Congrats on graduating from college! This is an exciting time for you and the beginning of a lifelong adventure. Many opportunities are waiting for you, but there are also responsibilities and worries that come with being a full-time adult. The heaviest of which is the financial burdens you carry as a recent graduate.
Student debt is no joke, with the average bachelor’s degree holder possessing nearly $30,000 in debt along with their diploma. Add your existing recurring bills into the mix, and that’s a large financial burden to take on all at once.
If you’re worried about your wallet now that the cap and gown are gone, you’ve come to the right place. The following five financial tips will help you work your way toward financial independence as a college graduate.
1. Build Up Your Credit
Not many kids are learning this in school, but your credit score is significant. Your credit score is a simple number that exemplifies how good you are with money. The higher the score you have, the more likely you are to qualify for low lending rates and loans. Creditors and banks will see you as a trustworthy individual who shows low risk.
You build up credit by making payments toward anything that gets reported to the major credit bureaus. While some bills qualify for this, more often you’ll see your credit score fluctuate based on credit card use and loan payments. Make payments on time, your score will go up; miss payments, your score will go down and you’ll incur a penalty.
As a recent graduate, you might not have any credit history at all. This can be easily fixed by applying for a credit builder card. These basic credit cards have lower entry requirements and will help get your credit history started on the right path.
2. Get a Grip on Debt
The most notorious aspect of college is the crippling debt that many often face upon graduation. Don’t let the big numbers weigh you down, or you’ll find it even harder to progress financially. Instead, create a plan to help you get a grip on debt, making it more manageable for the years to come.
There are a few student loan forgiveness plans but don’t bank on a bailout getting you out of debt. Instead, make a payment plan that will help you pay off your student loan debt as quickly as possible. Include student loan payments in your monthly budget.
You can also try to tighten certain aspects of your budget to make larger payments on your debt. Both tips will help cut down on the amount of interest you end up paying in the long run.
Of course, as you go about your journey to become debt-free, do your best to avoid taking on any additional debt. Credit card debt and payday loans are dangerous and will set you back even further. Some types of debt are worth incurring, though, such as a mortgage on a home. It’s likely that you can do just fine with that type of secured debt.
3. Start Thinking About Retirement
You’re young and still trying to find your place in the world, but it’s never too early to start thinking about retirement. You don’t have to pick a senior living center or start taking golf lessons just yet. What you should do is begin making investments for your retirement, which will compound over the next decades.
Financial advisor can help you save a lot of your time and money by just moving to the automation.
Look at opening a simple 401(k) or another retirement account as soon as possible. Finding a job that will help you contribute to a retirement account is even better. With every paycheck, add in some funds that can accumulate over the years. The earlier you start, the more time your money can collect interest and grow.
This Business Insider example illustrates the importance of planning for retirement early. Starting your retirement fund at 25 compared to 35 can double the amount of money you save by the time you retire!
4. Get a Side Gig
If you’re lucky, you’ll snag a job in your field of study shortly after graduating college. Unfortunately, not everyone has such a seamless transition from college to the professional world. Sometimes you have to take an unpaid internship or pursue a master’s degree to get where you want to go. Other times you have to take a low-paying job to get the experience needed for your ideal position.
When you’re stuck in this situation, it will be helpful to get a side gig to help you out. A side gig doesn’t have to take up too much time. It can also provide the supplemental income to survive an unpaid internship or pay off the additional professional courses.
A side gig can be anything from delivering UberEats to doing lawn care on the weekends. In a best-case scenario, your side gig can be something you love, like teaching music. It could also be something relevant to your career goals, which will give you even more experience.
5. Keep a Healthy Savings Balance
It might feel overwhelming to save money when you have to pay off debt, stay on top of bills, and invest. While difficult at first, keeping a healthy savings balance can save your skin if a disaster ever strikes.
Let’s say your car stops running or you find yourself in between jobs. How are you going to get by until you come up with a solution? With a savings account, you can stay afloat without taking on debt or missing payments while you work things out. Without the money you’ve put into savings, a bad situation can easily become worse.
So how much money should you put into savings? It will depend on whom you ask, but a general guideline is to keep a minimum of three months’ salary in an emergency fund. This will provide a sufficient cushion to soften a financial blow should you ever experience one.
As a recent college graduate, the world is your oyster. Make sure you are equipped to tackle every opportunity by staying on top of your finances. You’ll have one less thing to worry about as you pursue your wildest dreams.