With student loans, apartment rent, and bills piling up, the college-to-adulthood transition can be a financial nightmare.
You’re not alone. Nearly 11% of college students have no money in their savings account.
But you’re a long way from bankruptcy.
If you keep this post-grad money advice close to your heart, you’ll fluff your savings account and be off on your own in no time!
Live at Home for as Long as Possible
After four years of complete “freedom,” moving back in with your parents might seem like a nightmare. But it also buys you a year or two to secure a full-time job, fluff your savings account, and settle into adulthood.
Let’s do the math!
The national average for a rented one-bedroom apartment is about $1,621. If you store that away untouched for just 12 months, you’ll have at least $19,452 saved a year from now.
Plus, moving back home has a few other perks: home-cooked meals, no utility bills, and those childhood pets you adore.
Create a Retirement Account (and Fund It Regularly)
“Full retirement age” is some 45 years down the road. But the sooner you start contributing to a retirement account (401k, IRA, etc.), the more interest it’ll build by the time you’re ready to exit the workforce.
Siphoning $100 to your retirement account each week could leave you with $1 million by age 65.
If you want to open up a tax-free Roth IRA account, investment apps like Acorns allow you to control your future at your fingertips.
Establish a Reasonable Monthly Budget
Budgeting is a life skill that many of us learn by trial and error. When you come into that “windfall” of money after locking down your first post-grad job, it’s easy to let the spending spiral out of control.
Create a budget!
First, calculate how much you take home a month after taxes (net income). Then, apply the 50/30/20 rule to budgeting:
- 50% toward things you need (rent, student loans, groceries, bills)
- 30% to stuff you want (vacations, gaming, optional subscriptions)
- 20% toward savings (retirement plan, savings account, paying off debt)
If you’re splitting costs with a roommate or living at home for a few years, deposit the excess into your savings account.
Differentiate Between Needs and Wants
Transitioning from a $10/hour customer service job to a $50,000/year position offers financial freedom that encourages college grads to splurge. Before you develop an uncontrolled spending habit, define what you need and what you want.
“Needs” trace back to survival. For example, that’d include rent, medications, groceries, electricity bills, gasoline, or work clothes.
“Wants” play second-fiddle to your needs. For example, buying in a 60” TV, 14-day cruise, high-end gym, or purebred dog would count.
Settle your needs before splurging on your wants.
Get a Head Start on Your Student Loan Payments
Student loan repayment can last anywhere between five and 15 years. If you’re a financial wiz, you can outpace your school loans in two ways:
- Refinance to lower the interest rate. However, this strategy requires a high credit score, steady income, and controlled spending.
- Pay more per month. If you’re a savings master, paying an extra $50-100 per month toward your loan could slash a year or two off your repayment period.
The sooner you can pay off your student loans, the quicker you can start padding your savings account.
Don’t Settle for the First Job Offer
Earning a bachelor’s degree can open the door to countless career opportunities. When you receive that first post-college job offer, your instinct might be an immediate ‘yes.’
Let the excitement fizzle out before accepting.
How does their salary offer compare to other entry-level positions? Is there room for growth (both career-wise and salary-wise)? Does the offer include health insurance, vacation days, and a 401k?
Employers are notorious for short-changing naive college grads. Ask for 24-48 hours to think about the offer before jumping onboard.
Avoid Taking on New Debt
The biggest mistake college grads make is taking on new debt without understanding the long-term financial impact and equity.
After cashing your first bi-weekly paycheck, you may visit the local car dealership to lease a brand new sports car. Or put a down payment on the motorcycle of your dreams.
Whenever possible, buy things outright.
Buy a used car. Pay for groceries in cash instead of accumulating credit card debt. And don’t take out loans unless you absolutely have to.
Save Some Cash for Entertainment (Yes, Really!)
Watching your savings account balloon could be a huge motivator for a clear-eyed college grad. Yet, if you’re constantly “on the grind” and looking 40 years down the line, you’re more likely to burn out.
So, don’t be too frugal.
It’s okay to plan an annual vacation, dine out once or twice a week, replace those ratty couches, or invest in car mods.
If your passion for your career isn’t enough, being able to afford what you want will inspire you.
Invest, Invest, Invest
The stock market was once a hub for the world’s wealthiest movers and shakers. Today, you can invest in stocks with a few hundred dollars without a lick of financial knowledge.
Apps like Acorns allow you to invest your spare change into the stock market. Or you can test your luck trading crypto and other stocks via apps like Webull or Robinhood, though this carries far more risk.
Letting your cash sit in a savings account may earn you a few pennies in interest per month. But investing in up-and-coming companies can give you a 10%+ return on it.
Once you graduate from college, several new responsibilities fall onto your shoulders. Targeting your financial health early can help you hit the other milestones — like buying a house or retiring — much quicker.
It’s all about finding the middle ground.
Open up a retirement account, invest in stocks, live at home (or even with a roommate) for as long as possible, and be more selective about your first job.
Soon enough, you’ll be off on your own with a blossoming savings account.
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Grove Stephenville to help them with their online marketing.