You aced that course titled an Introduction to American Culture: World, Nation, Regions. Principles of Human Communication was a snap. And you at least got a B in Business Programming. You’ve tossed your cap in the air and you have that brand-new diploma tucked under one arm. You’re free you say to yourself, no more boring lectures, no more all-nighters, no more testy professors.
Well, not so fast there.
The credit reporting bureau, Experian, did a study, which revealed that the majority of college graduates don’t feel that they have been adequately educated about personal finance. The fault, they believe lies with their schools which may have taught them a lot about many things but personal finance wasn’t one of them. As a result, most recent grads don’t feel prepared to manage their credit card and student loan debts.
Are you feeling stressed out about money?
This same survey revealed that most graduates are feeling overwhelmed, stressed and worried about money. At the top of their list of concerns was not having enough money saved followed by carrying too much debt. These young people are not alone, either. If you do a quick Internet search on the term “Americans worry about money” you’ll get literally thousands of articles and studies about how much most of us agonize over our personal finances. Being stressed out about money can even cause physical problems such as bladder infections, sinus infections, fibromyalgia, colds, diarrhea and even heart disease.
The good news
There is no magic fix for money problems but there are some important lessons you need to learn that would at least help you gain some control over your financial situation and here are four of them.
It’s up to you to lean about personal finance
The first thing you need to do is accept personal responsibility for learning about finances. This means it will be up to you to find educational resources and commit to learning what you need to know to succeed financially. Two good places to start are the books “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki and Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover”. Dave is also the author of several other worthwhile books including “The Complete Guide to Money” and “The Financial Peace Planner.” If you take the time to read two or three of these books, you’ll be well on your way to understanding the basics of personal finance and debt management.
Look for local resources
There are organizations throughout the country just begging to help you become literate financially. Most of these organizations offer help that’s either free or that cost very little. For example, there is the Financial Planning Association and the Foundation for Financial Planning. The FPA was created in 2000 and its members are encouraged to join “Communities of Interest” organized by this stage of your career and your other interests. Its stated aim Is to be the community that fosters the value of financial planning. Another good source for learning about personal finance is the Institute for Financial Literacy, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote effective financial education and counseling.
You undoubtedly had a plan for your college education and your next step is to make a plan for your financial situation and how to improve it. Studies have shown that just making a plan will actually reduce your stress about money. It doesn’t have to be lengthy, elaborate, or complex either. For example, you could start with the basic building blocks such as creating a spending plan. There are literally countless budgeting tools available free online as well as numerous apps. One of the best of these is Mint.com. Once you sign up with this free tool you will have a smart phone app that will automatically track your spending and help you develop a budget. It will even suggest a few for you. In addition, you can connect your credit cards, savings accounts and any investment accounts to Mint and it will then show you a complete picture of your finances all in one place. Just as important, you can use Mint to check your credit and get tips for improving it.
If you decide that your first, best step would be to create a budget there are some great, free smart phone apps such as PocketGuard and GoodBudget. Probably the second most popular budgeting tool is You Need A Budget, which you can use free for 34 days and then after that $50 for a year or five dollars a month to use it on your computer.
Don’t forgo professional help
If you had a serious medical problem like appendicitis or colitis you wouldn’t try to treat it yourself. You probably wouldn’t try to fix an automobile problem such as a broken transmission without professional help. And if you were hauled into court over a serious automobile accident it’s unlikely you would try to represent yourself. If you’re suffering from an unhealthy financial situation it can permeate every facet of your life in both the near and far term. Whether you’ve stopped to think about this or not being in a poor financial situation can impact your relationships and your ability to have a quality life. When this is the case finding the right professional that can provide the help you need can have a huge and beneficial impact on your life and on those of your loved ones. Whether your basic problem has to do with debt consolidation, improving or managing your credit, doing a better job of investing your money or any other financial issue the right financial advisor can help you overcome it and have a better, less stressful life.
There’s just no excuse for financial illiteracy
If you didn’t learn the basics of personal finance while in high school or college that’s no excuse for remaining financially illiterate. If you accept personal responsibility for your finances and use the lessons you’ve learned in this article you should be able to look forward to a very bright financial future.