Excelsior! That’s Latin, by the way, often translated as “ever upward” or “on to new heights.” Sounds like something cliche straight out of graduation. You’ve climbed one ladder only to discover the base of another, “still higher” one–entering the workforce.
This can be a dishearteningly long process in which many students feel forced into settling for jobs outside their chosen fields of study. If you are part of the 70 percent of graduates that finished college in debt due to student loans, it won’t be long until Uncle Sam comes to collect. Stop panicking. Everything is going to be alright.
You made it through college; you have your degree, you can handle whatever may come your way. Excelsior. The longer it takes you to start climbing the longer you’ll be on the bottom rung. Here are ten proven steps that can take you further along your climb towards financial solvency.
#1 Play The Field
Okay, so you didn’t land your dream job immediately after graduation. Keep looking! Don’t stay in a position you despise just because you feel like there’s no other option available. Keep your resume current, keep submitting applications, know that you aren’t stuck.
That being said, you should still try your best at whatever it is you do. Just because you’re only doing it for the money doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t also do a good job; remember that your boss is also a future reference. Only 27.3 percent of college grads immediately get a job in their chosen field so remember that you aren’t alone. Finally, and I’m sure this goes without saying, don’t quit your current job until you have another, and be sure to leave amicably if at all possible.
#2 Set Up an Emergency Fund
Accidents happen. It’s best to be prepared for when they do. Start a rainy day fund. Choose a suitable amount to set aside each paycheck and treat it as if it were already spent.
Have a hard time doing that? Well, most banks have a feature that allows you to chose a specific dollar amount or a percentage of each paycheck that automatically gets put into a separate savings account.
You can then set permissions on said account that will limit your ability to make withdrawals or transfers without going to the bank.
#3 Keep Your Credit Cards Paid Off
Ok, so you got approved for your first credit card. Don’t go crazy. You’re trying to build your credit which means paying off your balance every month.
Don’t use your credit card for large purchases unless you have the cash to pay it off in full. Do not use it as a loan. A staggering 50 percent of Americans have some form of credit card debt; this is second only to mortgages. Don’t become one of them.
#4 Live Within or Below Your Means
Wants and needs can be hard to separate sometimes, but this is a necessity if you want to be debt free and financially independent. Do you need all that space?
Or would a smaller apartment do fine? Do you need to eat out every night? It’s much more economical to learn to cook your meals.
Whatever the case, if you’re a college grad and you’re living from paycheck to paycheck you need to take a closer look at your needs and wants to be sure that you’re living within your means. Make a budget and stick to it.
#5 Start Thinking About Retirement
It is never too early to start thinking about how you’d like to spend your golden years. Start putting money towards retirement with your first paycheck.
You do not want to realize after it’s too late for anything to be done about it that you aren’t going to be able to retire. Do yourself a favor, start saving now.
#6 You Don’t Need A Brand New Car
A new car depreciates much more than is reasonable as soon as you drive it off the lot. There are thousands upon thousands of used cars just waiting for a driver.
Some with miles so low that they are still covered under warranty. Why buy new? I’m not telling you that you should drive around in a rust bucket, but be a smart car shopper. Buy used. At least for now, and pay up front if you can.
#7 Start Investing
Do you have an emergency fund? Are you already saving money for retirement? Credit in good standing? Start investing. Put some of your savings to work for you.
Be prudent though, especially at first. The stock market is a complex system, and it takes time to learn the ins and outs. Even so, many experts make the wrong decisions when it comes to the question “Where should I invest?” Take it slow.
With a little bit of know how the stock market can be a great way to increase financial gains, especially in the long run.
#8 Talk To A Financial Advisor
I know, I know, it’s like you’re an adult or something, right? Financial advisors aren’t just for older people.
They can be accommodating in laying out long-term financial goals, diversifying your portfolio, or planning for your next big purchase.
Finance is a tricky business, but it’s their business, and because they aren’t paid for being wrong, you can be sure that the advice given to you is reliable.
#9 Pay Off Those Student Loans
It’s not as bad as you think. Remember, you got through college, you found a job, you can do this. And you’re not alone.
Student loan debt comes in third place behind credit cards and mortgages for most common forms of debt. Although they aren’t your priority, you want to pay these down as quickly as possible to avoid any adverse reflection on your credit.
Luckily there are many resources at your disposal. Check into whether or not you’re eligible for some of your student loans to be forgiven. There are also options for you to refinance student loans. There is a light, I promise.
#10 Treat Yourself
You deserve it. You’ve successfully navigated the ins and outs of starting your career and becoming financially solvent.
You’ve shown the naysayers, the haters, and your parents that we millennials do, in fact, have what it takes to navigate this ever-changing world in which we live. So treat yourself… Responsibly.