Grad Guide 2006 - Click for Special Section

What will you do with your first paycheck? Blow it on clothes? Send it to Mom? Frame it for posterity? In this gallery, some folks who've made their way in the world share their recollections about what money meant to them at the start of their now-impressive careers.

Ambassador Randall L. Tobias
U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator

"An annual starting salary of $6,500 [in 1964, or approximately $42,000 in today's dollars] was more money than I had ever seen, and I didn't think I could spend it all. I was wrong. Early habits of saving and investing pay big dividends over the course of a lifetime -- figuratively and literally."
Yeardley Smith
voice of Lisa Simpson on "The Simpsons"

"The biggest mistake I made with my first real paycheck was not enjoying it. I believe if you don't reward yourself in some way for achieving the goals you set for yourself, then they slip by unnoticed. And where's the fun in that?"
Mike Wise
Sports Enterprise Reporter and Columnist, The Washington Post

"I accepted a $250-a-week salary. I should have asked the publisher for $275. That extra $25 could have allowed me to take my girlfriend at the time to a really nice place like, say, Sizzler or Olive Garden. As it was, I was forced to take her to one of California's finest French eateries: Jacque in the Box. I'm not saying that $25 extra a week could save the relationship. ..... But I am saying you should always ask for more."
José Andrés
Chef/Culinary Innovator (Jaleo, Cafe Atlantico and its Minibar, Zaytinya and Oyamel)

As a young cook, Andrés went to Crissier, Switzerland, for an exquisite meal by the chef he idolized, Freddy Girardet.

"Being young and poor, I took the bus and had to be very, very careful with my pennies. I ate at the restaurant very carefully, choosing the least expensive items on the menu. No wine! ..... The best part came after the meal when the cooks invited me into the kitchen and I spent a heady two hours getting the behind-the-scenes tour. I wound up hitchhiking back to Geneva. Unfortunately, I arrived at the hostel at 3 a.m. and the place was locked down for the night."
Alexander Ovechkin
Washington Capitals, Left Wing

"When I got my first check I was very excited. From the first one I put all my money into the brand new house I built in Alexandria. However, the first thing I did after that was go out and buy a home theater system. I love movies. That was a lot of money." The system cost him more than $10,000.
Olaf Kolzig
Goalie, Washington Capitals

"My first check as a professional athlete was in 1989, and the first thing I did was go out and buy a brand-new car -- an IROC Z28 [Chevrolet Camaro] convertible. Pretty typical I suppose, but I have no regrets. I loved that car."
Christopher Buckley
political satirist and novelist

"I did a certain amount of short-term gambling on the stock market and learned very quickly, boy, is that a stupid thing to do. My advice would be: don't! Spend it instead Friday nights on someone you love."
George Stephanopoulos
Chief Washington Correspondent for ABC News and Anchor of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos"

"I worked on the Hill then, and we had these thrift savings plans for retirement. I was so conservative that I put all my money into savings and none of it into stocks. This was in 1983, right on the cusp of one of the biggest stock market booms in history."
Ana Marie Cox
Former Wonkette

"You have everyone telling you when you graduate from college, to buy that power suit and get that Coach bag. ..... I bought a Coach briefcase, and I looked like I was lugging around something that belonged to my mother."
Lisa Stevens
National Zoo Panda Curator

"Although it was several years out of college, the first thing I did was buy a horse. Making a commitment to board and care for a horse, when I should have invested in real estate or stocks ..... putting all my money into that when I didn't have very much was frivolous. But I don't regret it."
Olvia Demetriou
Partner, Adamstein & Demetriou Architecture & Design

"I spent my first earnings on a Eurorail trip from Rome to Norway to Paris to Greece, and then back to Paris. I set out to absorb the sights of the city, only to find myself face-to-face with a deliciously chic pair of Parisian boots in a boutique window. I pondered the [borrowed] $100 bill in my pocket. I walked out of that boutique 3 inches taller, and without a cent in my pocket.
Phil Manley
guitarist, Trans Am

"Before the days of online checking, I was blindly spending money. I came home [from the band's first U.S. tour] to this big stack of overdrawn notices, enough that they had reported me to a collection agency. I thought I could talk my way out of it. ..... The thing is, it really hurt my credit record. ..... I really don't rely on credit cards and never really have; I have one now so I can rent a car. My advice is pay attention to your balance."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company