I just graduated college with my Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting (9/15/16). It took me exactly 1,837 days since my first day of classes as a freshman to earn my degree. For me, a lot of great things happened while I was in college. I found the love of my love (in the school elevator of all places!) and we now have a 10 month old little girl. I was lucky to find a good job that helped provide for my little family and helped me pay cash for school. Because of that job, I graduated debt free. Here are the 5 Financial Adjustments to Succeed in Life After College.
I recognize that not everyone gets married, has a child, or is able to pay cash for school. In fact, I know that I am the exception! Regardless, you and I probably do have things in common…like the fact that most of us are poor, wanting to land the perfect job, and wanting the future to go off without a hitch. Know that I am right there with you!
I want to suggest five ways to adjust to life after college so that you can succeed financially and ultimately start your life after college in the right way.
1. Get a Job.
I know it goes without saying, but to financially succeed, you must first GET A JOB! You may or may not be able to land the perfect job the minute you step foot off campus. If you did get the perfect job, then move on to Adjustment #2. For those of you that haven’t started looking or weren’t lucky enough to get the perfect job (I didn’t), then know that you aren’t alone.
It’s important to keep the following things in mind:
1. When in doubt, get a job… anywhere. You probably have debts, you don’t have much in your savings account and the reality is that you need to survive. If you can’t get a job that you want…take whatever you can find. Get some money coming in and you’ll be able to breath a little easier.
2. If you can, keep it within the field you want to go into. If you have an entry level opportunity within the field of your perfect dream job, take it! Get some experience and it will help you have a better resume that can ultimately land you the job you want.
Once you are out in the real world, you will want to have the comfort of constant income coming in to help you survive. Get a job and keep it.
2. Start Budgeting & Saving Money
If you haven’t been living on a budget while you were in school, then you need to start fresh and get on board with a budget TODAY! Budgets are extremely useful and a must-have if you want to start your financial life off right.
Keep living a college lifestyle; live within your means. Be careful of what you spend your money on so that you can have extra funds at the end of the month to bust through your debt. Learn to be smart with your money and when to say no. Build a savings plan, in addition to your budget, so that you can start saving for the emergencies of the future.
Creating a budget and savings plan will be your tool to enhance your life and get your financial life off on the right path.
3. Consider Consolidating Student Loans
I was lucky to have graduated without student loan debt, but I know that I’m the exception. Most of you will have some amount of student loans. That’s quite alright! You took out those loans to help fund your education and make your future a bit more bright. Now you just need to make sure that you pay the debt off.
Before you start paying back your loans, consider consolidating them. Experts from Equifax wrote an answer on their blog to the question, “Will consolidating student loan debt hurt my credit score?” The answer to this question was that “yes your credit score could take a small hit-at first” (Equifax Blog, December 23, 2013)
In their blog article, they mentioned that there are many benefits from consolidating, even though you may take a credit hit at first. Those benefits were namely:
1. Consolidating means one payment per month, not one for each loan. This makes the payment process less of a hassle.
2. The new finance company may have better repayment periods, which lowers your monthly payments…
3….and lower monthly payments will make it easier to pay on time (and paying on time will boost your credit over the long-haul).
The information from the Equifax blog is definitely helpful. Check it out if you have more questions on this topic. Before you start repaying your loans back, make sure to look into this option!
4. Start Building Your Credit
Regardless of your decision to consolidate student loans or not, you need to start building your credit history. There will come a time in the near future, where you will want to buy your first house, or get a personal loan to start a company, etc. You need credit for those things. No matter where you are on the credit ladder today, you can start NOW to build better credit.
You will thank yourself down the road for starting to build your credit years before you really need it. There are great ways to start building your credit. Here are five things to consider:
1. Apply for a secured credit card – This is a card that you backup with your own cash. If you have a little credit already, just move on to applying for a regular credit card.
2. Apply for a retailer credit card – Go to Macy’s or Sears, or another retailer and open an account. They don’t carry as much weight on the credit report, but it will help.
3. Apply for a credit card – Credit cards such as Capital One, American Express, and Discover, contribute to a higher score on your credit report than retail credit cards.
4. Go finance a small purchase of $1,000 or less – For example, you can finance an appliance or bed and pay it off in a few months (use a co-signer if you need to).
5. Use rent-reporting services – Companies like Rental Kharma and RentTrack can use your rent bills to help boost your credit.
6. Open a checking and savings account – This will prove that you know how to handle your own money and make regular deposits and withdrawals. Just make sure you don’t overdraft!
Commit now to start building your credit. You will thank yourself later, I promise!
5. Get Insurance
Today, insurance can be incredibly expensive; however it can also be a financial life-saver. Finding the right balance between the potential benefit and the amount you are paying each month is a bit tricky.
During this phase of your life, I would recommend always erring on the side of having too much insurance, versus not enough. You probably don’t have $25,000 in your savings account yet to help with emergencies (if you do, then nice work!). Because you haven’t built up a savings account, having some insurance is a necessary evil to make sure you don’t hurt yourself financially in the case of an emergency.
Renters insurance, car insurance, health insurance, and others are all types that you should look into, quote out, and keep for a while. Some insurance companies will even let you bundle your insurance, so look for those options as well.
I am not an expert in insurance, so make sure that you talk to a financial expert about this topic. As you get older and your savings grows, you should look into lowering the amount of insurance you have, as you can cover your emergencies yourself. For now, look into it. You never know when having insurance will financially save you.
Congratulations on graduation! It’s a big step and I’m happy for your future. I know how it feels to finally be done and moving on to the next phase of life. If you make these five adjustments, then I promise you will be better able to cope with the financial stresses of your new life. These adjustments will ultimately help pave a way to your future success. I wish you all the best!
After spending six years in the accounting, retirement, and financial realm, Jacob turned his attention to teaching others about important life skills. He works with clients one on one, in addition to teaching others through his website PowerOverLife. He now lives in Gilbert, AZ with his wife and daughter.