The day has finally come – College Graduation! You’ve walked across the stage, you have your diploma in hand and you spent several hours fidgeting in your seat at your graduation ceremony. You’ve earned this. It’s YOUR college degree. Now, it’s time to prepare for life after college. Are you ready? Below are several tips I gathered to help prepare you for the real world.

1. Start Paying Back Your Student Loans
Just when you think college is behind you, it’s not. Now, you have a pile of student loan debt that will haunt you for the next ten years. It’s too late now to look back – it’s time to look ahead to a bright and cheery future…a debt repayment plan! Some advice: Don’t miss the first payment and put a reminder on ALL of your calendars. Start paying early if you can. The average debt load for students is $35K, so it is wise to stay on top of your payments and to get out of debt quickly.

2.  Get on a Schedule!
Your weekends no longer begin on Thursday and days that end at noon are no longer a thing. Say goodbye to sleeping in and get prepared for an 8 to 5 schedule, Monday through Friday. 

Prep Tips: 

  • Slowly set your alarm earlier and earlier each day
  • Get into a scheduled routine and start going to bed at an earlier time during the week
  • Get used to functioning properly during an eight to five timeframe
  • Research how to be productive

3. Know Your Credit Score
Credit is something you’re hopefully already familiar with because it plays a huge role in some major life purchases that will soon be coming your way. A good credit score comes with a history of making payments on-time on your credit card, loans, and other bills. It proves that you’re a responsible borrower when it comes time for you to borrow money. 

Tips:  Always pay your bills on time. You can schedule automatic transfer payments right from your checking account to ensure you pay the bills each month. Getting behind can hurt your credit score and your finances.

4. Know the Difference Between Wants and Needs
After college, there is a new sense of independence. Now, you’re truly responsible for the next steps in your life, and that means making smart decisions with your money. Now that you’re paying for everything, the difference between things you want and things you need becomes clear pretty quick.

5. It’s Okay to Live With Your Parents (Just Don’t Abuse It)
Live within your means and continue sharing living expenses. Get a roommate or roommates, so that you don’t have to afford living by yourself. If you’re not sure what your plan is, live at home for free until you get things figured out. The extra money you save can go toward the security deposit on a new place.

7. You Will Have to Make Some Hard Decisions
For example, what should your priority be:  paying off student debt faster, or contributing to your retirement fund? But seriously, which comes first? The answer? They are BOTH important. 

Funding your retirement early is critical because the earlier you start, the more you’ll have in your account once you retire. Because of compound interest, your money builds on itself and therefore grows at a faster rate each year.

Paying off your student loan debt is also important because the faster you pay it off, the less interest you will pay over the life of your loan. Plus, who wants all of that debt weighing you down?

You should continue to pay off your student debt. However, don’t pay more than necessary and sacrifice your retirement fund to do so.

Financial planners suggest that “if you have income left over once you’ve met all your debt obligations, your retirement should get priority over paying more than required for student loans.”

8. Not Ready for the Professional World?
Keep learning! Develop your professional skills. Learn how to network and attend seminars that will help you with your personal and professional growth. Read books and practice interview questions. There are so many resources out there to help prepare you. Plus, making an effort will pay off! 

9. Your First Job Probably Won’t be Your Dream Job – And That’s Okay!
Realize that your first job might not be your final stop. Continue to pursue possibilities and opportunities. Push yourself, and never get too comfortable. 

Hope this helps!

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

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