Graduating from college and getting a first post-grad job is a major milestone. For most people, their first job after earning a degree will pay them more money than they have ever earned before. It's also an entry into adulthood for many people, and the first time they become fully responsible for covering all the bills.
If you want to make sure you're setting yourself up for that secure future, here are four financial moves to make ASAP once you've started working full time as a new graduate.
1. Find the right checking account
One of the first things you'll want to do is to make sure you have the right checking account now that you're earning a steady income.
You may have had a student account in the past, but now that you have a full-time job, you should be able to qualify for more checking accounts with no monthly maintenance fees if you have the ability to get your paycheck directly deposited.
Look for an account with no fees and, if you can find it, you may even want to choose one that pays you interest.
2. Sign up for your company 401(k)
It's never too early to start saving for retirement and the sooner you sign up, the more you can benefit from compound growth. You're allowed to contribute up to $22,500 if you're under the age of 50 in 2023, but while you may not be able to afford that much, it's a good idea to start investing as much as you can.
Your company may also offer an employee match, which means your company would contribute when you do. There are different rules for matching funds, with some companies matching 50% of your contributions up to a certain percentage of your salary and others matching 100% or some other amount. This is literally free money when you are eligible for this. If you have a 100% match, for each $1,000 you contribute, your employer will give you another $1,000 (up to whatever your employer's limit is).
Be sure to do all you can to contribute enough to earn your full matching funds so you don't leave this cash on the table.
3. Create a budget
Since you're going to be earning a decent income now, you'll want to make sure you are using your money as wisely as you can. To do that, you'll need to create a budget.
Budgeting may not sound fun, but it enables you to use your money to accomplish goals — and to be sure your spending aligns with your values. You may want to start with a detailed budget allocating every dollar to a specific category of spending or savings, but if that sounds too painful to you, you can opt for a 50-30-20 budget instead. This would involve keeping fixed costs to 50% of your income, saving 20%, and spending the remaining 30% on discretionary expenses.
4. Start saving for an emergency fund
Emergencies are a fact of life and now that you officially have an “adult” job, you'll want to be prepared to deal with them when they happen. Try to start saving a set amount each month for emergencies, with the ultimate goal of having a savings account that has enough in it to cover three to six months of living expenses. An emergency fund can keep you from going into debt whenever you have an unplanned expense.
If you take care of these four tasks, you should be well on your way to becoming a financially successful college graduate. Get started ASAP so you can get started on the right foot.
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