At graduation ceremonies across the country, notable college commencement speakers delivered strategies for success, pep talks and inspiring words of wisdom. And often, in their advice and anecdotes, there are some well-founded financial tips . So, in the spirit of lifelong learning and continued financial literacy , here are the top motivational money lessons and messages from this year's commencement speeches.
Here are top pieces of financial advice from 2019 college commencement speakers:
Forge your own path.
Paying for education is worthwhile.
Don't let money, fame and power run your life.
Splurge on the experiences that matter.
There are few overnight successes.
Learn to worry less about money matters.
Stay curious and continue reading for long-term financial health.
Be mindful about goal-setting.
Forge Your Own Path
"Don't waste time on problems that have been solved," Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, told graduates at Tulane University in New Orleans. "Don't get hung up on what other people say is practical. Instead, steer your ship into the choppy seas. Look for the rough spots, the problems that seem too big, the complexities that other people are content to work around. It's in those places that you will find your purpose. It's there that you can make your greatest contribution."
He added: "Whatever you do, don't make the mistake of being too cautious. Don't assume that by staying put, the ground won't move beneath your feet. The status quo simply won't last. So get to work on building something better."
Paying for Education Is Worthwhile
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor emphasized the importance of pursuing higher education for career opportunities and long-term prosperity , despite the financial toll, at Manhattan College. "Education has a more important value than money. It is deeply important to our growth as people and as a community. I am often asked if I ever imagined as a child being on the Supreme Court, the highest court in the United States. 'No,' I say, 'When I was a child, my family was poor. No lawyer or judges lived in my neighborhood. I knew nothing about the Supreme Court … You cannot dream of becoming something you do not know about. You have to learn to dream big. Education exposes you to what the world has to offer, to the possibilities open to you."
Don't Let Money, Fame and Power Run Your Life
"As much as you might desire a certain kind of success or accomplishment, don't get summit fever," Savannah Guthrie, the co-anchor of NBC News' Today, told George Washington University graduates. "Don't be so intent on reaching the top that you kill yourself to get there, or hurt others doing so. And even more, don't be so focused on some summit that you miss the beautiful views on the way up. This is a metaphor for life. Stop and rest. Look around. Talk to the people traveling with you. Who cares if you make it to the top? The 'getting there' is the point anyway. Your climb, your path – that is your real life. The effort, the things you learn, the skills you acquire on the way, and most importantly, the people you keep company with – that is the whole point."
Guthrie also cautioned that you shouldn't compare your bank account and financial status to others. "Don't stress when other people seem to be going higher and faster, getting married sooner, having kids when you can't, when others are getting that promotion, buying that house, going on that trip, having those friends – don't you worry. The life you're making is enough. It is enough. You are enough."
Splurge on the Experiences That Matter
Actress Katie Holmes, who delivered a commencement speech at the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio, offered several bits of practical financial and life advice. She urged new graduates to check their bank balances regularly to be mindful of how and where they spend their money . "I used to sell a bunch of my clothes and then use the money I got from doing that to buy more clothing. I was losing a lot of money, but I was like, 'I'm running a business! I'm saving so much money!' I'm not sure what the lesson here is, but just be aware of your finances."
She also suggested spending money on formative travel experiences. "If you don't have too many loans, and hopefully you don't, see if you can travel for at least a little while. Mark Twain said that traveling was fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. We live in a country where we have so many options, and for so many people in the world, our worst days would almost be a dream come true for them. Try to continue your education for yourself on your own terms. So keep your passports updated."
There Are Few Overnight Successes
Robert F. Smith, the billionaire who made headlines for promising to pay the student loans for the class of 2019 at Morehouse College, told the graduates that people become wealthy, usually through a lot of hard work.
"The first rule you need to know is that nothing replaces actually doing the work," Smith said. "Whenever a young person tells me they aspire to be an entrepreneur, I ask them why. For many, they think of it as a great way to get rich quick. Invent an app, sell a company, make a few million before you're 25. Look, that can happen, but it's awfully rare. The usual scenario is that successful entrepreneurs spend endless hours, days and years toiling away for little pay and zero glamour. And in all honesty, that is where the joy of success actually resides. Before I ever got into private equity, I was a chemical engineer, and I spent pretty much every waking hour in windowless labs doing the work that helped me become an expert in my field."
Smith also explained what he views as true success: "More than the money we make, the awards or recognition, or titles we earn, each of us will be measured by how much we contribute to the success of the people around us."
Learn to Worry Less About Money Matters
If you need a money-management pep talk , who better to turn to than Oprah Winfrey? In her commencement speech to the graduates of Colorado College, she emphasized worrying less about the uncertainty of the future.
"I know there's a lot of anxiety about what the future holds and how much money you're gonna make, but your anxiety does not contribute one iota to your progress, I gotta tell you. Look at how many times you were worried and upset – and now you're here today. You made it. You're going to be okay," she said. "Take a deep breath with me right now and repeat this: Everything is always working out for me. That's my mantra – make it yours. Everything is always working out for me. Because it is, and it has, and it will continue to be as you forge and discover your own path."
Aside from adopting a positive mindset, Winfrey offered other important practical and financial strategies for long-term success: " Pay your bills on time , make your bed, put your phone away at the dinner table and get a good mattress — your back will thank you."
Stay Curious and Continue Reading for Long-Term Financial Health
Author James Patterson made a good case for reading when he spoke to graduates of Lynn University in Boca Rotan, Florida. "The more you read, the more you want to read and the better educated you become," he said. "The better educated you become, the better job you can get, and the better job you get, the more money you can earn and the healthier and longer life you live," he said.
Be Mindful About Goal-Setting
Financial goals that can be difficult to attain, such as buying a dream house or being able to afford to send kids to a private school, can prevent you from living in the present, actress Jennifer Garner told Denison University graduates. "At some point, you will realize that there is no finish line to cross," she said. "There is no moment when you're just supposed to be happy," she said. "While you wait for those moments, while you wait for the perfect job, the MCAT score, the engagement ring, your life is happening. Isn't it enough?"
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