Welcome to the real world, class of 2014. Congratulations on achieving your goal and attaining your degree. You're probably swamped with student loan debt, and just entering your chosen career field -- if you're lucky. But, now is the time to secure your financial future by taking charge today.
Keep an Eye on Retirement
I know you're thinking: "What's the rush? My degree isn't even framed yet." But, you're going to thank me for this 40 years down the road. Use time to your advantage.
Step up to the water cooler. Give up buying a couple of bottles of water a day and invest that money instead. If you invest $40 a week at 6 percent interest, in 40 years you will have an extra nest egg of $345,855. Feel free to give up your specialty coffee also, and watch your savings skyrocket. Note the word "extra" -- this is in addition to your retirement investment. That's a savings tip that's pretty easy to swallow.
If your new job comes with a 401K, be sure to take advantage of matching company funds. If not, consider a Roth IRA, which is an individual retirement account that offers tax-free income in retirement.
Stick to (Some of) Your Old Ways
I'm not talking about partying, pulling all-nighters, or calling home for cash. But, for a couple of years, live like you haven't gotten that nice new job. Watch your spending. Lower your housing costs by having roommates.
Instead of buying that new car you've been eying, put those monthly payments toward making inroads on your debts and putting more into savings.
I'm not suggesting you shutter yourself in your room and become a miser, but be sensible. Eat meals at home more often than not. You may discover that your occasional meal out with friends will be more special.
Have a Budget
You're never too young or too old to be on a budget. Hopefully, your parents raised you to be budgeters -- no need to stop now. I'm sure you were forced to be on a budget in college, even if it was informal. You were probably living on fixed funds, and had to make decisions on how to allocate them. If you spent too much on pizza deliveries, you may have had to conserve elsewhere.
Now that you have a better income, be sure to make a budget which includes: Expenses, savings and charity. Don't neglect the charity category -- you have to give back, it's part of being a Citizen of the World.
Keep An Eye on Taxes
- Moving Expenses For Your First Job Job-hunting expenses incurred while you look for that first job are not tax deductible, but moving expenses to get it are! If you moved more than 50 miles, you can deduct 23 cents per mile of the cost of getting yourself and your belongings to the new area (plus parking and tolls). That may not sound like much, but Miami to Chicago is 1377 miles -- nearly $317!
- Keep Your Receipts If you had some qualifying education expenses earlier this year, or if you are still be incurring expense due to graduate work, be sure to keep your receipts for your education spending so you can take advantage of education tax credits and deductions available at tax time.
- Interest on Your Student Loan Now that you've graduated, you will probably have to start paying off your student loan obligations. Interest on those loans will be a big part of your payments -- that interest can be deducted, up to $2500, from your income taxes.
Hopefully, you're not among the 85 percent of college grads who return to the parents' nest to live after graduating, but even if you are, have a plan. Watch your spending, save wisely, and good luck to each of you. Now, get out there and soar.
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