New grads: How to get your finances in order upon entering the real world


Graduation means no more classes and no more books, but you may find those items being replaced by bills and loan statements. In college, students learn the things that will help them prosper in their careers, but many also leave without a clear understanding of what it means to be financially responsible.

Whether you're entering the real world or you are the parent of a child who is on the verge of graduation, here are a few things new grads need to understand about their finances after leaving college:

* Student loans. These days, it's rare for students to graduate from college without student loan debt. What's more common are students who don't entirely know what they owe, how many loans they've taken out and the best way to go about paying off their loans.

If you have government loans, examining consolidation options may allow you to lock in at a specific rate, and make payments to fewer places. If you, like many graduates, have private loans to supplement your government loans, review your repayment options with your provider.

It's always a good idea to check with your loan provider to see if you can set up an automatic repayment option from your account, since many providers, such as U.S. Bank, will give you a lower interest rate if you enroll in this option.

If you haven't secured steady employment after college, you might want to check with your provider about your loan's repayment grace period. For example, U.S. Bank student loans allow borrowers six months before they must begin repayment. To learn more about student loan repayment or to find information about private student loans if you are planning to continue your education, visit www.usbank.com/studentloans.

* Insurance. Another thing that tends to sneak up on recent college grads is the fact that they are now in charge of paying their own insurance - most specifically car and health insurance. Most insurance companies allow students to be covered under their parents' policies, but once graduation passes, it will likely be time to find your own coverage. Ask your parents when your coverage on each of these items expires and plan accordingly. Also plan for rental or homeowner insurance expenses - especially if you don't plan to live at home with your parents.

Check first with your new or potential employers, as that's the most common place to receive health insurance. If you are unemployed or aren't covered by an employer's plan, visit www.healthcare.gov to check out different options in your state.

You may wish to check with your parents' auto insurance provider to see what types of policies they can offer you. At the same time, it's never a bad idea to shop around to find the best coverage at the lowest rates.

* Plan for the future. Earning a steady income can be a welcome change if you were barely scraping by in college, but it can also lead you to overspend. It's always a good idea to keep your credit card use in check and if you are carrying over any credit card debt from college, it should be the first thing you pay off since credit cards usually carry the highest interest rates.

Making full use of your employer's 401(k) program and starting an individual retirement account (IRA) are also great investments to make early in your career. Investing with these types of tools when you're 22 or 23 instead of waiting a few years to begin investing can make all the difference in the world when it comes time for you to retire.

With your diploma in hand, you're ready to move on to the next chapter in your life. Start that period off right by making sure you have your finances in order so you can enjoy the income you'll earn at your new job.

 

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