Celebrate May Day as a Financial Rebirth
Last week as I drove past Bearden Elementary, I noticed that the sign out front announced the school’s annual May Day Festival. This made me wonder: what is May Day, other than a distress signal used by lost sailors?
May Day began as a medieval spring festival celebrating rebirth. A more modern iteration originated 130 years ago today with the Chicago Haymarket protests, which were the impetus for the eight-hour workday.
I’ve always liked that graduation is properly referred to as “commencement.” I also like that most graduations occur when we’re looking forward to the beginning of a new season, literally and figuratively. Advancing one’s education marks a new season and a time of self-creation.
Although no one has asked me to be the keynote speaker at a graduation exercise (and rightfully so), as the father of four millennials, I have a pretty good idea of what I’d say.
Live within your means.
Better yet, live below your means. This will leave room in your cash flow to build an emergency fund, contribute to your 401(k), maintain appropriate insurance, and pay down any student loans.
Pay your bills on time, and choose your friends wisely. Don’t hang out with, or date, people who encourage you to spend your money foolishly. And splurge on experiences, not things. Research shows that we derive more happiness from doing rather than from having stuff.
Time is on your side — give it a hand.
You’re young, and the greatest weapon in your investment arsenal is time. Start saving now. The biggest risk in your financial life is failure to adopt and maintain strict financial discipline in saving, investing and spending.
Buy a (used) copy of “The Millionaire Next Door.” Read this to understand the inverse correlation between spending and savings.
Give your financial life the same kind of focus that you give to your work and social lives.
Financial well-being is about more than the number on your paycheck; it’s about having defined goals for the future and confidence in your ability to achieve them.
Make sure that when you enter the working world, you have long-term financial goals, even as you tackle short-term goals such as paying off student loans or buying a car. Most important of all, start saving when you’re young. Saving even a little on a regular basis will have a huge impact later.
Keep developing your human capital.
It’s the key to your success. Even with your diploma in hand, commit to being a lifelong learner. You don’t have to be in a classroom forever; it’s about how you approach your work.
When you start a new job, be a student of the organization. Dive into the details, ask questions, and volunteer for assignments that will expand your knowledge. Learn about your competitors and the industry you’re in. This will help you make an impact on your organization and advance your career.
Celebrate this May Day as a financial rebirth. You will enjoy the benefits the rest of your life.
This column was featured in the May 1 Knoxville News-Sentinel. You can read it here: Celebrate May Day as a Financial Rebirth
Meet the Author
Tom Coulter, CPA
Tom is the President and a founder of Meridian Trust. Tom graduated from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in accounting with honors, in 1978. Tom previously worked for the international accounting firm, Deloitte. He later joined the financial medical advising firm, FIS Associates, before founding Meridian Trust in 1997. Tom has worked extensively in retirement planning, taxation, estate and financial planning and investment management. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), and the Tennessee Society of CPAs (TSCPA).
Tom is also credentialed as a Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) by the AICPA.