1. Keep track of cash flows. Both Schlesinger and Summit Place recommend that college grads use apps that keep track of spending. There are standalone apps like Mint and Wally that can link to a bank account, as well as bank apps. Summit Place suggests that parents show their college grads how they themselves learned to live within their paychecks.
2. Build a balance sheet to show assets and liabilities. Schlesinger says graduates should not worry that their net worth — assets minus liabilities — is negative. “Time is on your side.”
3. Pay down debt. Many college grads will have student loans that they need to start repaying within six to nine months of graduation. Schlesinger recommends that graduates “understand exactly” what they owe and make sure they can make the required monthly payments. Beyond that, she says, graduates should prioritize paying off the highest interest rate loans first.
4. Pay all bills on time: Summit Place recommends that graduates use apps and computer programs to set up automatic payments of bills as well as reminders about when bills are due. It recommends that parents share with their college grads any systems they use to manage monthly payments.
5. Build credit: Staying current on bills and reducing debt can both help to build a credit history, which is important not only to get car loans and mortgages at favorable rates, but also to find employment and qualify for insurance. Summit Place advises grads to limit the number of credit cards they use and keep the oldest card they have open.
6. Create an emergency reserve fund: Schlesinger recommends that college grads begin to set aside funds in a “safe, liquid account” until they have saved enough to fund six to 12 months’ worth of expenses.
7. Emphasize retirement contributions: Schlesinger suggests that grads set a contribution percentage that at least equals their employer’s match level. Summit Place recommends that parents educate their graduates about the benefits of the “compounding growth in savings” and emphasize “one of the greatest assets working for them at this age: time.”
(Related: 30 Best Paying College Majors: 2018)
Graduating from college can be daunting. There’s the search for a job if one hasn’t been lined up already, as well as the search for a place to live for those who can afford to leave home for good. Moreover, many graduates will be managing their finances on their own for the first time.
With that in mind, Jill Schlesinger, senior CFP Board ambassador, and Summit Place Financial Advisors have both published financial tips for new college graduates. We’ve combed through the lists, which overlap on many points, to develop a single list that graduates can use on their own or that their parents and advisors can share with them. Check out the gallery above.
— Related on ThinkAdvisor: