Congratulations are in order! You’ve completed college and (hopefully) you’re about to have more money on your hands than you’ve seen before in your entire life. We spent 12+ years learning how to earn money, but little to no time learning how to manage our personal finances.
While the great philosophers Biggy Smalls, Puff Daddy and Mase subscribed to the theory “Mo Money, Mo Problems”, there are some things you can do now to get ready for your new financial life.
GRAB A GOOD BOOK
Blogs won’t give you everything you need to craft your personal money map. The Richest Man In Babylon by George Clason is an old, but a good book that teaches personal finance lessons through stories. This is easily one of my favorite books of all time and helped me get on track when I was trying to figure out how to get a handle on my money after several financial mistakes. If you’re looking for something more modern, you can pick up Ramit Sethi’s New York Times bestseller I Will Teach You To Be Rich spin on handling your money in your 20’s and 30’s.
CREATE AN EMERGENCY FUND
Nothing like a high dollar car repair or unexpected bill to hitting you in the face and welcoming you to the new world of “Adulting”. To stay away from the rude awakening, save up an emergency fund that you can use for real emergency purchases. This isn’t the place to look when Beyonce drops a new tour or there’s a flight deal to Abu Dhabi that can’t wait. No no. This is the fund that gives you peace of mind when something unexpected happens that needs immediate financial attention. There are tons of articles that tell you to save 6-12 months of your monthly expenses or salary for emergencies and honestly, that might be as hard as graduating on time.
I’m telling you to save $2,000. That’s how much the average American spends on emergencies. Use direct deposit or smartypig.com to add money to an account that you can easily access (for emergencies only, of course).
SET UP YOUR RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS
You’ve graduated and now you’re about to start working your first job. Make sure you start your retirement account ASAP with your new employer. The faster you begin your retirement account, the quicker you’ll be vested just in case you decide you want to move to another company in a couple of years. Don’t know what to ask before taking the job? Check out last month’s blog post about important retirement investing questions that need answers here
WHAT’S YOUR (DEBT) NUMBER?
If you made it through your college career without picking up any student loan debt, you’re one of the few. In 2012, 71% of college students graduated with student loan debt. 2016 graduates are hauling an average of $37,172 in student loans, the biggest number yet. Now that you’re a graduate, your first payment for your student loans are expected in 6 months or less (if you’re not heading to graduate school and deferring them until your next accomplishment).
Make a note of your federal and private loans amounts, monthly payment, interest rate and the creditor. That last piece of information is important. There are federal programs for teachers, government workers, and non-profit employees that reward you with loan forgiveness under certain terms. Whether you qualify to have your loans forgiven or deferred, it’s powerful to see your debt number and make a plan to get to $0. Add your email to the Know Money Team listserv to get your free debt tracker.
Two things that are different in the working world: drink prices and food expenses. Odds are prices from your new happy hour destination will be an increase from your favorite college bar and you’re not going to have much control over that. Food costs, on the other hand, can be held in check with a new trend of preparing your meals for the week. It should go without saying, but you should add some cooking skills to your repertoire if you’re lacking in that area. Professor Google and YouTube will be happy to facilitate some recipes and tutorial videos that can help you build your skills.
Plan your shopping list with recipes and note the coupons, sales, and ads from your favorite grocery store. Wanna save even more on fresh fruits and vegetables? Local farms and farmer markets have CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) services that you pay for weekly, monthly or quarterly. I’ve dropped my budget for fruits and vegetables to as low as $20/month using these in my city. Cook multiple meals at one time and grab some containers from Amazon for packaging for the week.
BONUS: STAY IN TOUCH WITH YOUR COLLEGE PROFESSORS AND CLASSMATES
This is to help you land your dream job and income down the road. Spend some time updating your LinkedIn profile and start connecting with classmates.
Have some tips for recent grads and young adults that we should add to our list? Drop them below.