Freedom, flexibility, independence – new graduates have it all. They can keep all of this new-found freedom by using a few time-proven principles to apply their financial resources toward achieving life dreams.
Start by making a habit of setting and reaching goals. People who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to accomplish their goals than people who don’t. As you become accustomed to setting aside money for smaller goals, you’ll learn that you don’t miss the money. Larger goals will be within your reach.
Shortly after you draw your first paycheck, start thinking about investing. Your employer may offer a retirement plan in which they match your contributions up to a certain amount. Take advantage of the employer match and contribute the maximum you can.
From the beginning, avoid high credit card interest charges, save for a 20 percent down payment on a home so you can avoid mortgage insurance payments, buy used cars rather than leasing new ones and use your money for investing. You deserve your hard-earned money – don’t let it slip away.
For people who want to learn on their own about investing, a number of Web sites with educational offerings are available. The National Endowment for Financial Education offers a free, Web-based educational training at www.nefe.org/webtraining/nav.html. Another online Web-based course is offered by the Investment Company Institute Education Foundation at www.icief.org. The Morningstar organization provides in-depth stock and mutual fund information to investors and financial advisers in addition to numerous online educational courses for a minimal charge. The Morningside Web site is www.morningstar.com.
Focus on investing for the long run and ignore stories in the press and on television that would make you frequently buy and sell investments. Ignore hot tips from friends and at the office. Know why you make an investment decision and reevaluate your decision every couple of years. Don’t fret (or brag) about your investments. Make educated investment decisions and enjoy your life.
If you know that learning about money is not your thing, establish an investing program with automatic contributions from your checking account to a no-load index mutual fund. Check several mutual fund companies and compare yields and annual expenses. A few examples include www.vanguard.com, www.fidelity.com and www.troweprice.com.
Learn to do a net-worth statement. Once a year, add up all of your assets which include cash, savings, investments and an estimate of your personal possessions. Deduct all of your liabilities (anything that you owe). The result is your personal net worth. Keep your debt low and stay steady with your investment plan. Your increasing net worth will be your reward.
Judy McKenna, Ph.D., CFP, Family Economics Specialist, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, firstname.lastname@example.org