Congratulations, Graduates! It’s a heck-of-an accomplishment to collect that degree. Hard work, not too much partying and for most of you, some serious financial support from Uncle Sam, not to mention Mom & Dad.
Well guess what? Mom and Dad probably don’t want their money back but Uncle Sam, if you took out student loans, does. According to statistics supplied by the Institute for College Access and Success, 71% of grads in 2016 graduated with an average of $29, 400 in student-loan debt.
The important thing now is to get on top of your debt and start putting sound financial practices and strategies in place to secure your future.
Get on Top of Your Debt
Stay on top of your student loans. If you’re struggling to repay them, don’t ignore the problem, contact the vendor before it becomes a problem. Often times you can get a deferral or negotiate a more favorable repayment schedule. What you can’t do is avoid repayment even if you file bankruptcy. Student loans can’t be dismissed in bankruptcy court; they’re forever or until you repay them so make them a priority.
Learn to Save
If your broke now you’ll be broke later until you learn how to budget and save. Smart grads learn to pay themselves first. This means that you put a percentage of your paycheck into a savings plan before you do anything else with it. If your work offers a retirement plan, enroll in it immediately. Often, employers will match your contributions up to a percentage of your income. If you save a dollar, they’ll match that dollar. This is a good deal; a very good deal!
Learn to Budget
Come up with a budget and learn to stick to it. Make it a competition to beat the budget and use your excess cash to invest in your future like retirement programs, eventual home ownership, a better car or your own business.
Use financial programs available online like Mint.com or Personal Capital to track and manage your finances. Start with the end in mind. By that I mean figure out how much you want left over from each paycheck to save and invest. If it’s 10% then deduct that amount first and then base your financial decisions on what to eat, what to buy, where to live, etc. on that balance. Never, Never, Never sacrifice your financial future for short term pleasure today.
Know the Score
Your credit score, that is. A good credit score is the key to the financial kingdom. With a good one you can not only qualify for a home mortgage, but an exceptional interest rate. This applies to any situation in which you might need to borrow money – for a car, a home, a business.
Use your credit cards wisely. Never carry a balance. Pay off your card every month. If you want to purchase an item on a credit card and you know you won’t be able to pay off the balance, put off your purchase until you can.
Rainy Days Come, Save for Them
Jobs are lost. Unexpected travel expenses pop-up. Lightening strikes, basement’s flood and car engines explode. Be prepared by setting an emergency fund as your first savings goal. Aim for a minimum of 6 months of expenses and set this money aside, separate from your other savings and investment accounts. This is the money that will save your bacon should the unexpected decide to pay a visit.
Again, congrats on a tremendous accomplishment. Now it’s time to reap your reward; a financially secure future. So what are you waiting for? Get to it!