It’s good news and bad news for U.S. college graduates this summer – the national employment picture looks rosy, but gaining the best entry level professional jobs has historically been an uphill climb for graduates.
Overall, about 4 million Americans are graduating this year and they’ll need a job right away, as the average college grad owes $37,000 in student loan debt.
But first things first, newly-minted college grads. Even before starting that all-important first job, there are smart steps you should take to set the stage for a healthy financial outlook, for both short- and long-term.
The smartest young financial consumers will smart with these forward-thinking money moves:
Create a budget – A budget is a spending plan, based on income, lifestyle and goals. “Grads should begin by tallying all set monthly expenses – including housing, utilities, student loans, car payments and any credit card debt – and variable expenses, such as groceries, gas and clothing,” advises Sean Fox, co-president of Freedom Financial Network, in San Mateo, Calif. “The total will help set a target for monthly income and savings.”
Get a credit card, and start building good credit – Conrad Magalis, a 29-year-old college graduate from Eden Prairie, Minn., says he’s been working steady in and after college, and building wealth the entire time. “The best advice I can give is to start building your credit early,” he says. “Many people think that having a credit card is a bad thing, because it encourages people to spend on items they cannot afford. While this is true, I’ve used credit cards to not only build my credit, but to help pay for unexpected bills or even my car insurance in six month intervals.” The more credit you have, with good payment history, the better off you’ll be when it comes time for your first big loan – a car or a house, Magalis adds. “Make sure to keep your spending to under 10% of your card balance, because credit agencies use this measure along with payment history as major factors in credit scoring,” he advises.