Financial Advice for College Grads: 8 Tips From FAs

Financial advisors offer simple but powerful advice for college graduates about to begin their financial journeys.

Jeff_Benjamin
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Wealth Management Editor
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Reviewed by: etf.com Staff
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Edited by: Kent Thune
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Financial Tips for College Grads - Cover
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Financial Tips for College Grads - Live Like You're Broke
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Financial Tips for College Grads - Save Till It Hurts
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Financial Tips for College Grads - Budget With Purpose
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Financial Tips for College Grads - Build Credit, Manage Debt
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Financial Tips for College Grads - Don't Ignore Student Loans
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Financial Tips for College Grads - Prepare for the Worst
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Financial Tips for College Grads - Mind Your Credit Score
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Financial Tips for College Grads - Learn to Network
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As commencement speakers across the land dish out profound inspiration, advisors get specific.

 

The following eight nuggets of advice include a representative sampling from the dozens of suggestions gathered by etf.com to help guide college graduates in what may be the most important phase of their financial lives.

Live Like You're Broke

From Frank Austin, founder and president of Sustainable Financial Planning in Hopatcong, NJ:

 

“My best tip for recent college grads is that they should continue to act like broke college students when they graduate and keep their lifestyle expenses as close to their college expenses as possible.

 

"If they can save a large percentage of their income from their new jobs, they will learn the value of saving money from the onset of their working life.  

 

"It is much easier to increase one's lifestyle but much harder to reduce expenses once a person becomes accustomed to spending money.” 

Save Till It Hurts, Then Save Some More

From Mike Hunsberger, owner of Next Mission Financial Planning in Saint Charles, MO:

 
“Start saving as soon as you get your job even if it’s only a small amount then increase your savings and investing amount every time you get a salary increase. 


"Commit to using 25% to 50% of your salary increase to savings. This could be an annual cost of living adjustment or a raise because of a promotion or new position. Increasing your savings before you’ve gotten used to living on it won’t make it seem like you’re having to cut back. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll be saving more with this strategy.” 

Budget With Purpose

From Ryan Brueck, lead financial planner at ClearWealth in Davenport, Iowa 

 

“Start with a 60/20/20 budget.

 

"Don't let your living expenses exceed 60% of your income. Save, invest and reduce debt with 20% of your income. Spend 20% on whatever you want!"  

Build Credit, Manage Debt

From Alison James, founder of WorthWise Financial Partners in Houston, TX:

 

“Build your credit responsibly. 

 

“Apply for a credit card with no annual fee that provides you with cash back benefits. Discover offers a great first card with excellent cashback rewards. I also recommend Wells Fargo Active Cash to those who qualify. Use this card for all of your purchases as your limit allows and pay it in full every month. 

 

“Set up auto payment for the full statement balance from your checking account. In addition to building your credit, this approach will help you monitor and manage to a monthly budget.” 

Don't Ignore Student Loans

From Crystal McKeon, a regulatory and compliance specialist at TSA Wealth Management in Houston, TX:

 

“Have a plan to start paying off your student loans. 


“If you have federally subsidized student loans the loans will start accruing interest when you graduate. The sooner you can pay those off the less interest you will pay in the long run. 


“If you have multiple loans you can focus on the smaller one first to feel like you are making progress. Or you can focus on the ones with the highest interest rate to pay less interest over time. Having a plan is the first step to climbing that mountain.” 

Prepare for the Worst

From Bryan Cassick, financial advisor at Warren Street Wealth Advisors in Newport Beach, CA: 

 

“Save up an emergency fund. It is recommended to have three-to-six months' worth of living expenses in a liquid savings account for emergencies like losing a job or medical emergencies. 

 

“This is specifically an emergency fund and not a travel fund or new car fund that should be saved for in addition to the emergency fund amount you are comfortable having. Then, you should consider saving more for retirement and/or paying down debt if applicable.”

Mind Your Credit Score

From Laura Barry, managing director at Wealthspire Advisors in New York, NY:

 

“Make friends with your credit score. 

 

“Get to know how it works and check in regularly. Take advantage of opportunities to strengthen your bond by listing rent and utility bills and utilizing autopayments. If things start to go sideways, get back on track quickly.” 

Learn to Network

From Brad Brescia, senior financial advisor at Moisand Fitzgerald Tamayo Financial Planning and Wealth Management in Orlando, FL:

 

“You'll never have more time in your life than you do right now, use it wisely. 

 

“Make the most of every opportunity to build capacity in your network, your know-how, and your wisdom, before life responsibilities start to stack up. You never know where it will lead.” 

Jeff Benjamin is the wealth management editor at etf.com, responsible for coverage related to the financial planning industry. This includes writing, hosting podcasts, webinars, video interviews and presenting at in-person events.


Jeff is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years’ experience covering the financial markets. He has won more than two dozen national and regional awards for his reporting. He most recently worked as a senior columnist at InvestmentNews where he wrote about investment products and strategies, as well as the broader financial planning industry. Prior to that, Jeff worked as an analyst at Cerulli Associates where he researched and wrote reports on the alternative investments industry. Jeff also worked as a money management reporter at Dow Jones Newswires, where he covered the mutual fund industry.


Based in North Carolina, Jeff is a former Marine and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Central Michigan University.