Final exams? Late night study sessions? College degree? Check, check and CHECK. Easy, right?

Congratulations! The real work begins now: fortifying yourself financially to pursue the next big goals in life, whether they be to buy a house, start a family, or travel more and see the world! Now that you’re working for a living (or seeking a new job) here are some actions to do right now that will help you manage your money.
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Student Loans

If you borrowed Federal Student Loans, welcome to the much-talked-about repayment phase. To find out just how much student loan debt you have in your name, and to find out what company is servicing those loans (who you make the check to), visit NSLDS.ed.gov and login with your FSA ID.  You can also utilize StudentLoans.gov to look into different repayment options. For a refresher on student loans, check out this blog. Remember, paying off your loans on-time or early can be a positive thing on your credit history; late or missed payments (or default status!) will have an adverse effect on your credit.

Credit

A strong, positive credit score and history can be major assets to you on the next couple of phases in your life. Yes, things like buying a house, a car, starting a family or a business, can all be positively impacted by your credit. Likewise, a negative or low credit score can limit your future decisions. This is important stuff! Stay on top of things such as:

  • income-to-debt ratio (how much do you make vs how much debt do you owe?)
  • available credit (not what you’ve already charged on a credit card, but rather how much of an available credit line do you still have?)
  • length of time you’ve had a particular account open

If you’ve never checked your credit score, many banking or lending institutions can help you access your score for free, or look into a resource like annualcreditreport.com . For more information on understanding credit, here is a fantastic blog that explains how to interpret your credit.

Budget

A wealthy person once said to me, “The key is to live as if you were still a college student.” Sure, college students don’t often eat lavish dinners (microwaved ramen anyone?) or have the world’s nicest sofa (put a book under the missing leg!), but therein lies the key: budget your money and be frugal with things you can afford to be frugal with.  Keep track of where your money ends up. There are a lot of apps that help you track spending habits; my personal favorite is Mint. It’s amazing how those $8 burritos can really add up quickly, and how a simple meal-prep can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a single month. Develop a budget that works for you, and stay disciplined.  However, do afford yourself the luxury of spending your money on things that will improve your life, such as quality healthy foods and a gym membership.

Saving, Investing, and Retirement, Oh my!

Yes, the stories are true: you can make your money work for you. This can be a hard concept to believe in, especially if money is currently tight or if you’ve never really had much money growing up. However, you can and should make the conscious decision to set aside money for the future. Begin educating yourself on these topics and incorporate them into your life, there is a wealth of knowledge out there; local classes, local libraries, free resources from your bank, and of course, the internet. One additional note on retirement: The earlier you get started, the greater the benefits you will one day reap (research the term “Compound Interest”, thank me later).

Family Planning

Many of life’s most memorable events will often have a price tag associated with them: Your engagement/wedding/honeymoon, the birth of a child/children, and said child’s own college education (Check out the NEST 529 Plan to learn more about a College Savings Plan). If any of these life events are on your radar, create a special savings plan to help cover these expenses. Too many people opt to “wing it”, and pay the price for their lack of planning through debt.

Travel

You want to travel. You need to travel. To do that, however, you need to be solid financially. Think about the impact of putting a vacation on your credit card, or taking out a loan to go on a trip. Set aside a special savings account or plan to fund your many excursions. Use one of the many apps like Acorns to help you fund your goals while barely noticing that you’re saving.
There you have it, folks. A few things to think about as you embark on the start of your professional career. Be wise with your money, and it will treat you well.

What other suggestions or strategies do you recommend? Comment below!