Planning the Game of Life

There's no time like the present for new graduates to make plans for their futures

As summer approaches, there is one thing on every senior’s mind: graduation. Parents flying in, hats tossed, and the paralyzing fear of knowing you’ll need a job. In this economy, it can get a bit overwhelming.

But getting and keeping a job isn’t the only thing those joining the professional masses should be thinking about. There are more than a few ”life-keeping” practices you can start now — some because they’re age appropriate, some because they’ll just make your life that much easier down the road.

One example is mentorship programs. Most colleges offer some sort of mentorship program, usually through graduate programs. Some programs will set up networking opportunities for students to mingle with alumni, giving them the tools they need to form a mentorship. Others will set up a personal one-on-one relationship between student and alumni.

A GLBT-specific avenue for finding mentors is the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, whose members represent an array of large and small businesses, government agencies, law firms, nonprofit groups and so on.

“This whole organization is about networking and providing resources,” says CAGLCC President Ken White, who credits his own mentor, a woman whom he met through a Junior Achievement class in high school, with guiding him through many years of his career in banking. “Come in and say, ‘I’m looking for a mentor’ [and] share your career goals.”

CAGLCC hosts a happy-hour mixer the second Thursday of each month, with a nominal donation for admission. Some venues are 21-and-over only, so peruse CAGLCC’s upcoming events on www.caglcc.org carefully if you’ve yet to hit that golden age.

In terms of saving now for a payday later, investing in a 401k or retirement account is a simple task that too many people start too late in life.

”Along with getting a job, an automatic deposit into a 401k or retirement plan is very important because of the compounding of money,” says Tim Schaefer, co-owner and agent at his family’s Schaeffer Insurance Services. ”If you are lucky enough to have an employer match your deposit, even better.”

When it comes to retirement accounts, there is no greater tool than a Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Roth IRAs are perfect for young people because they are flexible, tax-exempt, and can be used for purchasing a home in the future. Not to mention, the earlier you start, the more you collect when you retire.

Beyond the dollars and cents, there are simpler ways you can take advantage of your youth. One way is to find a regular doctor. Plenty of young people only visit a doctor when something is amiss. Dr. Tim Price, of Price Medical off Dupont Circle, says finding a dedicated doctor sooner rather than later establishes a foundation that goes a long way toward maintaining one’s health via longitudinal benefits.

”From my perspective, I get to follow things like blood pressure and cholesterol [over time], instead of just one or two visits,” says Price, adding that he’s been caring for some of his patients for nearly 20 years. In short, a doctor who’s been treating you for a decade may have a better grasp on the possible causes of your funky rash than the doctor who is meeting both you and your rash for the first time.

Less important than one’s health or retirement, certainly, but nonetheless worth mentioning, are frequent-flier miles. If you’re studying out of state, considering any study abroad or maybe even a stint in the Peace Corps, simply looking for the cheapest fare is not always the best strategy. If you can, trim your airlines down to two or three that belong to the same corporate alliance. Maybe you’ve got family in New Jersey? Sign up for Continental Airlines frequent-flier program for miles home for the holidays, and accrue miles in the same account when you fly Korean Air to Seoul for that semester teaching English, or on AeroMexico for spring break. Being conscientious about accruing those miles might mean you’re not always getting the best price, but the reward travel should compensate.

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