You’ve graduated – congratulations! Now what? Getting your degree has been your goal for so long, you probably didn’t think much about what happens after you get your diploma. Yep, it’s time to be a grown-up, this includes all of the financial responsibilities that come with it.
Here are ten tips to help you navigate the adult word of personal finances:
- Understand Your Finances
Either you’re on the verge of being solely responsible for your finances or you already are. Either way, you need to understand the world of personal finances and how to keep on top of yours. Get a few books about personal finance basics. And be prepared for all the finances that will now (or soon be) your responsibility like rent, transportation, utilities, food and more.
- Create a Budget
Once you get a handle on every expense you’re responsible for, it’s time to put together a budget. Most people hate the term budget, so you might want to see it as more of a spending plan instead. Using a piece of paper, spreadsheet or app, put down all your monthly expenses and subtract them from your monthly take-home income. If you end up with a negative number – you’re in trouble and need to take some steps to even it all out.
- Reduce Your Debt
The first step to getting your finances in check is getting your debt under control. Student loans are probably a major expense and you’re not alone. The average college graduate is facing about $37,000 in student loan debt. Whatever your debt, don’t add to it with new credit cards or major purchases when you’re just starting out.
- Keep Costs Down
A first potential step in keeping costs down is moving back home. In fact, about a third of young adults (age 18 to 34) are currently living with their parents. If you need to move back home, make it for a predetermined, short period of time to get ahead of your debt. Other changes you can make is buy a used versus new car, find ways to cut your cellphone, internet and/or cable bills. You might want to also forgo those $5 lattes and start taking your own cups of coffee to work, as well as packing lunches. That could save you at least $50 per week!
- Pay Your Bills
It seems like a no-brainer, but not everyone manages to pay all their bills each month. Make this a non-negotiable task each month. When possible, do your best to pay above any minimum payments as well. Keeping up with your bills helps with your credit and stops you having to deal with those nasty compound interest rates.
- Build Your Credit
As we just mentioned, paying your bills on time is a great first step to building your credit. Good credit means you’ll be able to more easily buy a car or home further down the road. Your credit also affects your car insurance rates, possible employment and more. To check out your credit rating, you can get a free credit report once a year here. Click here to learn more about credit scores.
- Find the Right Job
When it’s time to get your first “real” job, you might be tempted to go for the higher paycheck and ignore if it’s in your desired field. Don’t do it! While the average starting salary for recent grads is $48,000, there are plenty of other factors to consider in your job hunt. Getting a job in your field will more often than not pay off in the long run and give you invaluable experience. Plus, you don’t want to get stuck in a field you hate just because it pays well. You’ll regret it.
- Start Emergency Fund
From car repairs to unexpected health costs, having an emergency fund can make the difference between sinking or swimming financially. Experts recommend saving three to six months of income in a separate emergency fund– just in case. Start out with at least $1,000 and work your way up from there. Make sure you don’t touch that money for any non-emergency reasons. We promise, you’ll be happy you left it alone.
- Plan for Retirement
We know, you’re just starting out and retirement is decades away. Why think of retirement now? Because, you’ve got those decades to save up a nice little nest egg. If your employer has a matching 401k program, take advantage of it. It’s basically free money! If not, open an individual retirement account (IRA)and don’t spend it until you’re at least 65 years old.
- Splurge a Little
We realize that nobody sticks to strict savings and budget plans unless they have a little fun along the way. Allow yourself small splurges here and there, and within your budget. Maybe a concert or a quick weekend away once in a while. You’ve worked hard for it and deserve it!