Financial Fundamentals Blog

Tips for Recent College Grads to Avoid Common Financial Pitfalls

Congratulations! Your hard work has paid off. Diploma in hand, you’re ready to tackle the next phrase of your life.

But the joy of graduating from college can quickly fade once graduates begin to grasp their new-found responsibilities, especially when it comes to their financial future. Navigating rent, a car payment, insurance, cable and groceries can be overwhelming. Throw student loan payments and other financial burdens into the mix, and it can be downright frightening.

The worst thing recent grads can do is to start using credit cards to help them maintain their lifestyle. The average college grad owes $4,100 on credit cards at the time of graduation. Not including student loans. Roughly 69% of graduates took out student loans and owe an average of $29,800 in federal and private debt. Below is a list of tips for recent college graduates to help plot a course to avoid common financial pitfalls.

College students fanaticize about life after graduation. A new car, stylish apartment or home and the latest furnishings. But what about money for food, gas for the car, utilities, new clothes for the new job and money for an evening with friends? Don’t forget about alternatives. Instead, use public transportation, take on some roommates and keep that old futon.
If possible, move in with mom and dad. By not paying rent, college grads can build up a financial cushion and save for things like a car, rent deposit or house payment, graduate school or a trip around the world.

Be Aware of your Income
Many grads are surprised by their salary at their first job. Knowing the difference between your gross pay and net pay is very important as it allows you to build a realistic budget. Living within your means now will prevent headaches down the road.

Understand Credit Before you Use it
While it’s important to establish credit, it’s also important to use credit wisely. Take the time to research different cards and compare interest rates and late fees, and to understand the importance of paying more than minimum each month. A college student or grad typically doesn’t need more than one card.
Also, take the time to monitor your credit. Potential employers and creditors review your credit to see if you are financially responsible. You can be denied for loans or lose out on job opportunities if your credit report reflects that you are financially irresponsible.

The Future is Now
Saving for retirement now could add hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to your retirement account. College grads should take advantage of their employer’s 401(K) plan or the equivalent and contribute as much as possible – ideally at least enough to get the maximum employer match.
Additionally, college grads should make a habit of saving. What easier way than using payroll deduction or automatic withdrawals? Pick a dollar amount and start tucking it away in a high-interest savings account. While you’re at it, create an emergency fund – set aside 10% of your anticipated income – for those unexpected purchases.

By following these tips, college grads can be on their way to a more financially secure future! For additional tips, visit Financial Realities College Grads at Once you proceed to the KOFE site, select financial publications from the KOFE table drop-down menu and then click on money management. 7 17 has partnered with KOFE (Knowledge of Financial Education) to provide free financial education tools to help support members’ long-term financial health. Resources include publications, videos and more. Plus, you have free access to financial coaches, seven days a week! 


New call-to-action