Time is money—literally. For a recent graduate, time might also seem like an abundant resource, with many thinking they have plenty of time to save for their future – later. The traps of bad credit and debt snare many unsuspecting young adults and cling to their financial history for years. Here are some financial tips to help those starting out in their independent adult lives whether graduating from high school or college:
•Set goals for yourself. Goals help keep you focused and help you decide where you really want to go. Financial goals are an important part of planning for your future.
•Create an emergency fund. You never know what life is going to throw at you; so always try to be prepared. Before you begin investing, work to set aside about 3 months living expenses (including car payments, bills, entertainment, etc…) to help prevent a crisis situation should you lose your job or suffer some unexpected health issue that affects your ability to work.
•Set up an automatic payroll deposit into an investment or savings account. Get used to living on a percentage of what you actually take home – and put the rest into an investment account or a savings account. This works in your favor because it removes the temptation to spend the money and helps you develop good saving habits. This is what they mean when you hear “pay yourself first”.
•Protect yourself from risk. It is critical to make sure you have at least catastrophic medical insurance coverage no matter how healthy you believe you are. Review your situation to determine what other areas could be financially devastating without insurance protection and seek coverage.
•Use credit wisely. The credit record you establish now will either help you or haunt you for years. Bad credit will cost you tremendously over time by forcing you to pay higher interest for car loans and credit cards; potentially disqualifying you from buying a home, and by potentially impacting your ability to obtain funding if you decide to go into business for yourself at some point. If you have student loans, make sure you are making payments on them as required. Pull your credit report and then monitor it at least annually. Live within your means. Don’t spend money you don’t have, and learn to separate your true needs from your wants and desires. Put your attention toward meeting your needs and responsibilities first.
•Carefully weigh the decision to use student loans - If starting college and considering going to a more expensive college than you can afford with the help of student loans, carefully consider the longer-term impact of that debt versus being able to graduate from college debt-free by attending a less expensive college, at least for your first two years/core classes. Is it really worth having to pay chunks of your income toward student loans every month for many years after you graduate or can you find another way to afford college?
•Max out your company’s 401K. If your employer offers a matching money benefit, make sure you contribute enough to earn the full match – as this is free money. If you are working for a company that does not offer a 401(k), ask them why. We can help a small business establish a plan for their employees. If you are in a 401(k) plan, make sure you have selected diversified funds within the account – don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
•Learn the power of growth. Even a relatively small amount of money can grow into an impressive figure given enough time. With 40+ years before retirement on your side, you have time to grow your assets through compounding and investment earnings potentially achieved through growth-oriented equity investments. If your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k) plan, consult a professional about setting up an IRA, Roth IRA or other type of investment account and start investing now for growth over time.
•If you are ready to settle down, and have a stable income or expect continued income growth, consider buying instead of renting. Housing prices and interest rates are both low, making now a good time for many to become home owners. Make sure you are ready to take on this long-term commitment, and the responsibility for the expense of caring for and maintaining your home inside and out. If you are truly ready, then home ownership also may provide you with additional mortgage interest tax deductions and the opportunity to build equity in real estate.
•Put “surprise” cash into savings. If you come into extra money – a company bonus, a holiday gift from a relative, all that graduation money that will be rolling in, etc --always try to set aside at least a portion of that cash for your future. If you are looking to get started with a long-term investment plan, we can help.
Contact our office at 770.931.1414 to schedule a free consultation appointment to review your situation in person or visit our website at www.rogersgreen.com
Roger S. Green is a Registered Representative of Cetera Advisors LLC, member FINRA/SIPC, with his office located at 3700 Crestwood Parkway, Suite 140, Duluth, GA 30096. Hear more “Your Green” on the radio, Saturdays at 10AM, on 970 AM or live at www.faithtalk970.com.