Life is full of lots of decisions. And that becomes hugely apparent once you graduate from college.
Should you buy a used car or a new set of wheels? Can you put off paying your student loans? Does it make more sense to move back home or get an apartment?
College doesn’t fully prepare you for the financial decisions you have to make, now and in the future. But that doesn’t mean you have to figure out things on your own. Here are some tips to get you headed in the right direction.
- Don’t fear the “B” word – Budget. A budget can be one of the best financial friends you’ll ever have. But you need to embrace it and use it. It just makes financial sense to know how much you’re earning weekly or monthly, and how much money you need to cover your bills and other expenses.
- Postpone making any major financial commitments until you have a job. And even then, wait a while so you can get a clearer picture of what you can afford. It may mean holding off on buying a new car or furnishing a new apartment. But it’s better not to rush into making those big-ticket purchases.
- Start saving right away. Whether it’s for a rainy day fund or for a major purchase (see the tip above), having money set aside can help you maintain firm financial footing, not to mention give you peace of mind. And it’s never too soon to put money toward retirement, especially if the company you work for has a matching funds retirement program. Even if you can only afford $25 a week, that can build up over the course of a year. And you can always boost the amount as your salary increases. There are many handy online calculators available that can help you determine the right amount to squirrel away each month in order to reach your savings goals.
- Remember to get health insurance if you’re not covered by your parents’ insurance policy. Many companies have plans available to their employees that are either fully paid or subsidized. And if you’re not yet employed, at least check into getting modestly priced coverage. The alternative – no coverage – could end up being very costly if you have an illness or accident, and it could also cost you big bucks in penalty fees come tax time.
- Take advantage of work-related benefits. These vary from employer to employer. But it pays to know what’s available. Benefits could range from free access to health clubs to company-paid life insurance. Know what’s out there and see if it’s something you want.
- If you can’t find a job that’s an exact fit for what you studied, it’s not unusual. Many college grads finish school and end up taking jobs that aren’t even in their field. But if you hold out for that “perfect match,” you may be waiting longer than you can afford to. The same goes for passing up a job that doesn’t pay as much as you want. In either case, you may need to compromise, particularly if you have student loans and other bills that need to be paid. Look at your first job as a stepping stone to bigger and better opportunities down the road.