May 22, 2020

5 Financial Habits To Start Early In Your Career

Career Guides|Career Resources

Starting your first job? Time to get some good financial habits in place! This post talks about the top 5 financial habits to build early on in your career

After countless hours of preparation and multiple interviews, you’ve finally received the job offer! Landing a new job is a cause for celebration, but just like anything new there can be some worry and anxiety that comes with the excitement. Planning for the future is a big part of starting a new job.


Financial planning helps you determine your short and long-term financial goals and create a balanced plan to meet those goals. In order to successfully plan for the future its important to develop smart money habits. Here are some tips to keep in mind while awaiting that first paycheck.


1. Take stock of your debt

Whether it’s medical bills, credit card debt, or student loans that have you in the red, create a plan for how to get back into the black.


Ranking your debt in order of size and starting with the smallest debt – is a strategy that personal finance expert Dave Ramsey calls the “snowball method” The idea is that each time you pay off one form of debt, you build momentum. 


When it comes to student loans, it’s important to realize that you aren’t doing yourself any favors by waiting to see if your lender has noticed you’ve graduated. Some loans have a “grace period” or a six month time before you need to start making payments, but interest is still accumulating during this time. It may make more sense to begin paying off these debts right away.


2. Contribute to a retirement account

Your first thought might be, “I’m too young to even be thinking about retirement. I just started my career!”


Ironically, according to experts, young people are able to save the most effectively. Retirement accounts benefit from compound interest so the earlier you start the better.


Experts are stating that social security may run out of money by 2035, at any rate, the benefits social security offered to older generations will not be available at the same amount to younger generations. This statistic makes it even more important to start saving for retirement as early as possible.


If your new job offers a 401(k) and matches your contributions not using the account is essentially giving up free money. If you don’t have access to a company-matched retirement account there are other options available that could be a good fit which you can check out here.


3. Set up a budget

I know, a budget sounds boring, but it’s important, especially when beginning your first job to ensure you’re bringing in more money than you’re spending. Once you know what your paycheck will be write down your monthly income as well as upfront expenses that you already know of such as rent and utilities. Setting up automatic payments for recurring payments like rent, insurance, and utilities helps to put your mind at ease when looking at the different payments you need to keep track of.


In order to know how much money you’d like to have saved and how much you can spend, think about the goals you want to reach in the next five to ten years.


You can use an app like Mint, Personal Capital, and Level Money to track where you’re spending the most money and where you can cut back a little. You can also use a spreadsheet on your computer or simply record your everyday purchases in a notebook or on your phone.


There are also several different methods of budgeting to consider trying out to see which one works best for you.


A popular budgeting method is the Envelope Method: a way to track exactly how much money you have in each budget category for the month by keeping your cash in separate envelopes. At the end of the month, you can see how much cash is left by simply looking at each envelope.


Putting all of your savings in a separate bank account can help you stay on track with all of your savings goals, as well.


4. Build Your Credit History

If you eventually want to take out a loan to purchase a home or a car, it’s important to build your credit history.


If you have no previous credit history you can use an app called Self to build your credit. This app takes a loan out for you, but holds onto it so no credit score is needed. You pay off the amount over a year to two years, and at the end of that time period, you have a great start to your credit score and the money you’ve been paying Self in savings.


Of course, you may want to get a credit card or small loan to build credit. A credit card can be a great way to build your credit if used responsibly. Many banks offer great entry-level credit cards to help individuals build credit. Wells Fargo even offers a credit card that has special benefits for students.


There are some tips to keep in mind when using your credit card though, if you use more than 30% of your credit you can risk damaging your score. Staying out of the habit of spending more than you can afford to repay is important, as well. Paying the minimum amount required will keep your account in good standing, but paying in full by the due date will save you on interest.


5. Set specific savings goals for future purchases

According to a 2016 GOBankingRates survey, 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts – and 34% have no savings at all.


There are going to be bigger purchases in your future, such as a car, home, graduate school, or an education for your kids. The sooner you start setting aside money for these expenses, the better.


Of course, having an emergency fund is an important part of being smart with your finances. You never know when an unexpected expense like a flat tire, home maintenance, or other emergencies can happen so it’s better to be safe than sorry. A good rule of thumb is to have 3-6 months worth of living expenses saved up as part of an emergency fund. It’s liberating to know that should anything happen, you’re always financially ready.


There are quite a few online high yield savings accounts that you can set up to automatically deposit a percentage of your paycheck. Savings can build up fast when you set it and forget about it. Experts recommend having three to six months of living expenses in savings in case of job loss or injuries.


No one becomes rich overnight, in order to have a stable financial future its important to establish good habits when it comes to money. The above healthy financial habits are important to your career growth and your overall success.


Are you about to start your first career-track job? Looking to jumpstart your career or begin a new career? Check out some of our partners who offer an Income Share Agreement, guaranteeing a job after graduation.


About the author

This post was prepared by the author, in her/his personal capacity. The views expressed are her/his own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Meratas Inc.
The information contained in this site is general in nature and should not be considered to be legal, tax, accounting, financial or other professional advice. In all cases, you should consult with professional advisors familiar with your particular situation prior to making any important decisions. Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, Meratas Inc. makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of this content. Meratas Inc. assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained herein or the operation or use of these materials. Copyright 2022

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