Congrats! You’ve graduated!
You’ve found job (hopefully)! And now you’re in the real world.
If you are the average collage graduate, you may have incurred some student loans to finance your education. You may also be looking what city to move to next or how much to spend on rent. You may be wondering about other things: like whether or not you can afford that backpacking trip to Thailand or even get married these next few years.
As a hot young professional (HYP), we’re learning how to manage our finances while maximizing the amount of vacations, brunches, happy hours, and fun we have. Many of us are also learning how to save. And almost 70% of us graduated with student loans – with the average graduate facing $37,000+ in student debt in 2016. But don’t worry, you aren’t alone.
If you are a recent grad that just started the real world and you need a few pieces of financial advice, this post is for you.
I’m sharing 5 pieces of financial advice that I’ve learned from reading Rich Bitch by Nicole Lapin and picked up on these past few years.
1. Prioritize Your Debt (This is one of my favorite lessons out of Rich Bitch)
You should prioritize your debt in order of interest rates:
1. Credit Cards
your credit card interest rates can be upwards of 18%. You should work to first pay off all your credit card debt.
*One way I manage my credit card is that I don’t spend more than I have in my checking/savings accounts. I’d like to purchase a home one day, so I know I have to manage my credit card. I aim to pay off my credit card every month. If I don’t pay it off every month, I work to pay it off as quickly as I can.
2. Car Loans –
After credit cards, pay your car loans next. *Know that a car is a depreciating asset. The moment you
drive a brand new car off the lot, it immediately depreciates. If your high school/college car dies after you graduate and you need to buy a new car, consider a used a car less than 5 years old.
My 1996 Honda barely passed its emissions test last year so I knew it was time for a new car. I’d like a BMW or a Mercedes one day, but for now I’m happy driving my 2012 Honda Civic (and so is my bank account).
3. Student Loans – Federal student loans have the lowest interest rates out of all these four things.
*Stafford loans are currently at 3.76% – but the Treasury Department is raising them to 4.45% (still lower than that credit card interest rate). Parent PLUS loan is currently at 6.31% and is being raised to 7%.It is up to you how you choose to see your overall and your student loan debt.
Though I spent almost my entire college career frozen in fear of all the debt I was incurring, I know now that my education is the best investment I’ve ever made. People can repossess your cars and houses, but no one can never take away what you’ve learned. So I see my student loans as a long term debt and I make my monthly payments with minimal stress.
4. Mortgage – though I don’t have a home yet, Nicole Lapin recommends that after the three items above, you should make payments on this asset.
2. Create a Budget Diary
What is a Budget Diary/Journal?
A budget diary or journal is where you identify your income and you expenses. It’s important you create one after graduating and getting a job so you know where your money is going. If you feel like you’re constantly broke, try this exercise:
Either pull out a piece of paper or pen – or – an excel spread sheet.
INCOME: (here would be your income, any cash, investments)
Less EXPENSES (Monthly):
– CAR PAYMENTS:
– CAR INSURANCE:
– STUDENT LOAN PAYMENT:
– FUN MONEY (Amount spent on going out to eat or
Remaining Amount: $$$
Now reflect, how much money are you spending on fun vs. how much money are you saving?
3. Create Savings Goals:
Now that you’ve started a budget diary or journal, let’s
discuss creating savings goals. At some point in your post grad life, you may
want to go on a big vacation, buy a new car, or throw a down payment on a
house. Unless you have tons of discretionary income after you pay your rent,
bills, and other obligations, you have to save for these items.
I recommend making short term and long term savings goals:
Year 1: (Short Term) Save for trip to Thailand ($2,000)
Year 2: (Long Term) Start saving for grad school ($5,000)
Year 3: (Long Term) Start saving for grad school ($5,000)
Year 4: (Long Term) Start saving for a down payment ($10,000)…
Whatever your goals may be, add them to your budget diary or journal so you actually put the money away to save for those items. Remember your goals and circumstances can also change! The point of writing down these goals is just so you know what general direction you’d like to take your life and finances in.
4. Save 3-6 Months of Living Expenses
If you lost your job today, do you have enough money to pay your rent (and other costs) for the next 3-6 months?
Why else should you save?: If you sign a lease, you are still required to make monthly rent payments regardless of your situation. You still have to buy food to eat, pay for insurance, and pay your student loan payments (though this can be adjusted depending on your income).
One of my first goals when I graduated was to save enough money for me to live for 3-6 months. This money is my safety net if something were to happen to me and I was unable to work.
I also recommend putting this away in the bank and making this one of your savings goals. That way you have some mandatory or fixed costs covered if something freak happens and you are unable to work.
Determine how much money you need to survive:
Take your monthly rent amount, multiply it by 6, and you get how much money you need for rent the next 6 months. I would repeat this exercise with groceries, student loan payments, cell phone (this is mandatory to most people), and any other items you cannot live without.
5. Don’t spend over a third of your income on rent
Unless you’ve worked really hard in college to save for a house after you graduate, most new grads are looking for a place to rent. It can be very easy to want to splurge on an apartment in the new high rises in city. But you don’t want to be house poor or else you’ll find you won’t be saving or be able to spend your money for fun activities.
I highly recommend spending between 25-30% of your income in rent.
So if you take home $3,000 a month from your job, you should not be spending more than $1,000 in rent.
The truth is life happens and you may need some extra income at some point to cover a car accident or physical therapy appointments. You don’t want to get stuck in a situation where your entire paycheck is just going to
your rent costs.
There you have it, 5 pieces of financial advice for you. I highly recommend reading Rich Bitch if you want to learn more about how to manage your finances!
What are your other pieces of advice when it comes to spending and saving?
Thank you for reading! Thank you to Lauren by Ralph Lauren for these awesome pair of jeans. You can buy these jeans here or shop my look:
Photos: Miriam Subbiah