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Hard lessons remain ahead for graduates

By Linda Breazeale

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many graduating seniors believe their hardest lessons are behind them, but life's future tests may prove to be their toughest exams yet.

Graduation milestones often give students the impression that their new diplomas are symbols of attained wisdom and their arrival into adulthood.

“Many graduates are eager to spread their wings and do things on their own for the first time,” said Patsilu Reeves, family life education specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. “Unfortunately, there are several pitfalls out there for people who think they can be self-sufficient and know it all.”

Personal safety and financial stability are two important factors to consider when venturing out for the first time.

“Whether the new graduates are going to a new town for further education or employment or staying in the area where they grew up, no one should drop their guard when it comes to safety issues,” Reeves said. “Create a circle of responsible friends, stick together and take care of each other.”

Reeves encouraged graduates to maintain good values that will protect them from health and safety concerns as well as legal problems.

Determine and pursue a positive direction as soon as possible.

“Many of the decisions made when first starting out can impact future opportunities,” Reeves said. “Even if someone decides not to pursue more education, he or she should set goals immediately that will lay the foundation for a healthy future, whether that includes a career, family or both.”

Mary Linda Moore is the Extension family resource management area agent based in Corinth. She said many first-time credit users do not realize how quickly a large amount of debt can accumulate. They may not realize the money eventually has to be repaid along with interest.

“People can get as much credit as they want these days. The best advice is to pay cash for as many items as possible,” Moore said. “Use credit cards only for emergencies, and determine in advance what constitutes an emergency. Write your emergency criteria on an index card and refer to it before using the credit card.”

Moore said everyone with a credit card should write down their account information, including a company phone number, in case their card is lost or stolen.

Establishing and sticking to a budget can be a challenge at first. Tracking expenses by writing down where the money goes can help in setting up a budget.

“Many people are surprised by how much money goes to nonessential expenses. A lot of the time, money is going to places we really don't want it to go,” Moore said. “Balance your income with expenses, and try to set aside some earnings for a rainy day. Categories to consider in a budget include housing, food, telephone, entertainment, personal care and transportation expenses.”

Moore said people should protect their credit rating for the future.

“Young people may not be thinking about getting a loan for a house or car today, but when the time comes, you want a good credit history,” Moore said. “If you ever see yourself going too deeply into debt, seek professional advice as soon as possible.”

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Released: May 18, 2006
Contact: Dr. Patsilu Reeves, (662) 325-1801 or Mary Linda Moore, (662) 286-7756

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