At a glance:
Hats off to you, Graduate! You’ve studied hard, completed your exams, and now you’ve got your diploma.
Now that you have your degree, you’ll likely enter the workforce or start graduate school. Or maybe you’ll take a different path. But no matter what you do, you should learn how to set yourself up for financial success. But how?
A good first step is to talk about money with someone you trust. Unfortunately, because the topic often makes us uncomfortable, we tend to avoid it. But the reality is, the sooner you educate yourself, the sooner you’ll be on the path to financial success. So where should you begin? Because so many recent college grads have student loan debt, planning how you’ll pay it back is a great place to start.
Having a plan for how you’ll pay back any loan is important, and student loans are no different. The sooner you pay them off, the less interest you’ll pay over time. One way to reduce the principal and the time you’ll spend paying off the loan is to pay more each month. Paying more on the principal now, means paying less overall. And if you have more than one loan, consider paying down the loans with the highest interest rates first to decrease the overall interest you’ll pay.
A budget is a great way to keep track of the money you earn and the money you spend. Making a plan for how you’ll save and spend your money based on your monthly income and expenses can help you live within your means. Create goals for how much you’ll spend on such expenses as rent, food, entertainment, clothing, and transportation—then try to stick to them. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time—you may need to make adjustments as you figure out what works best for you. And since saving and investing are essential to your financial well-being, your budget should include both.
Although retirement may seem light years away right now, it’s never too early to start planning for it.
Be sure to participate in your employer’s retirement plan if one is offered. If you don’t have a retirement plan benefit, you still have options, such as a traditional or Roth IRA. Save, or work toward saving, 12–15% of your gross (pre-tax) annual income, including any employer contributions (which means they’ll match a certain percentage of the money you invest—it’s like free money!). It’s also important to save for emergencies like an unexpected car repair or medical bill. You’ll want to have your emergency fund in an easily accessible account such as a taxable account or Roth IRA.
Congratulations on making it to this next step in setting yourself up for success. Establishing healthy financial habits may feel overwhelming at first, but it’s worth it in the long run. Your future self will thank you!
All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest.