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Embracing adult life after graduation

It is graduation day and the setting is perfect. The audience is all dicty. Moms, dads, and relatives are all beaming because this is the transcendental day.

The speeches are beautifully prepared and eloquently delivered. They are full of wonderful quotes about aspiring to greatness, embracing challenges, saving the world, living your dreams and being your true self.

But you are only half-listening because your mind is elsewhere.

How do I know this?

Generation gaps aside, rites of passage never change. My contemporaries and I felt the same way. All we cared about was that school was over after twelve years. Some times it had been fascinating and rewarding, at others times it had been monotonous and frustrating.

But now is the moment of freedom. You cannot wait to get out of there, get out of the perceived confining family environment, and get off the Rock.

You are now an adult and ready to head out on the greatest adventure of your young life.

Most graduates are eighteen — the age of majority in Bermuda. Significantly, through the Bermuda Age of Majority Act 2001, you have expanded legal rights to make your own decisions. You have the right to vote, to marry, the right to self-determination, to drink alcohol, adopt a child, and write a will.

The moment is so clear. You have the right to never have to ask your parents for permission to do anything ever again.

But being an adult is not the same thing as being grown up, because with freedom comes personal responsibilities.

You and you alone are now in charge of all your decisions and outcomes.

If you screw up, it is your fault. If you succeed mightily, it is solely your determination that got you there (well, it can be argued your loving parents played a role, too.)

Here is what “real” freedom means. You get to:

• choose the right or wrong friends; ones that support you, or ones that use you;

• only eat food you like;

• wear clothes that send a defiant message or a indifferent attitude;

• listen to your music;

• stay up all night texting until your thumbs are blue; party for days on end — who will care, it is your life;

• challenge authority figures for your beliefs and be prepared for the consequences;

• find a job; take the pragmatic approach, something you may not have respected your parents for but now you have to support yourself, you get the picture;

• negotiate an apartment lease, manage unruly flatmates;

• find transportation; make car payments, rent payments, and keep your credit cards clean;

• indulge yourself, nothing wrong with that, but;

• practice discipline; show up, on time, every time, for every appointment. You've got rent, car, groceries, a budget to manage and you don't want to wake up ten years from now to find out you are going nowhere;

• take care of yourself, your good health is determined by your habits;

• Money matters. And, here is the big one. Learn how to manage your finances as soon as possible, because trust me, you don't know what you don't know about money.

The recent release of the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment examines not just what students know in science, reading and mathematics, but what they can do with what they know.

Many teenagers struggle to understand money matters. Around one in four students in the 15 countries and economies that took part in the latest OECD Programme for International Student Assessment test of financial literacy were unable to make even simple decisions on everyday spending. About 56 per cent have a bank account, but cannot decipher the activity statements. Only one in ten can understand complex issues, such as income tax.

Some 48,000 15-year-olds took part in the test, which evaluated the teenager's knowledge and skills on money matters and personal finance.

The Pisa test is used to assess students' ability to face real-life situations involving financial issues and decisions.

Teenagers in the US, our neighbours and virtual cousins when it comes to similar lifestyles, fared in the mediocre range. China's students topped the financial knowledge chart.

If you don't believe this study, here is a quiz. Let's see how smart you are. Try sample questions at https://tinyurl.com/lz59lbt

Be brave and let me know just how well you did.

One more thing to think about. The world does not care one bit about you. It is up to you to have to sell yourself and your skills. Your parents gave you everything. Now, in order to succeed, you have to get out of your self-absorbed world and sell yourself to the real world.

According to Daniel H. Pink, author of To Sell is Human: “The average person spends 40 per cent of their life trying to motivate others. We're persuading, convincing, and influencing others to give up something they've got in exchange for what we've got, an ability that is crucial to our survival and happiness.”

These are some of the things you have a right to be and to do, and it will be a steep learning curve for some. Be a survivor. You can do this.

And now back to the graduation day experience. There are your parents, standing proud. They've done their job, haven't they?

You are officially grown-up. Congratulations and welcome to our world.

Useful links:

• OECD/Pisa test results: https://tinyurl.com/y8tesuc6

• Daniel H Pink's To Sell is Human:https://tinyurl.com/yc6aarka

• Bermuda Age of Majority Act 2001: https://tinyurl.com/y7mhtyyz

Martha Harris Myron CPA CFP JSM: Masters of Law — international tax and financial services. Pondstraddler Life, financial perspectives for Bermuda islanders with multinational families and international connections on the Great Atlantic Pond. Ms Myron is an OECD-approved finance journalist. Contact: martha@pondstraddler.com

Life's journey: when you graduate you step into the adult world. Be prepared for the many responsibilities that come along with life's new freedoms

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Published May 27, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 26, 2017 at 9:47 pm)

Embracing adult life after graduation

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