College graduations rank high among the many reasons why spring is such a wonderful time of year.
Congratulations to everyone receiving their diploma. Enjoy the moment.
I want to focus on how to establish a practical personal financial framework that will hold you in good stead in the next stage of your lives.
My core assumption is that you should enter this period of life with an exploration mindset. You need an income but, at the same time, you'll want to test different career paths and explore your options with different organizations. Maybe you'll want to start your own business or social enterprise.
Let's start with student loans. Research shows that higher levels of student debt can push graduates to find work with higher wages and lower job satisfaction. The pressure to pay down debts is a constraint on experimentation.
You can buy upfront relief by choosing an income-driven student loan option that lowers your monthly payments on your federal student loans. The drawback from stretching out your repayment timetable is you'll raise the overall cost of borrowing. But there is no prepayment penalty with federal student loans. You can (and should) accelerate payments later when you're better established in your career.
You'll want to start building a savings cushion to help pay the costs from changing jobs and moving into different living situations. You can automate savings by having your financial institution every month put some checking account money into a savings account.
Participate if your employer offers a retirement savings plan. Adopting a sustainability lens when it comes to spending will help you live frugally and well. Simply put, being green is frugal and being frugal is green.
Even when your paycheck is strained meeting basic expenses and savings, it's important to nurture the habit of giving. The benefits of regularly giving money compound over time.
The discipline of generosity in good and bad times eventually becomes the anchor to a strong household balance sheet and a healthy relationship with money.
Finally, get a book to help you think through your personal finance decisions. Here are three recommendations: "The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn't Have to be Complicated," by Harold Pollack and Helaine Olen; "Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties," by Beth Kobliner; and "What To Do With Your Money When Crisis Hits: A Survival Guide," by Michelle Singletary.
Again, cheers on earning your diploma!