The One Investment All Parents Should Make for College Graduates

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: May 11, 2015

Choose Your Investments Wisely

When a couple decides to have children, the sacrifices start early. Perhaps they look around their cramped city apartment and think about the spontaneous days when they’d hop on the back of a motorcycle and speed off to wine country for the weekend.

Suddenly, the conversation turns to selling off the Honda CB77 Super Hawk for a Honda Odyssey EX-L with third row seating, and researching suburban towns where you get the most room for your money.

A smart couple putting a premium on education continually weighs the cost of an investment versus the potential payoff down the line.

For example, some people choose to purchase an expensive house in a very good neighborhood, knowing the (free) public school system is highly-rated. Others might find a bargain home close to family or work, but decide to pay to send their kids to a more costly private school when the time is right.

Throughout their youth, parents might invest in piano lessons or sports equipment or computer camp, with the goal of not only giving their child a happier and more well-rounded life, but maybe also with a nod that this might help their odds of getting a scholarship down the line.

Salary Negotiation Is a Forgotten Necessity

Parents will often invest hundreds or even thousands of dollars on SAT training, providing their children with courses or personal tutors with the goal of boosting their scores to get into the best college.

And then there’s the big whammy: college tuition. Now we’re not talking the extra $500 to get a sunroof in the minivan or an extra $100 for new basketball sneakers they “need” in order to play better. This is potentially $50,000 a year for the next four years! And yet, parents (and hard-working students) alike make this massive investment -- even knowing a decade of student loan debt might follow – because they see it as a path that will ultimately lead to a better job, a better career, and a better life.

But as freshly minted graduates walk down the aisle with a new diploma in hand while their graying parents look at each other and smile proudly, there’s one last thing they should invest in before kicking them out of the nest (you’ve probably guessed it by now):

Teaching them the importance of negotiating their salary.

Salary Negotiation Skills Are Invaluable

It might be something you’ve never thought of, but learning this crucial skill will pay dividends for a lifetime. In fact, it will be more valuable than that backpacking trip to Europe, that new car to get them to interviews, and even that generous $10,000 gift from Uncle Sherman.

Why? Over the course of a career, whether they’re a social worker or a stock broker, if professionals continually negotiate for what they are worth when accepting a job, keep up with their value on the market, and systematically ask for raises in their current jobs, they’ll literally earn millions of dollars more over the course of their career vs. someone who doesn’t negotiate (that can buy you a lot of international trips and a new car).

The Pros of Negotiating Outweigh the Cons

According to a study by Nerdwallet, there’s no reason not to.

  • Won’t they lose the offer? Probably not. 84% of companies said entry-level candidates would not be putting the offer at risk.
  • Can companies afford it? Most likely. 74% of employers leave room for a 5-10% increase.
  • Will it actually work? Only if you try. 80% of students were at least partially successful.
  • What if I don’t know what to tell them? Just like SAT testing, there are plenty of free resources and books to get started, as well as online courses and coaches for hire.

So if you have a son or daughter graduating this spring, congratulations. There’s no doubt they can thank part of their success on your sacrifice and the smart investments you’ve made in them.

But before you pop the champagne, make sure they have that final skill to set them on the path for a prosperous career. Soon enough they’ll be paying off their loans, moving to the city, and (over your dead body) checking out a new motorcycle.

Salary.com Can Help You Negotiate

Hopefully you started negotiating salary at part-time jobs. But if not (or if you need more help), we're here for you.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.

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