It’s college graduation time! Hooray – you’ve graduated, and now life begins.
That means, you’re about to enter an exciting phase of your life – perhaps a new home, new career or even a new city. But are you ready? What better way to start out in the real world than without having to stress over your finances? It’s easy to think there is plenty of time to worry about saving later, especially once you’re earning a consistent income. However, it’s important to evaluate your expenses and create a solid savings plan before you start spending.
Many college graduates face a huge financial burden upon receiving that college diploma: hefty student loan debt. Forbes reports that approximately 70% of students graduating from colleges and universities are graduating with some amount of debt, raising the current national student loan debt to $1.2 trillion. I’ll admit I am one of the contributors, so I know how overwhelmed many of you feel. If you too are one of those students that have debt from student loans, or even if you aren’t, consider these tips to start saving for your long-term security.
Here are a few essential tips that I have found helpful to get started off on the right foot:
Confirm your student loan debt and establish the best repayment plan for your circumstances
Over the course of one’s college education, loans can come from a variety of sources. Knowing who and what you owe is critical to paying them back on time. Once you review what you owe, think about how you’ll begin paying it all back. There are various repayment options available to you. In order to find the various repayment plan methods, complete Exit Counseling upon completion of graduation.
Establish a monthly budget and stick to it
Before you can create a budget and stick to it, you’ve got to know what you owe, what you have, and what you will start to bring in and save. Remember real-world expenses differ vastly from those that dorm and college apartment students are used to. Become aware of how much money is coming in and going out, as well as what is left over. Besides rent, you’ll pay utilities including electricity, water, cell phone, car insurance, groceries, gas, internet and you might want extras such as cable. Oh, and don’t forget your student loans. After penciling out all of your essential living expenses, you will know how much is left over for emergencies or savings. For me, I save my money by avoiding eating out or spending frivolously on unnecessary things. Saving those extra dollars provides reassurance that you have money to fall back on during an unexpected life occurrence and for the future. There are many reasons for an emergency fund: job loss, major health or dental expense, car or home repair – just to name a few. If starting a savings fund feels overwhelming, start small. Setting aside a few dollars a week and keeping a change jar will help build up a reserve over time.
Start funding a retirement plan NOW by taking advantage of your employer 401(k) plans and investing
When it comes to retirement planning, it’s never too early to start saving. It’s easy for young adults who are just kick-starting their careers to not be concerned with retirement because it’s in the distant future. Wrong! Start saving now. Chances are your employer offers a 401(k) or similar retirement plan. Your contributions, deducted from your paycheck automatically, are tax-deductible and your money grows tax-deferred until you take it out, ideally once you’ve retired. Don’t let, “I don’t make enough money” or “I have too many expenses and too much debt” be excuses for starting your retirement fund.
Developing good financial habits
Bottom line? Always spend less than what you make. Remember, you can choose to develop the habits of either a saver or a debtor. The path you choose can be the most important money decision you make for yourself. As an OnPoint member, you have access to expert financial advice through a free program called GreenPath – a financial counseling service you can call at 888.456.2227 or visit online at www.greenpath.com/onpointcu. For more information on money savings tips for recent graduates check out the guides and worksheets found on the GreenPath website. GreenPath offers services such as money management, credit report review, debt management, homebuyer education, and a variety of financial education tools.