirement as someone graduating college. Retirement is not an end. Retirement is not even the final act of your life. You will have many future chapters and it is important to plan for them.

Molly Burhans, founder and executive director of GoodLands, delivered a speech for the 176th Commencement ceremonies at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame. She believes that graduates should embrace challenges, saying: “I invite you to prepare yourself for challenges, and instead of running from them — embrace them as part of your journey.”

  • So many people are now consciously adopting habits for doing better with their lives. They eat well, exercise, take care of their mental health, and even adopt lifelong learning. However, not as many have adopted financial habits. Personal finance is a big challenge for the majority of U.S. households. However, if you embrace financial challenges and make financial habits part of your journey, you will likely experienced reduce stress and a better future.

Rear Admiral, United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corp, Georgetown University School of Nursing’s commencement

So when you graduate, it’s not the end of your education but really the beginning. The beginning of this new defining moment. And all of you will have a moment. All of you will have a moment that will amplify your skills as a leader.”

  • If you just exchange the words “graduate” and “education” with “retire” and “career” you have great advice for your future.

The Georgia Senator, Raphael Warnock, told graduates at Bard College, “Ask not what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

He continued, “In other words, I challenge you to find your passion. I challenge you to find that thing in the world that feels like such a deep moral contradiction that you cannot be silent. You have to express yourself; you have to stand up and try to make the world better. Find anything that you would do for free except that you have to pay the rent or the mortage. And chase after it with all of your might.”

  • Retirees have the benefit that they no longer need to work to pay the rent or the mortgage. You can indeed spend your life doing anything that you would do for free. That is a goal worth saving and planning for. Here are tips for retiring early.

Not all of the commencement guidance involves lofty and poetic platitudes. Just ask Anthony Jack, an assistant professor of education at Harvard University. He told The Harvard Gazette that he wished that he had been taught about financial literacy when he graduated from college.

“Investing in one’s long-term retirement is something that we don’t teach and that lets privilege dictate who wins and who loses.”

He continued, “Many colleges want to shy away from being too practical, but we do our students a disservice if we only teach them how to study the world and not navigate it.”

  • Whether you are stepping from college into life or a career into retirement, learning about personal finance and having a written financial plan will reduce stress, improve your financial outcomes, and enhance your well being.

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