Money Matters to Tackle While You're Still a Student

Take on these money moves while you’re still a student so that you’re fully prepared once you enter the real world.

Elizabeth Hoyt

February 11, 2015

Money Matters to Tackle While You're Still a Student Money Matters to Tackle While You're Still a Student

Each day, you’re nearing closer and closer to becoming a real, live adult.

Technically, you may be considered an adult in the eyes of the law, however, as far as student status is concerned, you’ll actually feel like an adult once you start to take on adult responsibilities.

We’re talking about tasks like paying off student loans, planning for retirement and worrying about your credit.

Exciting, isn’t it?

According to USA Today College, the following are five money moves you should take on, learn more about and fully understand while you’re still a student so that you’re fully prepared once you enter the real world:

1. Understand your student loans

One of the many mistakes students – and post-grads – make when dealing with loans is that they don’t understand what they owe or who they owe money to.

Figure out exactly how much you owe, examine and assess your loan repayment options and which loans have the highest interest rates.

As a rule, you always want to pay off loans with the highest interest rates first because those will accrue much more than those with lower interest rates will.

Your school’s financial aid office is there to help you sort out all of the details – and it’s a free resource. That’s precisely why it’s critical to tackle this money matter while you’re still a student! Otherwise, you’ll end up doing it on your own which, if you’re not good with financial matters, can become stressful and confusing.

2. Start to understand – and build – good credit

As an adult, you’ll likely want to finance a large purchase at some point, whether it’s a car, obtain a mortgage for a home, secure an apartment or any other large purchase. The point is, in order to do any of these things; you will need to have established credit history.

You can keep track your credit history once a year on free web sites, such as Experian, Equifax or TransUnion – the three major credit-reporting bureaus. You will, however have to pay extra to get your score.

Other web sites, like Credit Karma offer your credit report free of charge, but may be a few points off.

Knowing your credit core is vital to understanding how to improve your credit and figuring out which types of credit cards you can even qualify for.

Even if you don’t have a credit card, don’t assume that means you have good credit. Make sure you pay your student loan payments in full and on time, otherwise, you credit can be severely damaged – even if you don’t have a credit card!

Adversely, making sure you stay on top of your payments will significantly improve your credit.

3. Plan for your retirement now – whether you like it or not!

You’re young and retirement seems so far away but planning now means you won’t have to worry later. It’s better to budget now and live large later than vice versa. Being a retiree on a strict income isn’t something you’ll want for your future.

As a rule, always take advantage of employer 401(k) match opportunities available by putting away as much as your employer will match.

It may seem like a lot out of your paycheck, but if you start it from your very first paycheck, you won’t even notice it’s missing. Plus, turning it down is turning down free money.

4. Graduate from student bank accounts

Once you’re no longer a student, you will no longer require student banking accounts. Some banks will automatically switch your accounts over to regular accounts once you graduate, many of which have hidden fees.

Make sure to check with your bank (if you want to stay with the same bank) to see which type of account is best for you. You may not wish to stay with the same bank if you will no longer be local to that area.

If you do decide to look for a new bank, check out credit unions local to the area you will be living, because they generally offer low/no-fee account options.

Just make sure there are ATM locations accessible to you because you don’t want to get slammed with a bunch of ATM fees every time you need cash!

5. Create an adult budget

Once you secure a job, it will seem as if you have more money than you do. You’re making an annual salary and it’s exciting that you’re no longer in that starving student phase. But, remember, you also have bills to pay!

Create a new budget that starts with how much you’ll be making each paycheck (with your maximum amount of 401(k) for retirement automatically deducted out, of course) and then subtract out your student loan payments, rent, bills, household expenses such as groceries and your savings.

The money you have left over once everything has been subtracted out can be your entertainment fund – that’s money for dinner with friends, shopping, etc.

Not as much extra income for spending sprees as you had anticipated? Welcome to the real world, folks.

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