Equipped with your shiny new degree and resume in hand – you’ve landed your first job, perhaps a new apartment, and are well on your way to making a dent in the working world. However, with more money comes more responsibility, so we’ve provided some food for thought when it comes to being financially smart.
Make a budget
Understand your living expenses, and be realistic about where you stand on income and expected debt payments. Try to resist the temptation to ratchet up your lifestyle simply because a new job has increased your cash flow. Continue to live like a student as long as you can, and put aside the excess funds to pay off loans, contribute to your emergency fund or put into your 401K. Explore OnPoint’s financial education online resources for tips and tools to help you manage your money.
Whether it’s through independent investments or 401K (or both), you can’t afford to put this off. Setting aside small amounts each paycheck now will help you avoid having to put aside larger amounts closer to retirement. If your employer does a 401K match, take full advantage and set aside at least that amount. The contributions will come out of your paycheck pre-tax before you even knew they were there and help you to start building a retirement fund. Choose a risk level based on your number of years before retirement.
Set up an emergency fund
Always be prepared for the unexpected, such as a layoff, job transition, or a costly medical, housing or automobile expense. Start by putting one month’s worth of expenses aside and work to build up to 12 months. While we hope to never have to use this, you will appreciate it if and when life throws you a curveball.
Pay attention to your credit score
Your credit score will be your best friend when it comes to qualifying for apartments, getting lower rates on auto loans or a mortgage, and could even be a consideration by employers when being vetted for a job. Pay your bills on time – missing just a payment or two can send a big hit to your credit score. Also remember, you need to start building your score. Not all debt is bad debt. If you have a credit card, consider using it for your daily expenses with enough set aside to pay it back at the end of each month. If you have roommates, put some of the utility bills in your name and pay them off on time.
So whether you have recently graduated or are just looking for ways to be more financially smart, spend some time looking at your finances and planning ahead. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor.