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Bottom Line Up Front

  • Making smart money decisions now like budgeting, establishing an emergency fund and building your credit will help you build a stronger financial future post-graduation.
  • With time on your side as a young professional, you could be in a great place if you start planning for your retirement now.

Time to Read

4 minutes

June 16, 2022

Congrats, grad! Now that college is over, you’re starting an exciting new chapter full of possibilities and unknowns—many of which could impact you financially. Here are a few simple steps you can take to help protect yourself as you navigate the transition to adulthood.

  1. Know where you stand financially. Your living and working situations have probably changed since graduating, and this can have a big impact on budget. Determine your current budget by subtracting your monthly expenses from your income. Make sure you take care to factor in any student loan payments. 
  2. Stick to your budget. Staying on budget—or even better, under budget—can ensure your financial goals stay achievable. Avoid unnecessary debt and build an emergency fund into your budget. Check if you’re staying on target by viewing your credit or debit card balances often.
  3. Be wise with living expenses. Instead of blowing your budget on the nicest place you can find, consider a more balanced approach. Open your mind to more affordable communities and don’t rule out living with roommates, either. To round things out, limit new purchases.
  4. Take full advantage of employee benefits. Benefits can be your best friend. They offset insurance costs and help you save for retirement, among other things. On the retirement front, many employers offer matching contributions to a tax-advantaged retirement account. If your employer offers this perk, try to contribute as much as you can to earn the full match. You can raise your contribution a percentage or more each year to keep growing your savings. You may also be offered health insurance, short- and/or long-term disability insurance or life insurance at attractive group rates. You can also save for retirement on your own with a Traditional or Roth IRA.
  5. Invest in your career. If you want to land a better job or bigger paycheck, you’ll want to keep investing in yourself. Network with others by joining a professional organization and attending development and training events. You can also take classes to enhance your skills. Look into free or inexpensive courses that could be available online or via community education.
  6. Build credit. Having a good credit history can help you qualify for loans, credit cards and even apartments. You can build credit by paying bills on time, every time. To keep your score strong, avoid opening too many loan or credit accounts within a short period, aim to use only up to 30 percent of your total credit limit, and think twice about closing old credit card accounts, since the length of your credit history can affect your score, too.
  7. Look into paying off higher-interest debt first. Student loans make up the largest category of debt for most recent grads. If you also have credit card debt, it’s likely at a much higher interest rate. Put as much as possible toward the higher-interest debt first, while continuing to make minimum payments on other debt. This will save you money and allow you to pay off higher-interest debt quicker, giving you more money to put toward student loans.
  8. Consider student loan consolidation or refinancing.1 You may be able to stop juggling multiple loan payments by consolidating multiple federal loans into one new loan. If you have a mix of private and federal student loans, you could refinance them together, but you could risk giving up special benefits of your federal loans. Weigh the pros and cons before deciding. Navy Federal Credit Union can help you refinance private student loans and talk through your options.

Getting your finances in order now will help you reach new milestones as you progress through your career and life as an adult. A little dedication up front could lead to smart habits and big rewards for the future.

Next Steps Next Steps

  1. Build a budget and track your monthly spending so you have an idea of how much money you have left over every month for things like groceries and savings.
  2. Do you have an emergency fund? Consider working toward saving for 3-6 months of living expenses. Start off aiming for $500. Keep this money separate from your spending account so you aren’t temped to dip into it. Navy Federal has savings accounts tailored to meet specific savings goals.
  3. Work on building your credit. Navy Federal Credit Union members have free access to our Mission: Credit Confidence® Dashboard. You can monitor your credit, get credit score alerts and use the score simulator to see how certain actions could affect your score.

Disclosures

1

Eligible federal student loan payments and interest have been suspended by the government through Aug. 31, 2022. If you have federal student loans, we recommend reviewing your current and potential future benefits before refinancing.

This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.