After School Rules

Rule 1: No, you actually don’t need a credit card
Rule 2: Pay yourself first
Rule 3: Ten years from now no one will ask what course you studied
Rule 4: Ten years from now know one will ask what your first job was
Rule 5: Yes, this will be on the test (and there will be lots of them)

I concluded my latest business deal over a foosball table, when I agreed to employ Aaron, a twentysomething arts graduate, to help hone my speaking skills.

Although I sidestepped his offer of a celebratory drink (a $3 bottle of red served in a coffee cup) I was admittedly slightly sentimental as I looked over the dishevelled inner-city house he shares with his mates

There is but a small window of time that blokes can live together, drink copious amounts of alcohol, never clean up and hang posters of busty babes on the walls.

It’s called university (and perhaps divorce).

As someone who has entered the real world, I wanted to warn them of what lay ahead – afternoons spent at Bunnings, the importance of separating coloureds from whites, and low-fat milk, but they probably wouldn’t believe me anyway.

So as I drove home to the comfy, clean confines of suburbia that I now call home, I realised the best advice I could give these boozing blokes was the unvarnished rules of how to get ahead.

Rule 1: No, you actually don’t need a credit card.

It’s fashionable to protest against the latest injustice when at university, but if students understood the manipulative methods the banks use on us, they’d be chaining themselves to (bank) branches.

It usually starts with some sort of fee-free student package, which comes with a credit card with a small limit just in case of an emergency (like running out of money at a nightclub).

After you start on the slippery slope of spending, the bank will ply you with pre-approved credit increases.

If you think it’s hard to pay the bills without a credit card, getting one can make it virtually impossible.

So, march down to your bank, cancel your credit card, apply for a Visa debit and use your own cash.

Rule 2: Pay yourself first

You’d be surprised how many people in their early thirties I meet who haven’t got a cracker to their names.

Ten years after throwing their cap – and around half a million bucks – up in the air, they’re still standing where they started.

So each time you get paid, make sure the first person you pay is yourself.

It doesn’t really matter how much you deposit (it could be as little as a few bucks) – it’s all about developing sound long-term money habits.

Bonus points if you have a part-time job and can manage to sock $20 a week into superannuation to take advantage of the co-contributions scheme (otherwise known as free money from the Federal Government).

Slipping a lazy grand into super could be worth $30,000 to you by the time you look like John Howard.

Rule 3: Ten years from now no one will ask what course you studied

Despite what your parents and your high school guidance counsellor tell you, a degree is not a one-way ticket to entitlement.

According to The Good Universities Guide, the number of degrees setting you back a six-figure sum has more than doubled in the past three years.

Getting your degree will probably be the most expensive piece of paper you’ll ever lay your hands on (other than your divorce papers).

Treat it like any other investment.

In most cases having a degree will simply move your application one pile away from the rubbish bin – but it’s still a mighty big pile.

The single biggest factor in scoring a job is not your IQ, but your EQ (emotional quotient).

Academically smart people with no personality generally don’t tend to move very quickly up the corporate food chain (unless they’re in IT).

Your biggest asset isn’t the letters after your name but in your ability to interact with others.

Rule 4: Ten years from now know one will ask what your first job was.

My first job out of university was fixing roofs. Seriously.

I was up a ladder one day when I received a phone call from someone claiming to be from the Australian Stock Exchange – now known as the Australian Securities Exchange.

I thought it was one of my workmates playing a joke on me, so I laughed and hung up on them.

Yet of all the graduates that applied for a position with the ASX that year I was the only one who had roof fixing on my resume. I got the job.

The only people who land cool jobs straight out of university are people in the army and people on TV.

Everyone else can expect to initially perform work that bears little correlation to their course. Deal with it

It’s unfortunate that young people are forced to make a major career decision while they’re still in high school – how else can you explain why there are so many students enrolled in law?

So it’s not surprising that the author of The Brazen Careerist, Penelope Trunk, has found that most young people will have eight different careers by the time they’re 30. Embrace it.

Rule 5: Yes, this will be on the test (and there will be lots of them).

Sure, there’s a random chance you’ll get on a game show and be asked about 16th century philosophers, but it’s a long shot at best.

Much more practical knowledge can be found in having a good understanding of the time-tested rules of wealth, and applying them to your life.

Quoting Goethe may get you the girl, but so does having the ability to pay the bill.

The last time I paid Aaron for his services, he rocked up to our next session sporting a jacket that looked to be made from Chihuahua fur. He proudly proclaimed it was a designer original – that had set him back $700.

This coming from a man whose net worth rises and falls with the shrapnel he finds in the back of the couch.

I explained that while I was learning how to improve my speaking skills, he needed to improve his spending skills.

That being the case I instituted a sixth rule for Aaron – all future payments will be made in share-based investments.

Tread your own path!