To the millions of college and high school seniors who recently graduated: congratulations on a job well done. After the celebration dies down, you’ll no doubt be eager to embark on life’s next chapter, whether it’s finding a job, preparing for college or enrolling in military or community service.
Before you jump in feet first, let me share a few financial lessons I learned the hard way when I was just starting out.
First, pretend you’re still a starving student. After landing your first full-time job, the urge to go on a spending spree for new clothes, a better apartment and a car from this decade will be irresistible after surviving on ramen noodles for four years. But unless you had generous scholarships or a rich aunt, you’re probably already saddled with thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
After you’ve factored in rent, car payments, renter’s and car insurance, credit card charges, student loan balances and other monthly bills (not to mention payroll taxes such as Social Security tax, which went up 2 percent this year), your new salary probably won’t go as far as you’d like, especially if you’re trying to save for one of those life events.
Next, know the score, credit-wise. Many people don’t realize until it’s too late that a poor credit score can trash your financial future. To know where you stand, review your credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus.
Alderman directs Visa’s financial education programs.