Congratulations to all recent college graduates! It’s time to jump into the next stage of life. One of the best gifts a graduate can receive is some good financial advice to get him or her started on the right track.
Repaying student loans
According to the College Board’s Trends in Student Aid 2010 study, almost all students who earn four-year degrees from for-profit institutions graduate with debt. Most federal loans offer grace periods before repayment must begin, but many private loans do not. If a graduate anticipates repayment difficulties, he or she should contact the lender immediately to take advantage of possible consolidation options or to work out an agreement to defer payments.
Set up a budget
Now is the time to put a realistic budget in place. It should include:
- Creating an emergency fund. In these challenging economic times, the often-recommended three-month safety net may not be enough; a six-month safety net is more appropriate. A nice emergency fund can bridge the gap between unexpected job loss and a new position, as well as pay for those unanticipated car repairs or even moving expenses.
- Building a nest egg. Although it may seem impossible to squeeze retirement savings out of a new graduate’s budget, the message is simple: start saving soon. One easy way is to contribute to an employer-sponsored 401(k), especially if there is a company match.
- Making sure that social activities don’t break the bank. Social life cannot be eliminated entirely in an effort to save money, but it’s not a good idea to spend lots of extra cash on happy hours, dining out, or concerts. We recommend finding a budget-friendly, happy medium.
Cleaning up the digital footprint
Every graduate should google him- or herself. New graduates can avoid conveying a poor image on social websites like Facebook by untagging or deleting compromising photos and managing privacy settings. On the other hand, graduates should look into promoting a good image online by registering on sites that are geared to professional networking, like LinkedIn and Google Profiles.
Keeping credit in good shape
The best advice is to keep credit under control by making payments on time and paying more than the minimum, if possible. Graduates should also check their credit once a year at each of the three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Transunion, and Experian—to ensure that they haven’t fallen victim to identity theft. Start by visitingwww.annualcreditreport.com.
Develop a plan, but be flexible
Tell your grad to dream big when building a life plan but to expect obstacles from time to time. It is important to be flexible along the way—we never know what may be around the corner!