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8 Smart Moves For College Grads

Have you or one of your kids recently graduated from college? There's a lot to look forward to—a first job, maybe marriage and family and financial success. But college graduates can't assume that good things will happen automatically. Here are eight moves to make as soon as the ink on the diploma dries:

1. Get organized. Put your house in order by collecting vital papers such as your Social Security card, passport, and any investment documents and insurance policies. For optimal protection, store papers you don't need regularly in a bank safe deposit box or another secure location.

2. Start paying down debt. If you've borrowed money while earning your degree, chip away at your liability. The top priority is to wipe out credit card debt, on which you're likely paying a sky-high interest rate. What about student loans? Often those interest rates are low and much of your repayment will make a dent in the principal.

3. Devise a monthly budget. Once you have a firm grasp on both your monthly income and expenses—rent, car payments, and the like—create a budget. The goal is to be in the black, spending less than you earn, with some savings to spare, but allocate funds for entertainment, too.

4. Open bank accounts. If you don't already have them, set up checking and savings accounts at a local bank. But don't overdo things with your new debit card. And be careful with credit cards—using them can help establish your credit history but try to pay off your borrowing quickly to avoid high interest charges.

5. Look to invest. Now that you have an income, think about how to use some of it to earn more money. For starters, open a brokerage account with a reputable firm. At this early stage in your life, you generally can afford to be relatively aggressive with your investment choices, because you'll have time to overcome temporary losses. But keep in mind your personal tolerance for investment risk.

6. Create a "rainy day" fund. It's impossible to anticipate all of the expenses you'll incur during the next few years. Try to set aside something extra in case of emergencies. For instance, you might face a layoff or an unexpected medical or dental bill. Have enough savings on hand to carry you through for a few months.

7. Think about retirement. That's not a misprint. Although you're still decades from calling it quits, the sooner you start saving for retirement, the better. Take advantage of company plans such as a 401(k) (especially if your company matches contributions) and consider supplementing your savings with an IRA.

8. Obtain financial guidance. Fortunately, you don't have to do it all on your own. We can provide assistance based on your personal circumstances. Don't hesitate to contact our office for more details.