Congratulations to all of the graduates—high school or college—who will be walking the stage this spring! We’re wishing you all the best as you move on to the next stage of your life. As you’ll soon learn, money and financial habits are going to be major factors in just about anything you choose to do. Here are some of the top tips our team members shared for recent graduates, high school or college:
Set up a budget.
Doesn’t matter what method you use, but you need a way to keep track of how much money you have coming in, what’s going out, and what bills need to be paid (and when!). A budget is the foundation of a healthy bank account and keeps you accountable. People can easily find themselves needing loans and credit cards because they spent more money than they realized they actually had.
Take care of your credit.
Take care of your credit and it will take care of you! It will follow you for the rest of your life. It’s become an even more important factor that many young or mature adults have a difficulty understanding. It can have a positive or negative impact; anywhere from getting a cell phone plan, an apartment, auto insurance and most importantly a career that you’ve worked so hard for. Establish some credit, but not too much. Once you do get a credit card/loan ensure that you make on-time payments each month. Work closely with experts in that field. Ask your local credit union associate on best ways to establish “good” credit. You can also ask your parents or a trusted family member. Establishing good credit is a fine line that you must learn to balance and that you must maintain throughout your life.
Know best personal finance practices.
This is the financial advice that was preached to me growing up and what I repeated to my kids:
- If you don’t have the money (cash) on hand then don’t buy it…never use credit unless it’s an emergency!
- Do you “need” this item or is it something you just “want?”
- Always put away 15-20% of your paycheck in a savings account!
- Credit shows what your character is like…so be mindful to always take care of it because it could cost you a job, promotion, or in some cases a marriage.
Understand student loans.
My financial advice to a new college graduate would be to take a really deep look into any student loans you may have taken out to get your education. Some students are more aware than others about the details of their student loans, depending on their level of financial independence. For a great majority of people, loans taken out for school are some of the first loans they’ve ever had, and things like interest rates, principal balances, and repayment options can be daunting to think about. Trust me on this one, if you don’t know all of your loan details, don’t wait too long to find out. Educating yourself about your student loans gives you the power to make informed decisions that will ultimately work best for your budget, and you may even be surprised what options are available to you for repayment.
Learn to set and achieve financial goals.
It’s not enough to say, “I’d like to pay off my debt,” or “It would be great if I could save some money.” You need to create an action plan with benchmarks that will let you know you’re on track. For example, if your big goal is to save six months’ worth of income, a benchmark may be to save $20 this week. My financial advice is to set your big goal, then break it down into smaller goals. Keep yourself accountable by automating payments or transfers to savings accounts when you can. Don’t even give yourself the chance to spend the money! And never lose sight of the big plan. Achieving financial goals can take a long time, and it’s probable that at some point, you’re going to want to spend the money that you should be putting toward your goal. Don’t falter! Remind yourself why you’re working so hard to achieve your goal and that the pay off will be worth it.