Roger Ferguson’s Five Tips for the Class of 2013


TIAA-CREF CEO gives commencement addresses after receiving honorary degrees from St. Lawrence University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Graduate School.

TIAA-CREF President and CEO Roger Ferguson was awarded honorary degrees by two TIAA-CREF clients – St. Lawrence University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Graduate School – based on his significant accomplishments in banking and finance, as well as his strong advocacy for education policy and long history of helping society as a whole improve its financial literacy.

Invited to address both graduating classes, Roger shared five pieces of advice derived from his own career thus far.

  1. Commit to using the human capital – or stock of competencies (knowledge, social and personality attributes, creativity, etc.) – you’ve accumulated and developed while at university to have an impact on the world.
  2. See graduation not as the end of your educational journey but as one milestone in a life of continuous education. “You will be most successful when you think of yourself as a lifelong learner – and conduct yourself accordingly – in whatever it is you’re doing,” he said.
  3. Figure out how to apply your human capital in a way that honors the best in you, but also extends beyond your own self-interest.
  4. Throw out the notion of climbing a “career ladder.” There is no straight and predictable path to ever-higher levels of success. Instead, think of your career as more like a climbing wall. “Be open to trying different things. Don’t be afraid to change course if that’s what your heart is telling you to do. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way,” Roger said.
  5. Become financially literate – or expand the financial literacy skills you already have. “Understand the concepts of personal finance, know how to use credit wisely, and have long-term financial goals even as you are dealing with short-term needs and desires,” Roger advised.