After four years of hard work, you’ve finally graduated. Congratulations! Life after graduation is going to be completely different from anything you’ve experienced before. It’s an adventure for sure but it brings with it a whole lot of new responsibilities. What are your plans after graduation? Have you given it any thought or are you planning on taking things as they come?
You may feel like you need to take a break after four years of nonstop studying. But this is not the time to slack off. Now’s the time to think about what to do after graduation. You are now totally independent and responsible for all the decisions you make and those you don’t make as well. This is especially relevant to decisions you make about your finances. What you do now could benefit you or set you back financially over the next few years.
We’ve put together 9 things to do after graduation that will help you get started on the right foot.
Don’t wait too long to start looking for a job. It takes time to find relevant job opportunities and write out personalized applications for each. It could then take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months to get called for an interview and get hired. The earlier you start exploring job opportunities the sooner you could get started earning a steady income.
While waiting for the job offers, take up a part-time job. Scour the local newspapers for part-time work offers or go online and explore freelancing opportunities. Filter these down based on your skills. Freelancing allows you to set your own hours and rates. You can continue providing these services as a side hustle even after getting a steady job. Earning an income during these early days after graduation is important. Your bills will start becoming due before you know it. Having some money in your account. will help you set up a strong financial foundation.
You did this right through college and you’ve seen how it helped. Creating a budget will help you avoid overspending and getting into debt. It will also help you build your emergency fund. Your budget spreadsheet will look different after graduation but it will be just as helpful.
Keeping your monthly income top of mind is important when creating your budget. Almost all money decisions you make from here on will depend largely on how much you earn. Your monthly income will determine how much you can afford to pay for rent, utilities, groceries, and transportation. It will also impact how much you can afford to pay towards your student loan repayments. If possible, you also want to set aside some money as savings.
Everybody has different financial goals. One person’s dream may be to buy their own house. Another person’s dream may be to travel the world. Whatever your dream, make sure you create a plan as to how you’re going to achieve it. You also want to set a time frame for achieving your goals. From there, you want to work backward to figure out how much you need to save every month toward your goals. Knowing that you’re saving to achieve your dream can be a huge motivating factor.
This is among the top things to do after graduation. Your first loan payment will become due six months after graduation. That may seem like a long time away but those six months will fly by way too quickly. You need to make a plan for repaying your student loans immediately after graduation.
Start by making a list of your federal and private student loans. Write down the interest rates, due dates, and payment amounts for each loan. Then calculate how much will go toward loan payments every month. Now it’s time to figure out how you are going to make those payments.
Can you save enough from your income to afford the monthly payments? If that seems unlikely, explore the repayment plans available with your federal student loans. Choose an income repayment plan that helps lower your monthly payments and makes them more affordable. This will also free up money that you can use to pay off your private student loans. Private student loans generally have higher interest rates and fewer protections. It’s best to prioritize paying off these loans first.
If you’re really struggling financially with no possible way of making those loan payments, consider refinancing. Refinancing allows you to exchange your existing student loans for a new loan with different terms. If you can’t afford your loan repayments, refinancing with lower monthly repayments will make them more affordable. You may also benefit from lower interest rates if the market is weak or if have a good credit score.
Lowering your monthly payments will increase the cost of your loan as more interest accrues over the longer term. But it is still better than defaulting on your payments, which can be even more expensive. When your monthly income increases, you can refinance again and increase your monthly repayments.
Hopefully, you opened a savings account as a college student. Having a savings account in college offers several benefits and helps you develop a habit of saving. If you haven’t opened an account yet, do it now.
A savings account acts as a safe place to keep your cash. It also helps your savings grow as you earn interest on your account balance. Putting away a small portion of your monthly income into your savings account will help you reach your future goals slowly and steadily. You can also set up automatic payments so your monthly loan payments are transferred directly from your savings account to your lender’s account. This reduces the risk of delayed payments simply because you forgot the deadline.
Your credit score may not be your top priority right now but it’s a good idea to know where you stand. This will help you develop a plan for building strong credit. When the time comes to take a mortgage or a vehicle or personal loan, you’ll be glad you did. A high score will qualify you for a lower interest rate, saving you thousands of dollars in accrued interest.
But, good credit doesn’t happen automatically and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. You have to work consistently toward boosting your credit score. Start by paying all debts on time and keeping your expenses well below your credit limit on your credit card. These are the two most important things you can do to build credit fast. Keeping old credit lines open and taking on a mix of installment and revolving debt also helps in building credit. And finally, don’t apply for loans or credit cards unnecessarily. These will trigger hard credit checks which will hurt your score by a few months.
Using a credit card smartly will help you build your credit score. The key to building credit using your credit card is to make all payments on time. Consistent on-time payments will add points to your score. Keeping your credit utilization low also helps add points to your score.
However, if you tend to splurge using your credit card and can’t trust yourself to stay within your limits, it’s best not to get one. You’ll pay a high price if you can’t afford to make the full payment by the due date. The credit card company will charge you a late payment fee as well as interest on the outstanding. This can send you further into debt and damage your credit score as well. If you can’t control your spending, it’s best not to get a card.
Everyone should have an emergency savings fund. This is money that’s set aside to cover any type of emergency. It helps you prepare for the unexpected.
It may seem unnecessary right now but you’ll be glad to have easily accessible funds when an unexpected event does arise. None of us knows what the future holds for us. We don’t know when we may lose a job, meet with an accident, or have a medical emergency. If you’ve built your emergency savings fund, you don’t need to worry about how you’ll cover the cost. The money from your emergency savings fund will help.
It’s not enough to just know what to do after graduation. Acting on the ideas above is what will help you reach your financial goals. It does take time and commitment but if you persevere, you’ll get there sooner than you expected.
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