Life after College: Become a Financially Savvy 20-Something
- Friday, March 23, 2012
And speaking of moving in, your new landlord will expect the rent on time every month. And, the fine print in your lease agreement really doesn’t say that you don’t have to pay just your half of the rent. If your deadbeat roommate skips — guess who your landlord will be looking at to pay the bill?
And don’t forget the weddings. As one of your college buddies after another gets married they will all invite you to attend — and probably participate in — their weddings. Can you say, “Plane fares, dresses, and rental tuxedos?”
Back to that apartment, congratulations — you get to furnish it.
Now for Some Good News
But, the good news is: It has always been tough for young adults to get started. Granted, different generations have had different challenges. The challenges you face may be different than a previous generation’s — but, probably no worse. If you do the right things you will not only survive — you will thrive! Here are some things I wish someone had told me in my twenties that you may find helpful:
Learn to ignore the secular culture. Today most people live for the moment. The only kind of gratification that matters is the instant kind. If you can learn the benefits of deferring gratification — you will have won half the battle. Remember, your parents’ didn’t always have that furniture, or that nice car, or that big house. They grew into those things very gradually.
Take care of first things first. I encourage young adults to prioritize their spending. There are three important things that I would look at first. Near the top of the list should be a Murphy Fund (an emergency fund for the times you have head-on collisions with Murphy’s Law.) I would encourage you to gradually try to get your Murphy Fund up to about five percent of your annual income. Also, get some good health insurance coverage immediately. This can be expensive, but one unexpected hospital stay can undo you for years financially. Finally, learn to give. Make tithing an early and non-negotiable part of your lifestyle.
Now I know that what I’m about to suggest here is controversial, but I believe it is important to build your credit history carefully and systematically. You might consider getting a credit card for the purpose of building a credit history that will one day help you get a lower interest rate on your mortgage loan.
No, I am not telling you to go out and run up debt!!! If you misunderstand what I’m suggesting here, it can do far more damage than good. But to blame credit cards for our spending problems is a little bit like going into a Burger King, and coming out looking like a Whoper—and, then, blaming Burger King for the problem! The problem is with the person who doesn’t control his own appetite (or, in this case, spending.)
If you do get a credit card, remember the basics. Only get one card. Request and maintain a low maximum spending level (maybe $1,000.) Never spend more than 40-50 percent of that amount in any given month. Always pay the full balance every month — NO EXCEPTIONS! Think before you spend. Studies show that people using credit cards spend more — 12-18 percent more on average. Learn to avoid the urge to splurge.
Do a written budget (in No Debt No Sweat! I call budgets “Personal Financial Freedom Plans.”) Give every dollar a direction — and never deviate.
Begin saving early. Try to set at least 10-15 percent of your income away for long-term retirement planning. If your boss offers a matching 401(k) or 403(b), consider it carefully. If not, look into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). You can learn more about IRA’s at my website, or at most mutual fund company websites.
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