Financial Tips for Graduates

We have a great education system in this country, but where it fails miserably is educating young adults about personal finance. That job first belongs to the people raising the graduates; however, higher education institutions also have a responsibility to teach them how to manage their money. Especially since they have no problem encouraging students to take out loans to attend their fine schools!

So let me pass along just a few tidbits of advice, which I strongly believe in!

If you are borrowing to go to college, save money and live at home if that's a viable option.

If you're headed to college, don't borrow a single penny until you've figured out what the total amount of borrowing will cost you each month after you graduate. Finaid.org has a great online loan calculator. Use it before you borrow.
Don't listen to the collective "they" when it comes to your finances, particularly since "they" often have a biased interest in how you spend your money. For example, they may say you are throwing away your money if you rent. They may say, don't worry about paying off your college debt so fast because it's good debt. If you're going off to college, they may say it's vital, as part of the college experience, to live on campus.

They are wrong.

You are not a financial failure if you rent until you can truly afford to buy a home. You are not throwing money away when you rent because you are paying for a roof over your head.

There is no good debt or bad debt. All debt enslaves you to the lender.

If you are finishing college and didn't follow the previous advice, go to www.nslds.ed.gov and get information about your federal loans. Don't wait until you have to start paying back the loans (typically six months after graduating).

If you have private loans, contact the lender to be sure you are clear on what you owe.

Stop saying you don't know how to budget. There are so many free tools available to help you learn. Try www.mint.com. Another good site is www.smartaboutmoney.org run by the National Endowment for Financial Education.

Learn about compound interest. At www.choosetosave.org, watch the 30-second video about the magic of compound interest.

Part of moving forward and becoming an adult is putting away childish ways.  By the time you graduate from high school or college, you have to take responsibility to learn as much as you can about your finances.