Graduation is a thrilling and terrifying time for high school and college graduates alike.
Even with four significant years separating those monumental moments, five basic pieces of financial wisdom hold true for both sets of graduates.
Financial advice for recent graduates:
1. Learn how to budget
Budgeting 101 isn’t a common course in college, but it probably should be.
Fortunately, the basics of budgeting are quite simple (even if you’re a liberal arts major who intensely hates all things numbers).
Spend less than you earn. Tweet this
The way to do this is to always understand how much money you have coming in and how much is going out.
Set aside 10 minutes to write down your monthly income and subtract your fixed expenses (car payments, student loan bills, rent) and the remainder is the money you have to spend each month.
2. Get in the habit of saving
Plenty of college students and graduates shake their heads in disbelief when someone advises them to start saving. “What, with all that student loan debt and first jobs (or college jobs) notoriously coming with small salaries?”
But it’s still important to practice the habit of tucking aside money each paycheck.
Even if you can only afford to put away $5 a paycheck, the habit will serve you well in the years to come.
Just be sure to increase how much you’re saving as the salary increases. And don’t walk away from an employer-matched retirement fund.
At least contribute up to the amount your employer matches in order to get the free money.
3. Minimize your debt
High school graduates have the four years of college to avoid credit card debt and attempt to minimize student loans.
Graduating with the least amount of debt possible will give you the flexibility to take larger risks in your career because you won’t be as desperate to just start earning money to pay down bills.
College graduates facing the impending weight of student loans need to evaluate all their repayment options.
Be diligent about finding all your loans before the six months grace period is up. Look into income-based repayment programs for Federal loans and various refinance options on private loans.
Those high interest rates can be killer and any credit card debt you amassed in college should be a top priority to eliminate in the months after graduation.
4. Handle credit cards with care
Both sets of graduates need to be diligent about using credit cards.
Credit cards can be a beneficial resource for building your credit score, but can be dangerous when it comes to creating debt.
Use your budget to ensure you don’t overspend on your credit card. Then pay it off on time and in full each month.
Never stick with paying the minimum balance. You don’t need to be paying interest to the bank by getting into a debt cycle.
5. Build a strong credit history and credit score
Your credit history is a lot like a college transcript; it will follow you forever and impact your future. Tweet this
You’ll be eligible for the best financial products by building a healthy credit history and strong credit score.
Plus, certain employers pull a credit report during the hiring process and most landlords (reputable ones at least) will run a credit check on you before renting you an apartment.
Handling credit cards wisely is one of the easiest ways to build a strong credit score. Tweet this
Student loans will also contribute to a credit score, but you won’t be building your score until you begin making payments on your loans.
Take the time to study up
There are lots of ways to learn about finances: books, websites, blogs, podcasts, TV shows. Find which one appeals to you and focus on studying up.
Don’t let money be a stressful factor in your life. Entering and leaving college can be stressful enough.
By taking the time to learn the financial basics, you’ll eliminate a lot of anxiety swirling around managing your money.