Whether you’re about to graduate college or you recently accepted your diploma, this is a very exciting time for you. This is a time to celebrate a great accomplishment and be proud of how far you’ve come, but it’s also a time of big decisions and changes. Here are four financial tips every recent college graduate should keep in mind as they begin the post-grad life.

1. Choose Your First Job Carefully

After graduation, one of the top things on your mind is likely to be your job. At this point, you may already have a great job lined up or you may be searching. Either way, make sure you’re being smart with your choice. The best jobs aren’t always the ones with the highest salaries. Make sure you choose a job that is on the right path to your long-term goals. You’ll also want to research the company carefully and make sure their ideals line up with yours. Job satisfaction isn’t just in the paycheck.

2. Live Frugally Until You Get Settled

Start a budgeting habit if you don’t already have one. It can be easy to get used to the somewhat cushy lifestyle of walking to class every day, living in a cheap dorm or college apartment, and benefiting from a meal plan. Once you’ve graduated, you’ll likely need a new place to live, a budget for food, and maybe a car.

Don’t buy a brand new car or lease an apartment that maxes out your budget. Look for a used car in good shape and an apartment that will meet your needs without stretching you too thin. Once you’ve settled into your career path, you’ll have a much better idea of what you can afford. Then you can look into that shiny new car.

3. Make Your Loan Payments on Time

Most college graduates are starting out their careers with student loan debt. This is a necessary evil for many, but it doesn’t have to hurt your credit. If you choose your loans wisely and keep up with your payments, you can actually build up an impressive credit score over time. Many loan types can be consolidated and payment plans can be changed after graduation. If you’re struggling to keep up with payments, look into your refinancing and payment options.

4. Keep Your Credit Under Control

Even if you manage your student loan payments well, you can still hurt your credit score in other ways. Maintaining a good credit score is one of the biggest favors you can do yourself in the long run. When you’re ready to buy a house or need financing for any major purchases, your credit score will greatly affect your options.

Opening a good line of credit and keeping up with paying your statement balance each month will do wonders for your score. However, not all credit cards are created equal. Store cards tend to have the highest interest rates and the smallest benefits. Try not to open a credit card for every store you shop at, but maintain a good general credit card that gives you valuable perks like cash back and travel miles.

Congratulations on your accomplishment and good luck starting your career! Don’t let this lifestyle change throw you off track financially — be prepared and you’ll welcome success.

If you’re like most graduates, your cap and gown came with a ton of gift money from family and friends. Is all that cash burning a hole in your wallet? Before you dump your new nest egg on the latest smartphone, think about your future. If your new degree didn’t come with financial planning classes, you can still start your economic future off right. Use that money wisely with these four smart tips.

Start an Emergency Fund

Students who get a nice chunk of change after graduation can put that cash to good use. Financial experts, including Dave Ramsey, suggest starting out your first phase of adulthood with an emergency fund.

Deposit your graduation money into a savings account. Your life is about to change, and unexpected bills happen to everyone. Having a cushion in the bank is a smart strategy. Be prepared with at least $1,000. Then work to stash away up to three months’ worth of expenses.

Tackle Those Student Loans

Paying off Sallie Mae should be a top priority once you have your diploma in hand. You don’t want that debt hanging around for the rest of your life. For graduates of Wisconsin universities, for example, the average bachelor’s degree takes 19.7 years to pay off. By then, you may have kids of your own heading off to college.

If you have a job lined up, don’t wait for your grace period — typically about six months — before you start paying on your loan. Any lump sum payments you make right away will reduce the interest you’ll have to pay later.

Plan for Your Retirement

You’re never too young to start banking on your future. Retirement probably feels far away, but the magic of compound interest makes saving now one of the best ways to use your graduation money.

If your new degree comes with a job and a 401(k), start putting money in it. You can also open a Roth IRA and use that graduation dough as your first deposit. Use this handy calculator to find out how much you can earn in interest payments. You can turn $500 a year into $132,560 for retirement by setting yourself up in your 20s.


Take control of your money and all your tomorrows by investing. It might sound a bit scary — like something your parents and their friends talk about — but you too can take advantage of those returns. Use your graduation money and jump right in. Start with a mutual fund and a broker. A professional investor will help you spread your wealth over different stocks. This strategy will increase your chances of making more money.

You do have to pay a fee to a broker, but it’s worth it to have the expert advice. You worked hard in school, and the big bucks you make investing are your reward. Make them work hard for you now.

After the commencement ceremony is over and the whole family has given out hugs, it’s time to face the tough choices. Be smart about your money, and you’ll build yourself a comfortable future.