Money Monday: 5 financial tips for life after college

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This is the first article in our new “Money Monday” series by financial expert Jini Thornton! Once a month, Jini will be giving us the advice we need to become financially fit. Have a finance question for Jini? Email it to!

The college class of 2016 was 1.9 million deep. If you were one of them, CONGRATULATIONS – your hard work has paid off! Welcome to your new chapter, new life, and new financial responsibilities. Maybe your parents are getting ready to cut you off, or maybe you’ve been holding things down by yourself financially for a while.  No matter your story or situation, at The Cut Life, we want you to be more than prepared for this new chapter of your life.  

Here are five things you need to do to be financially straight for your post-college life:

1. Don’t ignore your student loans.

I’m sorry, but yes, now it’s time to deal with your student loans.  This is what you need to do to stay on top of your student loans:

  • Most student loans have a six-month grace period after graduation before you have to make payments. Know when your payments start including the amount and who to pay (it’s not unusual for your private loans to get sold to a different bank).
  • Set your student loan payments up on autopay.  Most lenders will reduce your interest rate by .25% just because you set them up on autopay.
  • Notify your lender immediately if you can’t make your monthly student loan payment.  Maybe you haven’t started working yet or maybe your current budget can’t afford that $1,000/month student loan payment.
  • You might need to see if you qualify for a deferment (when you don’t have to pay your student loan for a period, and no interest accrues –  no interest gets added to your loan balance). Or apply for a forbearance (when you don’t have to pay your student loans, but interest does accrue – interest does get added to your loan balance while you aren’t paying).

2. Embrace the “B” word.

This “B” word is Budget.  Now that you have no more help from your parents, no more refund checks and no more student loan money to life off of, you really need to know what it costs to live your life and be you.
A budget isn’t meant to restrict you or deprive you of the things you want.  Think of a budget more like lines on the highway.  It’s intended to keep you safe, heading in the right direction, and to give you some boundaries. You need to know exactly how much money you have coming in and how much all of your expenses are.

Use whatever method or tool is best for you to manage your budget.  The best tool is whatever one you will actually use.   Some people like apps like, some use the app their bank offers, and some still do it the old school way – either using a spreadsheet or writing it all out. Whatever tool or method you decide to use, it only works if you commit and use it.  Remember, budgets are our friends!

3. Protect your credit with your life.

It’s crazy how many areas of your life is impacted by your credit score. How much you pay for car insurance, getting approved for an apartment or car loan and even getting hired for certain jobs can all be dependent on your credit score.  Here’s how to protect your credit score.

  • Pay your bills on time every month.
  • If you can’t pay your credit cards, don’t use them.
  • Avoid all unnecessary new debt.
  • Don’t co-sign for anyone.

4. The rain IS coming.

Saving money in an emergency fund, for the rainy day, should be one of your top priorities when you graduate. I assure you, you will need money for something unexpected. Call it car repairs, new tires, a parking or speeding ticket or even a medical emergency – an unplanned expense or life situation is going to happen.
You might want to put this money in a separate account and maybe even at a different bank to keep it safe from the – “I’m calling this an emergency, but it REALLY isn’t an emergency.”  These “fake” emergencies look like spontaneous trips with friends or shoe sales.  Prepare for the rain!

5. Start saving for retirement now?!

Really?!  YES really.   I know it might sound crazy to be in your 20’s and just starting your career, and you may be drowning in student loan debt to start thinking about saving for retirement.  I swear on everything I own and love; this is one of the best financial decisions you will ever make if you decide to do this.  Contribute what you can, watch it grow, and when you get in your 30’s and 40’s you will thank yourself for doing this!

Jini Thornton, CPA | Follow Jini on Instagram at @jinithornton

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