6 Smart Money Moves for New College Graduates

More than 70 percent of recent graduates began their career owing more than $37,000 in student loans. Hard to believe, but it's true. Considering the additional living expenses that graduates will soon face, new college graduates would be wise to focus on their financial future right now. That's why we've identified six smart financial decisions college graduates should consider now to position themselves for financial success as they embark on their next phase of life.

"The habits new graduates develop right now will have a big effect on their financial future," says Brandon Moseley, CB&T Lending Officer. "Living expenses add up quickly once you're out on your own, and many young adults who didn't plan ahead are delaying major milestones like getting married or buying a home because of their financial situation." Moseley says the good news is that you can have a bright financial future if you think strategically about the money - and the sooner the better.

CB&T recommends the following financial tips for new college graduates:

Live within your means

Supporting yourself can be expensive, and you can quickly find yourself struggling financially if you don't take time to create a budget. Calculate the amount of money you're taking home after taxes, then figure out how much money you can afford to spend each month while also contributing to your rainy day savings. Be sure to factor in recurring expenses such as student loans, monthly rent, utilities, groceries, transportation expenses, and car loans. Simply work to spend less than you make, even after a small monthly addition to your rainy day savings account.

Pay bills on time

Missed payments can hurt your credit history for up to seven years and can affect your ability to get loans, the interest rates you pay, and your ability to get a job or rent an apartment. Consider setting up automatic payments for most of your regular expenses like student loans, car payments, and phone bills. Take advantage of any reminders or notification features. You can also contact creditors or lenders to request a different monthly due date from the one provided by default (e.g., switching from the 1st of the month to the 15th), so as to make your payment dates work for you.

Avoid racking up too much debt

Understand the responsibilities and benefits of credit. Shop around for one credit card that best suits your needs, and spend only what you can afford to pay back each and every month. Credit is a great tool, but only if you use it responsibly.

Plan for retirement

It may seem odd since you're just beginning your career, but now is the best time to start planning for retirement. Contribute to retirement accounts like a Roth IRA or your employer's 401(k), especially if there is a company match. Invest enough to qualify for your company's full match - it's free money that adds up to a significant chunk of change over the years. Automatic retirement contributions quickly become part of your financial lifestyle without having to think about it. If your employer offers a retirement plan, spend the time to learn all about its features.

Prepare for emergencies

Hardships can happen in a split second. Start an emergency rainy day fund and do your best to set aside the equivalent of three to six months' worth of living expenses over time. Start saving immediately, no matter how small the amount. Let it build. Make saving a part of your lifestyle with automatic payroll deductions or automatic transfers from checking to savings. Put your tax refund toward savings instead of an impulse buy. Every little bit that you can add to this rainy day fund, up front, really helps.

Get help from your bank

CB&T offers personalized financial checkups to help you identify and meet your financial goals. You can also take advantage of our free online banking tools with the Mobile Community that let you check balances, pay bills, deposit checks, monitor transaction history, and track your budget. Use the help of bankers and others who will help you without cost to you. Click here to contact a Banking Officer to make an appointment for your personal financial review.

These six steps are the difference maker to being financially independent sooner rather than later. Call 753-1521 for more information.