If you think that life as a college student can be tough, especially when it comes to juggling money, you might be dismayed to find that once you leave college, life gets even more challenging. In many ways, college is a rehearsal for ‘real’ adult life and many students are still sheltered from true adulthood in many ways thanks to cash from parents or help from student services, so it can be pretty difficult to find one’s feet in the period after graduation.

If you want to navigate the difficult time post-graduation and be able to stand on your own two feet, here are some money-smart moves you might want to make:

Make Sure All of Your Papers are In Order

In any stage of life, having all of your papers in order makes things a whole lot easier for you, but this is especially true after graduating college when you’re truly stepping out as a fully-fledged adult for the first time. Documents that you are likely to need include your Social Security card, birth certificate and photo ID like your passport or driver’s license. These documents will help you to apply for bank accounts, get jobs, buy your first home and so much more besides, so it’s a good idea to gather them together and store them somewhere safe when you aren’t using them, such as in a home safe. That way, you’ll always be able to act when you need without having to hunt down a piece of paper so you can get paid first!

Get to Grips with Your Student Loan

After your rent payments, your student loan is probably going to be your largest monthly expense, so it’s a really good idea to get to grips with it as soon as possible, not least because you usually only have six months after graduation to start making those repayments, and a failure to do so could negatively affect your credit score or cause your wages to be garnished to cover the costs.

The good news is that there are lots of options for graduates repaying their loans today, From 10-year fixed payment plans to 25-year income-based repayments, which means that whatever your circumstances are, you can find a way of repaying that suits you, but this is only possible if you act!

Draw Up a Budget

If you want to manage your money effectively and not end up spending more than you earn each month, then you really do need to set up a budget that takes into account all of your major fixed costs and ensures that they are paid before anything else is purchased. There are lots of great apps and software packages that will help you to come up with a detailed budget, and you should make good use of them.

A lot of people hate the thought of being constrained by a budget, but they are just a guide that ensures you’re on the right track – you can still splurge and treat yourself once in a while as long as the rent, utilities, student loan and any other essentials have been paid for first.

Start Saving

Oh, you should most certainly factor in some savings to your budget too. The sooner you start saving whether that be in an emergency fund, towards your retirement or for a home, the sooner you will be able to achieve your goals and the more capable you will be of dealing with any financial crises that come your way in the future.

Get a Credit Card

You might think that opening an account with a credit card company is a bad idea because of the temptation to spend, but you need to be sensible and fight that urge because having a credit card and using it responsibly is a great way to build your credit score. It seems perverse, but if you have little to no credit history, your credit score can be quite low as a result, and that could make it problematic when you come to apply for a car loan or mortgage. If you use your credit card for purchases and pay it off in full at the end of the month, you’ll get the benefits without any of the negatives.

Get Insurance

It’s unlikely that you’ll need life insurance at this stage if you’re young and you don’t have any dependents at least, but chances are you will need other kinds of insurance such as auto insurance, medical insurance and unemployment insurance, just in case something goes wrong. It might seem like paying so much money each month for something that will never happen is a waste, but just think what could happen if you become employed or you get sick without insurance, and you will realize that it really is not negotiable.

Consider Further Education

You may have just graduated, but that doesn’t mean that it’s too early to start thinking about further education. Whether that means doing an online rn bsn or getting your MBA, anything that can boost your future employment prospects and potentially enable you to earn even more money in your chosen field is something you should be thinking about even if you don’t plan to do it for a while because it will give you time to look into scholarships or save for your tuition.

Take Retirement Seriously

I mentioned saving for retirement earlier, but it is something that bears mentioning again because a lot of new graduates think that because they are still so young, they don’t need to start saving for their retirement yet. The thing is, when it comes to your retirement, you can never start saving too early because the sooner you start, the more money you will amass at a faster rate. This means you can build a tidy nest eggs for your future, retire earlier and have more security than your peers who do not start thinking about retirement until they hit their 30s. Even if you can save just $100 a month, that amount will snowball and keep growing until you are very well off in old age.

Start thinking about your financial future now, and you’ll never have to worry (too much) about your finances in the future.

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