As we start to think about back to school, let’s not forget about those who just wrapped up their education. Many college grads are now entering the workforce and this is the time to really pay attention to your money.
“There’s a lot of debt out there with student loans, you just want to make sure that you don’t get overwhelmed,” said Brian Kennedy, president of KCA Wealth Management in Camp Hill. “You just chip away.”
Important advice — Kennedy says if you don’t get a good grip on things now, student loan debt can be an immense burden.
“The impact of debt can really impact you in the long run especially if you’re looking to buy a house or car or different things, so what you want to do is make sure you don’t become delinquent in those loans, you want to make sure you continue to pay those off,” said Kennedy.
Brian’s best advice for high school grads is to find ways to cut down on the size of the loan you’ll need.
“If you can work during college and earn income to pay off some of your expenses while you’re going to college that’s the first recommendation and when you set up the college loans, you want to sit down with someone who’s qualified and can talk you through the different types of programs that are out there and what you’re eligible for.”
As for after college, “You’re a recent grad, you got your first job, let’s talk about something I’m sure a lot of people aren’t thinking about in that situation,” said Kennedy. “Savings — how important is that? Savings is so important, the first thing college students should do when they graduate and get that first job headed out into the world is they should start a budget.”
How you divide your money is crucial.
“One rule of thumb is try to spend about 50% of your after tax income on rent, utilities, groceries, car insurance, gas you use for your vehicle — the necessities. Only 30% on going out to dinner with friends and shopping. Use the 20% you have left over to pay down debt and to save money at the same time and invest for the future.”
But most of all — live within your means.
“Pretend you’re still living in college, and try to cut every expense there is so that you can really save money and get off to a good start.”
Brian says the bank of mom and dad won’t always be there and that’s a good thing.
“Every parent wants to help their children unfortunately I’ve seen circumstances where the parent has helped their children so much that they don’t have the retirement they thought they would have.”
Speaking of retirement, Brian says no matter how young you are, take advantage of a 401-K.
“Planning for retirement might sound crazy right but even though retirement may seem like a long way away because you just started working, but it’s never too early to start saving. You should automate a part of your savings so that a portion of your check goes directly into a savings account. If your employer has a 401K and matches your contributions, you should take advantage. It’s free money.”
Brian says it’s also important for recent grads to get in the habit of paying their bills on time, starting an emergency fund, and establishing good credit. But be careful with credit cards. Don’t let them pull you further into debt.