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Personal Finance: Advice for Graduates

Michelle Singletary
Thursday, May 13, 2010; 9:58 AM

Next week my niece is graduating from Bowie State University. I'm so proud of her, especially since she listened to her very smart aunt on many money matters. She didn't take out any student loans (nor did her parents). She paid cash for her used car. She doesn't have any credit card debt. She's great at saving.

I'm just so proud of her (sniff, sniff).

So I was thinking: What one piece of financial advice would you have for a newly minted college graduate? On the flip side, what was the one piece of financial advice that you received in your early adult life that really served you well? That's two questions for this week's Color of Money Question. You can answer one or both. Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put "All Grown Up Money Advice" in the subject line.

On her Post blog Rapid Reinvention, Avis Thomas-Lester has been asking professionals to share their advice to college graduates looking for work. This week she's featured advice from Janice Bryant-Howroyd, author of "The Art of Work: How to Make Work, Work for You." She's also chief executive of the Act 1 Group personnel services agency.

Here's just a snippet of Bryant-Howroyd's advice: "Everyone you know knows someone who knows someone who works in a company you want to be employed by. Work every contact. Don't be shy about checking in with contacts. Personal referrals remain one of the strongest door openers to a job."

You can read the rest of her tips here.

It's Time to Talk

This week, it's just you and me. What's on your mind financially?

If you have an adult child about to graduate from school, maybe you have a question or two about his or her job search, or the prospect of him or her coming back home to live with you. If so, join me online today at noon ET.

Today there's no agenda. No guest. It will be just you and me talking money.

If you are unable to join me live, send your question early or read the transcript later.

Tales From the Job Front

The responses to last week's Color of Money Question -- "Are you a job seeker who has a horror story about your employment search?" -- have me looking forward to May's Color of Money Book Club chat with Ellen Gordon Reeves, author of "Can I Wear my Nose Ring to the Interview?"

Here are some tales from the other side of the interview desk:

Elise Irminger of Knoxville, Tenn. didn't even make it to an interview.

"I was filling out an application at Arby's once when I noticed that it asked me for my weight. I was not ashamed of my weight but decided not to put it down because I felt like it was an inappropriate question; I was not applying to be a model. When I handed the application in at the counter I was confronted by the manager about why I hadn't put my weight and told that I would have to fill in that spot or not apply at all. I threw out the application on my way out."

Stephanie Sgouros of Tallahassee, Fla., had a run in with a rude interviewer:

She wrote: "Once, I was kept waiting for a second interview by a man whose first words were, 'I had to wear a tie on casual Friday because of you.' First, his company was the one that asked me to come on Friday. Second, it really would not have mattered to me had he not worn a tie, I was the interviewee after all. Then they told me I would be supervising eight people from a cubicle, which, had I known this before, it would have saved us all the trouble of a second interview. I landed a nicer job a few months later with the company across the street from them."

Gina Eskigian of Los Angeles, Calif. wrote: "When I was in law school interviewing for a summer clerkship, there was one interview where the interviewer looked at my chest literally the whole time. I don't know if the guy knew what he was doing, but it was extremely inappropriate. I should've called him on it, but what did I know. I was a poor student hungry for a job. If that happened to me today, I would definitely say something."

"My favorite interview was the one in which I drove 24 miles one way to get to it," said Judy Boucher of Greenbush, N.Y. "Within the first minute of sitting down with the owner and her husband, she perused my resume again and said she wished I had more accounting/bookkeeping experience. The funny thing is, she had my resume in front of her when she called and asked me questions initially. I really wish she had asked about that then instead of me wasting my time and gas money."

Ok, let's flip again. Here are some comments from interviewers about job applicants:

"I work part time at a huge medical center," said Brenda J. Nixon of Florence, S.C. "I was told that an applicant showed up for a registration representative interview with glitter on her eyelids. Is that tacky or what?"

"I was interviewing a young man for an entry level accounting position," wrote Robert Wolfzorn of Cincinnati, Ohio. "He came to the interview with a beautiful, new navy blue sport coat. I knew it was new because he left the sales tag on the sleeve. At the end of the interview, I pointed out the tag, thinking he was not aware it was there and did not want him going to another interview with it on his sleeve. He responded that he knew it was there and was planning to return the jacket to the store immediately after the interview. He did not get the job."

I wouldn't have hired the guy either. What he was doing was really stealing, and that says a lot about his character.

The Cost to Cover

The new health-care law has promised lower costs, but in the short term, the cost of care for many families to insure young adults may not be so low.

Families could be required to pay extra to carry young adults on their health insurance policies, reports the Post's David S. Hilzenrath.

The Department of Health and Human Services just issued regulations about keeping children up to age 26 on their parents' insurance policies. The rules are part of the administration's effort to translate the new health-care law into more specific regulations, Hilzenrath reports.

If you have a young adult in your family, you need to read this story.

Credit CARD Act Impact

Since the Credit Card Act was passed, I have been highlighting various provisions every week.

This week I want to focus on the effort to make advertising about free credit reports less misleading. The new credit card reform now requires the following:

-- Companies that advertise offers of "free" credit reports must include statements in those ads that consumers are entitled by law to receive a free credit report each year from each of the three credit bureaus.

-- Ads must also refer people to the official website for getting truly free credit reports. And in case you don't know, the Web site is www.annualcreditreport.com.

-- Radio and television ads must include the disclaimer, "This is not the free credit report provided for by federal law."

Learn more about the law here.

Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletary@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

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