Money Smarts Blog

3 Lessons for New Grads

Jun 28, 2013 ||

Congratulations, you’re finally done eating Ramen for dinner every night—well, that is having to eat it every night. Who doesn’t enjoy a bowl full of noodles once in a while?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You’re only almost there. I know, for the last few weeks and months, you’ve been focused on graduation. Just trying to get through, and making sure not to tank your grades or get too distracted. The finish line was right in front of you.

Unfortunately, someone switched the sign. What you thought was the finish line was just the start.

Don’t worry; you don’t have to prep for any mid-terms or finals. Just everyday lessons which will help you enjoy that big paycheck you’ve worked so hard for.

Lesson 1: Keep on learning

You don’t have to go back to school. Remember, we’re trying to avoid mid-terms. It can be as easy as asking a colleague a little bit more about how they do their job. The same goes for your parents. They’d love to talk to you about what they do.

Is grad school in your plans? Did you know that certain employers will pay for some or all of your advance degree expenses? So, instead of going straight to grad school, think about joining the work force. You can gain valuable experience, and if you’re lucky, your employer will pay for your next degree.

Grad school isn’t your only option. Check into classes offered at community colleges and technical schools. You may be able to learn the skills you need without the hefty price tag.

The more you know the more valuable you’ll be to your employer and to your community.

Lesson 2: Draw a budget.

Now, it’s not that bad. Budgeting isn’t about telling yourself what you can’t have, it’s about figuring out what’s important to you and using your money for that. It’s a way to help you get from one place to another – think of it as GPS for your money. What happens if you get off track? Try recalculating. Take a look at where you are, and figure out how to get back to where you want to be.

Let’s talk money. You probably have a few loans you’re going to have to start paying back in a few months. Keep that in mind when you’re picking out your new car and furnishing your place. You may not want to throw out that futon too quickly.

If you’re not careful, credit cards and buy now-pay later options can be more trouble than they’re worth. The longer it takes to pay, the more it’s going to cost you. It’s easy to forget how much you’re spending and how deep you’ve gotten before it’s too late.

There are plenty of ways to makes this easier—mobile banking, text alerts, apps and even a simple spreadsheet can let you track your spending so you can make changes to get on track.

No matter how you want to reach your financial goals, having a map in hand is going to make the trip all the better. You choose: the highway or back roads.

Lesson 3: Numbers matter.

What was one of the most important numbers you thought about in college? 21? The number you want to work toward now is a bit higher… well, a lot higher actually. It’s bigger and it’ll impact you more than turning 21.

I’m talking about your credit score. I’m sure you know it impacts how much you’ll pay for a new car or a house, but that’s not all. If you don’t maintain a good credit score, you’re going to spend more on insurance, cable bills, and cell phone activations. And that’s just the beginning.

As long as you’re paying your bills on time, not maxing out your credit cards, and using the budget you’ve mapped out, getting—and keeping a good credit score should be pretty easy.

Age may be just a number, but your credit score tells an entire story. Make sure it tells the story you want it to tell.

Today may feel like the end, and in a way it is. But it’s the start of so much more.

In the words of the great philosopher… Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.— Oh, yeah.”

This speech was written as part of our submission to NerdWallet's Gen Y Credit Union Contest.

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