By the time he graduated from Washington State University, Terry Arndt (’93 Horticulture) had accumulated $20,000 in student loans, $5,000 in credit card bills, and car payments.
Fortunately, he found a job right away, and a financial advisor. She suggested he pay off his high-interest credit cards first. Then he began making extra payments on his student loans, some with a 10-year payback period. There were other budget considerations. Health insurance premiums. Income tax. A vacation. A year after marrying Melissa Segars (’94 Music), he enrolled in the University of Florida’s M.B.A. program. More expenses.
Adjusting to life after college was not the smooth transition he expected. Arndt experienced the agony of living paycheck-to-paycheck. Now he is helping others budget better. In 1999, he and John Ricchini founded their own company, Life After Graduation, LLC. They’ve also written a trilogy of nationally marketed books that provide advice and money-saving tips for college students and recent graduates.
Arndt and Ricchini met in graduate school. As part of a course in entrepreneurship, the pair entered a business proposal in the 1999 UF Business Plan of the Year competition. Of the 18 proposals submitted, five finalists were chosen to compete for the $5,000 first prize. Although the Life After Graduation proposal was among the five, it did not win.
After the competition, Arndt and Ricchini refined their business plan and decided to pursue their idea. Initially they used the Internet as an inexpensive way to promote their business and books. Response to their first book, Life After Graduation, published in 2000, was positive.
That same year, they established their company’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Their second book, Life During College, was published during the 2001-02 school year, followed by Backpack to Briefcase in early 2003.
Meanwhile, the partners kept their day jobs. Arndt is assistant director of membership and marketing for the National Club Association in Washington, D.C. He lives in Virginia, a long way from his hometown of Royal City, Washington. Ricchini is manager of financial planning and analysis at the University of South Florida Physicians Group.
Life After Graduation addresses many important budgeting concerns: identifying and ranking financial goals, and determining income and fixed and variable expenses. The book provides advice on credit cards-when to use them, credit card reports, and credit card debt. There are valuable tips on education loans, health insurance, banking, the basics of investing, negotiating rent and requesting discounts from the landlord, and purchasing versus leasing cars.
Initially the partners marketed Life After Graduation to approximately half of the colleges and universities in the country. Within two months, the original press run of 2,000 books sold out. Sales provided capital for a second run of 10,000 and money to develop a website, expand marketing to the rest of the U.S., investigate other projects, and complete the final two books.
Alumni associations, career services, and various other college departments at nearly 200 schools, including the WSU athletic department, provide students with one of Life After Graduation’s books. Life During College is now used as part of a one-credit required course for freshmen at such universities as Indiana State, Iowa State, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Marshall, and Virginia Tech.
A measure of the company’s success is that their first competitor entered the market in 2001.
“That kept us on our toes and kept us motivated,” Arndt says.
For others intent on starting their own business, he offers encouragement. “The only way you know if you can do it is to try. And if you plan to do it while maintaining your current job, get used to a lot of late nights-I mean a lot of them.”