Start Now: There is no better day than to start today. When in college and even many years after it can seem like we don’t have enough money to save. What’s the point? It feels like it won’t make a difference. However, due to the 8th wonder of the world, compound interest, even small amounts of savings and investments can add up and multiply. So start that 401K and/or IRA as soon as possible. Also, understanding our personal finances and getting in the habit of saving and budgeting will be extremely helpful once you graduate and have your own salary and expenses.
Build Credit Early: If you ever plan on borrowing money in life (for a car, home, or business), you should build good credit. Over a lifetime, people with the best credit scores pay over $100,000 less in interest than people with average scores. And people with poor credit pay even more. A starter credit card is designed for people new to credit. Unlike many mainstream credit cards, starter credit cards often have lower credit limits ($300-$500 is a common start), an annual fee, higher interest rates, and limited or no rewards. Being the account holder on a utility bill (if you pay your bills on time) is a great way to build credit. Another easy way to build credit is to piggy-back off a family member’s existing credit by having them be a co-signer on your account (if they have good credit, of course).
Be Weary of Credit Cards: If you don’t pay your credit card balance in full each month, credit cards are the most expensive debt out there. In order to hold a balance, you have to pay interest to the credit card companies, which can be as high as 20-30%. That’s pricey, and wasted money. If you aren’t able to pay the interest, that just builds your balance and it can spiral out of control. I like to think of my credit spending as a bar tab. I think of each purchase being similar to ordering a drink and putting it on my tab. Eventually enough is enough and I know I will have to pay once closing time comes.
Have an Emergency Plan: This ones pretty self explanatory. Life will throw you curve balls so you should always have a backup plan. No one ever plans on their car breaking down tomorrow, or something as extreme of being let go from your job. You cant plan, but you can prepare. Emergency funds come in handy and will prevent you from paycheck to paycheck living. Most financial experts recommend that you have at least 3-6 months’ worth of cash set aside for emergencies. I agree, but ultimately, your emergency fund needs to be whatever makes you feel comfortable.