It has been about a week since students, friends, and families flocked to the Montagne Center to celebrate the 2016 graduates of Lamar University. Now more than likely, if you’re one of those grads who walked across the stage, you’re probably still celebrating – or in the midst of job interviews.
However, when things settle down a little, we highly encourage you to check out these “13 Real-World Tips for College Grads” by U.S. News and World Report. Welcome to the real world graduates! It can be a little scary at first, but we believe in you! And, it never hurts to get good advice…
1. Establish credit, use it wisely and monitor your profile
“If you look at the people who are most prone to ID theft, it’s not seniors – it’s college students,” says Jean Chatzky, author and financial editor of NBC’s Today show. “It’s because they have such a substantial online profile. Unscrupulous persons can create a profile and pretend to be you.”
2. Live within your means
Living below your means is even better. “Don’t get stuck in lifestyle creep,” advises LaTisha D. Styles, an investment analyst in Atlanta who started the Young Finances website four years ago at age 26.
When she received her annual cost-of-living raise the last few years, she increased her contribution to her 401(k) plan and stuck with a frugal lifestyle. “In the meantime, I stayed in the same apartment, spent roughly the same on groceries and entertainment and never really felt the financial crunch because my increased contributions were offset by less taxable income,” she says.
3. Save money automatically
You can do it through payroll deduction, automatic withdrawal from your bank account or throwing change in a jar. “Building the habit of saving and setting money aside is more important than the amount in those first few years,” says Julie Rains, the mother of a college sophomore who writes about personal finance for Wise Bread and her own blog, Working to Live Differently.
4. Take advantage of employer 401(k) plans
If your employer offers a 401(k) plan or equivalent, contribute as much as you can – ideally at least enough to get the maximum employer match. “By not taking advantage of it, you’re essentially leaving free money on the table and giving yourself a pay cut,” says Robert Farrington, founder and editor-in-chief of The College Investor website. “The younger you are when you start, the more powerful compounding interest works for you. By starting at 22 vs. 30, you could add hundreds of thousands of dollars more to your retirement account.”
5. Pay your bills on time
Not only is it a good habit, it will help you build credit and avoid exorbitant late fees.
6. Choose your friends wisely
Don’t hang out with, or even consider dating, people who encourage you to spend your money foolishly. Those kinds of attitudes rub off. The dating part is especially important because you absolutely don’t want to marry someone who doesn’t share your financial values.
7. Weigh the costs vs. benefits before going to graduate school
In some fields, such as education, a master’s degree is a necessity. In others, having a master’s degree grants few career benefits beyond what you learn. You don’t want to accrue additional debt to get a degree that won’t increase your salary. After you’ve been in the workplace several years, you may decide to change direction or your employer may pay your way.
8. Learn about personal finance and investing
The Internet is exploding with blogs and websites aimed at teaching 20-somethings how to manage their money. Read, learn and think ahead.
9. Don’t expect to get a job by only filling out online applications
You are more likely to find a job through your college professors, parents, friends of parents and parents of friends, pastors, former babysitting clients and anyone else you know. This could require talking to people on the phone or in person. Just do it.
10. Clean up your social media profile
It’s the first thing prospective employers will look at. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, create one to highlight skills you’ve gained through your education, your volunteer work or any jobs you’ve had so far. Remember to spell all the words right and don’t trust auto-correct. First impressions are important.
11. Stay in touch with your college friends and professors
Networking is one of the most important career skills you’ll ever learn, and social media has just made it easier. Decades after you graduate, you may get your dream job from the guy you played poker with as an undergraduate.
12. Learn to cook and clean
Not only will cooking save you money, but you’ll also be healthier. If you don’t already know how to clean and do laundry, pick up those skills, too. If you’re living at home, it’s an excellent trade for free rent.
13. Splurge on experiences, not things
This is not the time to buy a new Corvette or a designer wardrobe, even if you just got a wonderful job with a fabulous salary. You’ll never be this free again. Take every opportunity to travel and try new experiences.
13 Real-World Tips for College Graduates by Teresa Mears (follow her on Twitter @TeresaMears)