As a college student or recent grad, you need strong financial advice. Some of the decisions you make when you first enter the professional world will continue to impact you for years to come, so it’s important to be as informed as possible before making any potentially life-altering mistakes. Be proactive about getting your financial house in order with these four essential money tips all college students and recent grads should live by:
- Establish your credit in a smart way. Now is the time to build a strong credit history, as it will be one of your most important assets in the future. You need to establish credit early so lenders will find you appealing when it comes time to get a mortgage, take out a car loan, or refinance your student debt. To get started, open up a couple of credit cards, use them conservatively, and pay them off in full and on time each month. From there, monitor your credit profile regularly for any suspicious or fraudulent activity.
- Live below your means. When you’re fresh out of college and finally earning real money at your first job, it can be tempting to increase your spending – going on trips, dining out regularly, and shopping. However, you’ll be in a much stronger position in the long run if you stick with a frugal lifestyle. Set a budget that allows for ample savings and stick to it. Even when you get a raise, continue to spend the same amount of money each month on groceries, entertainment, and rent. Invest the extra money in your financial future by contributing to your 401(k) plan, paying off your student loans, or saving for a down payment.
- Save money automatically. Whether it’s through a payroll deduction or automatic deposit, set up your finances so that you don’t even have to think about saving money each month – it just happens for you. Even if it’s only a hundred dollars a paycheck, get into the habit of saving money regularly and continue to increase the amount as your income grows.
- Get serious about your student debt. Debt can hang over your head for decades if you let it, and that can prevent you from leading the life you want. For example, you may be hesitant to take time off to travel, accept a dream job with a lower salary, or explore a new career if you know that you’re burdened with high debt payments. Avoid this by paying down your student loans on time and as fast as you can. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, look into refinancing to achieve a better interest rate and a lower monthly payment. Now that you’ve graduated, you’re a much less risky person to lend to, so lenders will be more than happy to offer you a new loan in the same amount as your student debt, but at a much lower interest rate so you pay less each month and over the life of your loans.
NSCS Members can apply for a private student loan with a not-for-profit lender on LendKey in a matter of minutes at www.LKstudent.com/nscs-loan (LendKey donates to NSCS scholarships for each loan from a NSCS Member)
LendKey will throw in a $200 bonus just for NSCS Alumni who refinance their student loans (for free!) by visiting www.LKrefi.com/nscs-refi