We all want to have a happy financial life. But do you know what it really means to have one? Now that you are fresh out of college, what direction will you take in order for you to have a great financial position?
The definition of having a great financial situation will depend on each person. It is influenced by your values, priorities, and future goals. Regardless of how your specific definition is, there are a couple of characteristics to make you happy with your personal finances.
- You have a stable source of income.
- Your debts are manageable.
- You have an increasing net worth.
- You are saving for your future.
- You can afford to pay for basic necessities.
- You have a budget for entertainment expenses.
These are only some of the characteristics of a great financial position. The other details will probably depend on your personal preference. Some people would feel like they have a happy financial life if they are able to buy what they need without going into debt. Some people would feel the same if they have the freedom to choose the career that they want to enter without worrying about the financial implications.
One this is for sure: it takes some work to say that you are happy with your personal finances. It is not something that happens overnight. This is why you need to start thinking about it and planning how to improve it early on in your life. It is also not something that naturally happens to you. It requires some work, dedication and a lot of good financial decisions.
4 decisions that will change your personal finances for the better
If you really want your financial life to take off, it is very important to start developing the right habits as soon as you graduate. The earlier you start, the faster you can reach your financial goals. Even if you are fresh out of college, that does not excuse you from the important financial decisions that you have to make. You are no longer a child and you are no longer expected to lean on your parents for help. In the first few months, that may be possible. But you cannot continue living like you did in the past.
To help you get started on building a happier financial life, here are 4 important financial decisions that you need to make as soon as you get your diploma.
Let us start with the most pressing financial concern of new graduates – their student loans. According to an article published on StudentLoanHero.com, the Class of 2016 has an average student loan debt of $37,172. This is 6% higher compared to the previous year. Obviously, if you graduated with this type of debt, this will be your main financial burden. You do not have a home loan yet and it is not practical for you to buy a car. Most likely, this is the only debt that you have – unless you already amassed a sizable balance on your credit card account. If not, then keep a tight lid on your spending because you have to decide how you will pay off your loan. Study all the repayment plans that you can qualify for. You may be eligible to be forgiven of your debt in a couple of years. Make sure you know all your options so you can maximize your student loan payments. Otherwise, you will end up delaying a lot of financial investments just because your money is tied to this particular debt.
This may not necessarily be a monetary decision but it can affect your financial life in the future. An article published on Time.com revealed that more young adults have decided to live with their parents after graduation for financial reasons. We can all guess that student loans have a huge influence on this decision – and it is proving to be a smart one. If you are worried about where you will get the money to pay off your student loans, you can choose to move back in with your folks while you are deciding. This does not mean you will be dependent on them. You still have to look for a job but sharing living expenses with your parents will make the transition easier. This can also benefit your parents if you will share in the household expenses. You can take advantage of this living arrangement to make bigger payments toward your student loans and to build your emergency fund. When you feel like your financial position is stronger, you can choose to move out of your parents’ house.
In case moving in your parents’ house is not a possibility, you can always choose to share an apartment with a close friend. As long as your living expenses will not bloat, you can expect more extra money to be used wisely.
Choose a lifestyle you can comfortably sustain – even if it is not frugal. Sometimes, people force themselves to live a frugal lifestyle – only to do it wrong. They end up depriving themselves and when it becomes too frustrating, they splurge. This will not end well for your finances. Some people are happier living an expensive lifestyle and do not mind working more to make ends meet. If that works for you, then follow what your heart wants. The important thing is to choose a lifestyle that will not put you in debt.
Finally, you need to make a decision about your career. Choose a career that you know will make you happy and fulfilled. Do not just choose because you have to pay for an expensive lifestyle – unless you are happy with your options. Some people force themselves in very stressful jobs that make them very unhappy. It may be true that they can afford to live expensive lifestyles but it takes away the quality of life that they really want to experience. Do not put yourself in a financial position wherein you have to depend on a high-paying job that makes you extremely unhappy. That could lead you to depression and despite the wealthy exterior, it will not be worth it.
Think about all of these decisions carefully so you can set up your financial life and point it to the right direction.
Important financial activities for new graduates
Apart from the important decisions that you need to make, there are also a couple of activities that you need to implement in order to build a strong and secure financial position. Here is a couple of them.
- Learning how to budget. Start by learning how to budget. If this is something that you never implemented while you were in school, now is the time to correct that hindsight. The benefits of budgeting are beyond the financial aspect – it can also help you live a stress-free life.
- Saving for the future. Another thing that you need to work on is your savings. You have to start saving as early as you can so you can reach a lot of financial goals. You need to think about your retirement, dream house, and even that vacation. Do not rely on credit if you can save up for it.
- Building an emergency fund. The third activity that you need to immerse yourself into is building up your emergency fund. This fund will help you with various unexpected expenses. You do not have to borrow money in case you are faced with an emergency situation.
- Monitoring credit. Finally, you want to make sure that you will monitor your credit all the time. According to a survey done by Bankrate, 46% of Americans have checked their credit score within the past 12 months. Another 14% said they checked their scores in that past 3 years. There are many benefits in checking your credit report regularly. You can check for errors that can bring your credit score down. You can also check for incidents of identity theft. This has to be reported immediately if you want to protect your finances.
All of these activities will help you build a strong and secure financial life. Make sure that you develop the right habits that will allow you to make smart decisions about your finances.