Recent college graduates can make the transition into adulthood go a little smoother by learning about personal finance early in life.
By earning a degree, you started off life with an advantage. However, with that advantage comes responsibilities.
Each year, United States college graduates face a combined annual student loan debt nearing $2 trillion. As a new graduate, you'll likely accrue debt before you land your first job. However, you can handle it – with a little guidance.
Building a Solid Financial Foundation
Undoubtedly, you'll learn a lot in college. However, unless you took a course in personal finance, it's unlikely you'll know much about the topic.
Still, learning about personal finance is essential for new college graduates. The way that you manage money will influence the quality of your life greatly.
College students graduated with an average of $37,000 in student loan debt in 2016. A tiny percentage of students did manage to earn a degree without accumulating debt. For instance, the government provides loan forgiveness programs to encourage students to choose a handful of high-demand careers.
However, if you're like most grads, you'll need to figure out how you're going to repay your student loan. You can begin by figuring out the type of payment plan that works best for your current situation.
Federal lenders give you ten years to pay back your student loan. However, private lenders offer varying terms. Some lenders can base your payments on your current income.
The rate and terms of your loan will affect your payments. For example, you must understand whether the rate is variable or fixed.
Fixed-rate loan payments will remain the same. If you took out a variable rate loan, however, it helps to know that your payments may change.
The financial habits that you develop right after graduation typically shape how you will handle money during your lifetime. Resultantly, it's a good idea to start developing sound financial habits right away.
Avoid bad habits such as accumulating excessive credit card debt. Also, learn not to spend your entire weekly income. It's always a great idea to set aside money for emergencies.
You should build saving into your monthly budget. You can make saving more intuitive by setting up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account.
Also, it's advisable to grow your nest egg to cover three to six months or more in living expenses. That's a considerable amount of savings, but you don't have to do it all at once. In the beginning, try to build a small $1,000 nest egg, and then grow your savings over time.
Health Equals Wealth
Analysts forecast that global healthcare spending will reach $3 trillion by the year 2025. Sometimes, it can cost a lot to maintain your health. However, your health can affect your ability to earn a living, and your ability to earn will affect your ability to live.
If you managed to land a job right after college, your best option is to find out if you're eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance. If not, the Affordable Care Act allows your parents to keep you on their health insurance plan until you turn 26. Of course, this is something you'll need to discuss with your parents.
If parental health insurance isn't an option, try to secure health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace until you can find a job that provides healthcare coverage. Some recent college grads may even qualify for Medicaid sponsored coverage.
The Health Insurance Marketplace may seem expensive. Furthermore, many young, healthy adults believe they don't have to worry about their health.
However, you're taking a significant risk by going without health insurance. If you don't believe it, ask someone you know who's recently used hospital services if you can see a medical bill. The bill will show you how much it might cost you to pay for medical services out-of-pocket.
You'd be surprised at how much health services cost. Sometimes, treatment can reach tens of thousands of dollars – or more!
Planning Ahead – No, Further Ahead
Many new graduates worry about how they're going to pay off student loan debt. Intuitively, they devote everything they can to paying off that debt as soon as possible.
However, creditors consider student loan debt as good debt. There are ways that you can use this to your advantage. For example, you can write off up to $2,500 in student loan interest every year.
If the interest rates for your student loans are reasonable, you may want to divide your focus between saving for retirement and gradually paying off your student loan.
It's never too soon to start saving for retirement. The earlier you start, the better off you'll fare when you're ready to retire. An accountant can help you navigate the intricacies of tax deductions.
By investing for retirement while you're young, you can pursue a more aggressive strategy and save much more toward your retirement. You can also take advantage of additional tax breaks for contributing to your savings.
Unfortunately, debt is the norm for most new college graduates. However, with a calm demeanor and a good plan, you can develop financial habits that will help you maintain a desirable quality of life.