Students are heading off to college later this month, and recent graduates are hitting the workforce. Good financial habits are important for them, and it's not too early to get informed.
Financial expert Suzanne Klenk, from WSECU, shared tips for students and graduates that we all can use.
For college students
1. Keep Your Finances Mobile
The millennial lifestyle is mobile, and their finances need to be able to keep up! Chances are your financial institution has a mobile app...if not, it may be time to make a change. Look for "fee free" accounts and transactions, mobile deposit, Saturday Call Center or Brick and Mortar hours. Multiple branches are also a plus, just in case you need to see someone. WSECU has 21 branches, with the newest branch opening in Bellevue in September.
2. Credit Is Important, So Use It Responsibly
Try to stick with your financial institution when applying for your first credit card. You can usually get better rates and terms with folks that you do business with. Credit Unions are always a smart option. WSECU has a JUST U account that provides special benefits for young adults through age 26. It's a package of services that walk you along the path of financial independence.
3. Be Smart About Recurring Expenses Like Food and Books
Food and books are the biggest reoccurring expenses that students have. The school book store is the most expensive place to buy books. Check out book exchanges, used books, book rental programs and borrowing! As for food, create a realistic spending plan. Cooking is never a good idea in a dorm room, so planning is key. Shopping for Protein bars, Nuts, healthy snacks, etc. will keep you out of the student store and deli. Price out the meal plans and choose the option that fits you. Plan for a "Pizza Night" here and there. You're still human, and fun is also a part of the college experience.
4. Don’t Take Out More Student Loans Than You Need
The student loan debt has surpassed the mortgage loan debt in the U.S. Whatever you borrow, you must pay back, and that cuts into enjoying and being able to afford the life you are dreaming of. Borrow only what you need.
5. Get A Job, But A Flexible One
A part time job is a great idea for a few reasons. A little extra income always helps a tight budget. It also keeps you occupied! You are meeting new people, working and studying, which leaves you less time to spend money you shouldn't be spending. Make sure your employer will work with your school schedule so that it is sustainable.
For recent college graduates
1. Live within your means
It sounds simple, but we all know, it takes work. A written spending plan is the key. Save and spend your money on paper before you get it every month. Include recurring expenses and that student loan. Consult your spending plan before adding any new expenses.
2. Save money automatically
Saving money is imperative at every stage of adulthood. Make it a habit, make it automatic. Remember the adage: out of sight, out of mind.
3. Establish credit, use it wisely and monitor your profile
Establishing Credit is a funky term that has been thrown around a lot. If you have a credit card, a car loan, or a student loan, you have credit and do not need to establish it again. If you're looking for a credit card, the same rules apply. Start with your financial institution. Beyond that, avoid annual fees and look for service-charge-free transactions abroad. Also, play close attention to fraud protection. The best way to protect your credit rating is PAY YOUR BILLS ON TIME!
4. Take advantage of employer 401(k) plans
It’s never too early to start saving for retirement. If there is a match, make it work!