Money Talks, So Should You

Money tips for the newly graduated

Brian O'Connell
by Brian O'Connell, MainStreet contributor

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — It’s graduation season for college and high school seniors, but after all that pomp and circumstance goes away, the real world awaits.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, about 3.7 million college grads will leave campus this spring for good, and most won’t be coming back to mom and dad’s — with any luck, they’ll be on their own for good.

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Millions more high school seniors will join them, striking out on their own instead of going to college.

What financial lessons should the younger set take with them as they join the workforce — especially college grads carrying much more student loan debt than previous generations?

Washington, D.C.-based insurance giant Geico has some thoughts on the subject, from planning a budget to key ways to stave off high debt:

Build a budget. Young consumers starting out need a good plan to stabilize their finances. That means tracking all income and expenses — cash coming in and going out — on a monthly basis. Keep an eye on budget items within your control,such as utilities, groceries and entertainment expenses. Minimize those costs at all times.

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Save some dough. It’s not easy, but stashing some money away is a huge long-term benefit for young Americans. That money comes in handy if you lose your job or run into another emergency. Use a good savings calculator to help you reach your savings goals.

Stay ahead of your bills. To get a good credit rating, which gets you better interest rates on any loans or credit you’ll be seeking, keep paying bills on time. Not only does paying bills on time keep rates down, but you’ll avoid late payment fees that can eat into your budget and savings.

Track your credit score. You’re going to need credit to buy such things as a new car or to rent a decent apartment. Keep an eye on your credit score to see how you’re rolling financially and to watch out for discrepancies that can hurt your credit score. You can either spend $12 or so per month for a credit score service or get a free copy of your credit score once per year at

Max out on your 401(k) plan. If you’re working, make sure to take full advantage if your employer has a retirement plan. Studies show that the earlier you save money for retirement, the faster that money grows and the more cash you accumulate. According to the IRS, the maximum allowable contribution for 2013 is $17,500.

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Living on your own is a daunting but exhilarating experience. It’s less daunting if you’re a good steward of your money right out of the gate.


Brian O’Connell has 15 years of experience covering business news and trends, particularly in the financial, health care and career management sectors. He has written 14 books and appeared on CNN, Fox News, CNBC, C-Span, Bloomberg, CBS Radio and other media outlets and in such publications as The Wall Street Journal and The He is a former Wall Street bond trader.