Signing a CheckThe average college student graduates with student loans of $26,500 and may also have private loans and credit card debt on top of that. That much debt can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. You need a plan to tackle it.

Investing in your retirement is also important, and the earlier you get started, the better off you’ll be. Time is the most important factor in creating a retirement plan that will allow you to do what you want to do later in life. Financial analysts agree most young people do not make retirement plans early enough to build the kind of wealth they’ll need.

You’ll have different options for retirement planning, and the right plan for you will depend on many factors.

For example, if your employer offers a 401K plan with matching funds or other employer-sponsored contributions, take advantage of it; otherwise, you’re turning down free money that will help you build long-term wealth. The earlier you start, the more your investments will grow.

Even if you are investigating an employer-sponsored 401K, you can put money into a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA is a great opportunity for people beginning their careers. It allows flexibility because you can take the money out without penalty when you need it. It also provides a tax-free income when you retire, because you pay the taxes up front.

But how do you get a handle on your personal finances, pay down your debt, pay your bills and manage to start saving?

First, you have to prioritize your debts. The best way to pay off any kind of debt is to pay off those with highest interest rates first. But you can’t ignore your student loans. You have to make minimum payments on them while you pay off high-interest debts to avoid defaulting and paying penalties.

All of that means you’ll have to create a budget and find ways to keep your bills to the minimum while you pay off your debt and begin creating a retirement plan.

It’s not simple, but there are a few things you can do to gain control of your personal finances in the critical first years of your career.

When you create your budget, assess both income and spending, and set goals that allow you to pay off your high-interest debt first, then your student loans, while also investing.

Then, you’ll need to find ways to cut spending to reach those goals. You can find some of the resources that will help online. Here are a few ideas:

  • Cut your housing and utilities bills by sharing with a roommate.
  • Review your spending and cut anything that isn’t necessary.

o   Cancel the cable and stream shows online for free.

o   Drop the gym membership and find free opportunities to work out.

o   Check your phone plan and find one to cut costs.

  • Look for free entertainment opportunities in your area.

Consider ways to earn extra income when you have the opportunity.

 

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