Life after college can seem like a blank piece of paper, just waiting for you to make your mark. It’s your turn to make a difference! But, it can also be difficult to know how to begin, especially when it comes to money management. After college is when most twenty-somethings get their first serious job, and their first big paychecks — making those years vitally important for figuring out how to manage your money. Financial experts have tons of advice for people who’ve been in the workforce for a while, but what about those who are just starting out? Here’s what’s helpful to know about managing money when you’re fresh out of college.

B is for Budgeting

Setting and sticking to a budget can be a challenge at first, and just like mastering any new skill, don’t expect to become an expert overnight. It can be all about making smart choices and making them again and again until they become part of your natural rhythm. The first choice may be to exercise restraint. Sandy Yong, author of The Money Master, recommends tightening those purse strings. “Especially after a long day at work, you may be tempted to splurge on a new handbag or shoes,” Yong says. “However, in order to save money, you’ll need to learn how to budget. This requires delayed gratification and asking yourself, ‘Do I really need [this] pair of shoes?’” Finding inexpensive (or free) ways to treat yourself and have fun will help you plan for and reach your big life goals.

Brandon Renfro, a professor and financial planner, says, “If you develop good budgeting habits when you are young, the rest of your financial goals will be easier to hit. You’ll be more likely to save, have good credit, and be able to cover financial emergencies.” Mike Kern, a CPA and blogger, recommends using a to-the-cent online budget tool to keep to your budget more accurately and easily. So get those budgeting muscles in shape by putting them to work for you. Your financial fitness might depend on it.

S is for Saving

Saving can be an unfamiliar topic for many twenty-somethings, but it can be crucial during financial emergencies, and it can make it possible to pursue your dreams. Savings are a cornerstone of your financial life, so it’s never too soon to make consistent saving a lifelong skill.

Ryan Smith, a financial planner in Virginia, says, “The first piece of advice I give to every young individual (especially those right out of school who’ve landed their first job) is to save a minimum of 15 cents on every dollar they make. Saving 15 percent is the minimum. An ideal starting point is 20 cents on every dollar made (or 20 percent).” If you can stick to this formula, you may be well on your way to having a healthy savings account. It might be a good idea to choose a day that’s easy to remember (perhaps when you pay each month’s rent) and deposit a percentage of your earnings into your savings account. Do it automatically — and keep on doing it.

I is for Investing

While budgeting and saving help you to manage the money you’ve already earned, investing can be an opportunity to grow those earnings. And when those investments pay off, you can direct that money back into your savings and budget, creating a positive financial cycle.

Smith encourages you to “pay close attention to whether [your] new employer provides a matching contribution to the retirement plan. If they do, sign up as soon as possible and defer at least the same amount that the company is matching. It’s basically a 100 percent return. Don’t miss out on that.”

James Comblo, a wealth adviser, says, “What I often tell my clients and those I work with is to take advantage of the lower tax brackets now. Let’s create a Roth IRA and contribute the maximum allowed before we do any qualified plans [401(k), 403(b), traditional IRA].” Making smart choices today can translate to healthy retirement funds in the future.

Putting It All Together

It may not always be possible to follow every guideline you set for yourself, and you might slip up on occasion. Be patient with yourself as you acquire these new skills, knowing that learning how to budget, save and invest can eventually become second nature. Give yourself the time it takes and stick with it, and in time, you’ll have all the financial skills you need.

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