Mistakes are unavoidable, but you should be especially careful when it comes to your finances. As you prepare to graduate college, you also prepare for the “real world.” You’ve spent the last four years obtaining as much knowledge as possible in your field, applying for jobs, and writing your resume. Graduates beware, student loans are the second-highest form of personal debt. And with college debts increasing, it is more important than ever to have a smart financial strategy in place. A solid plan will help you avoid as many mistakes as possible.
By taking a step ahead of your peers in choosing wise investments, you can create healthy habits. This not only improves your personal finances for years to come but also avoid future debt issues.
Financial Mistakes to Avoid after Graduation
Financial mistakes can be easy to make, but there are ways you can avoid them.
Mistake #1: Having no credit.
Everyone talks about saving money, and we are no different. Unfortunately, all this talk about savings has college graduates a little hesitant to take out loans or credit cards. This is due to the fear of creating an overwhelming debt they can’t repay. Plus, not to mention, college already creates heavy financial obligations. Furthermore, it is increasingly harder for those under 21 to sign up for a credit card with no existing income. So, what’s a newbie to do? Build your credit history slowly and regularly by opening accounts and using your own credit cards. Making consistent payments by or before the due dates establishes a good credit history.
Why this is important: When you want to make big, future purchases, like a house, you will have a hard time being approved for a loan. Lenders may require a co-signer or collateral if you have no credit. When I was still in college, I bought my first car with cash I had saved from my summer job. Not long after graduating, I needed to purchase a new vehicle. This proved to be a challenge due to my lack of credit. Over the years, I have been able to develop a favorable credit score by paying off a credit card and the loan for my vehicle. Had I started to build credit sooner, I wouldn’t have struggled so much to get the car I needed.
Mistake #2: Not having a plan.
Having a limited or non-existent financial plan is one of the biggest mistakes recent college grads make. As a poor college student, you are lucky if you have two pennies to rub together as you battle the choice of groceries or rent. When you land that first job out of school though, it can be easy to fall into poor spending patterns very quickly. To avoid this, cut back on unnecessary expenses like going out to eat. Spend more time enhancing your cooking skills and spreading out your personal purchases. Instead of buying everything for your new apartment at once, budget your expenses over time. Additionally, focus on always paying bills first at the beginning of every month. Then, you know how much is still available in your accounts to last the rest of the month.
Why this is important: Money adds up quickly. So, developing these positive habits sooner can save you not only hundreds but possibly thousands per year.
Mistake #3: Waiting to save and worrying about finances later.
Consider consulting with or finding a financial mentor to help you along this new journey. Waiting to save or pay off student loan debt can cause major inconveniences in your future. Knowing where to invest savings is also tricky, but a certified financial specialist can help you. Try the Digit.co app to automatically save up and pay debts and also try to contact friends from college with a finance degree who may be willing to provide some advice at no charge as they begin their careers.
Why this is important: The sooner you start paying down those student loan bills, the better your overall financial situation. If you were to plug your debt numbers into this student loan calculator tool, you may be appalled at the time frame it will take you to pay it all off. The minimum monthly payments barely cover the interest. Plus, creating a savings account and emergency fund will keep you out of sticky financial situations.
Mistake #4: Not investing early.
Time is the greatest benefit you can give yourself when it comes to investing. Even if you are only contributing a few hundred dollars each year, compounding interest rapidly grows your investments over time. Instead of blowing any extra cash you receive, put it away to help provide some financial security for the future. Try the Robinhood app for this, this is the best app for beginner investors like you.
Why this is important: You are only working against yourself the longer you wait to start investing and planning for retirement. Even with minimal contributions, you can create a significant amount of money the earlier you begin. With a little forethought, you can provide a security net and a nice retirement fund.
By thinking about your future now, you can avoid these common financial mistakes recent college grads make. At the same time, you are also building yourself a nice, comfortable financial safety net.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.