You did it! You made it through your degree program and now have your diploma in hand. As you’re about to enter the workforce, it’s time to think about financial planning in a new way. This includes planning for the future and dealing with any student loans. Check out the tips below to help you with financial planning after graduation.
Go For Your Dreams
Upon graduation, many doors will open for you. To help you decide which ones you want to walk through, you need a plan. Sit down and list everything you want to do in the next five years. This includes careers, personal goals, adventures, etc.
Keep these in mind as you’re applying for jobs and looking through job offers. Be sure to take a position that will offer the growth and opportunities for advancement you’re looking for and any benefits you’ll need to help you reach those personal goals.
Become a Master at Budgeting as Part of Financial Planning after Graduation
No matter how much money you make, having – and sticking to – a budget will be more important now than it ever was before. Whether you’re saving for a house, traveling, or simply want to avoid landing in credit card debt, knowing how much money you make and how to allocate it will help you get there.
There are many budgeting apps, bookkeeping software, and other systems available to help with budgeting. Choose a system and technology that works for you and be consistent.
Plan for Emergencies
Life happens. Cars break down. Injuries or other unexpected situations arise. You can be ready if you have an emergency fund when they do. To start, aim for $1000 set aside for emergencies. Then, as you remove your debt burden, you can grow that to six months or a year’s worth of money set aside.
You may also want to create sinking funds that have money set aside for things like car repairs, buying a new vehicle with cash, a downpayment on a house, home repairs, or vacation.
Start Saving for Retirement as Part of Financial Planning after Graduation
The sooner you start doing this, the better. If your employer offers a 401(k), take advantage of it. If you have the money taken directly out of your paycheck from day one, you’ll never miss it. If a 401(k) isn’t an option, you can work with a financial planner to open a Roth IRA.
Also, be sure to talk with a financial planner about the best investment strategy for you.
Make a Plan to Pay Off Your Student Loans
Student loans underwritten by the government are automatically deferred for six months. Hopefully, this gives you time to find a job. But, once you do, paying off your loans needs to be a top priority.
Consider using bonuses and tax refunds to pay them off more quickly. Also, consider living a very bare-bones lifestyle until you’re debt-free.
Another option is loan consolidation. This allows you to combine all your student loans into one by taking out one large consolidation loan and paying off the rest. In many cases, it can mean your student loan debt is less expensive and more manageable. Be sure you know if your loans are private, through the government, or a combination, as the consolidation options may vary.
Be aware that there are pros and cons to loan consolidation (not refinancing).
- You’re still able to take advantage of income-based repayment plans
- Single payment each month
- Negotiate terms to help you avoid defaulting on your loans
- One fixed interest rate
- Lower payments
- Different repayment schedule options, which you can choose and change at any time
- It’s a new loan, making it eligible for forbearance and deferment options
- No minimum or maximum amount for consolidation
- Helps protect your credit by making repayment simpler (just one bill each month)
- Set up automatic payments each month to ensure you never miss a payment
- Some banks offer a loan discount if you do this
- Pay more interest over time
- Could hinder or block opportunities for financing things like a home or car
- Higher than average interest rate based on the weighted average used to determine your new interest rate
- Loans from private institutions can’t be consolidated through the Federal Loan Consolidation program
- May lose some benefits such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Perkins Loans. Be sure you read and understand all the terms and conditions before you agree to anything
- That six-month grace period disappears
- Any specific lender benefits go away
- One-shot deal. If interest rates drop after you consolidate, you’re out of luck
Talk to a financial planner to help you decide if loan consolidation is best for you.
Congratulations on getting your degree! What’s one question you have about managing money in this next chapter of your life? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll do our best to answer it.