Cash-strapped and in debt: Money tips for college grads

How do you balance paying off loans and living your new post-college life?

ORLANDO, Fla. – Almost four million college students will graduate this year and a million will graduate with an associate degree, two million with a bachelor’s and another million are expected to earn a Masters.

The average student walks away with a diploma and $40,000 of debt. But that number can go as high as $250,000 for Ivy league schools, plus a post-graduate education.

The average college grad will have a starting salary of around $55,000. So how do you balance paying off loans and living your new post-college life?

Graduating from campus to the real world can be a rude awakening.

“Sometimes, you know, being responsible and cutting back on the fun because the finances aren’t there is what you have to do,” Garrett Fields, a certified financial fiduciary of Nelson Financial Planning said.

Not only will you be paying off student loans, but you will also be responsible for all the other things life throws at you.

“The first thing that you need to do is look at your entire finances. You need to get a good foundation of where you currently are and a good idea of what those payments are going be monthly before you can move forward,” Fields said.

It’s important to know the 50-30-20 rule, which is spending 50 percent of your budget on essentials, like rent, food, or car payments, 30 percent on nonessentials for pleasure, and 20 percent in savings. Be a social deal seeker. Grow your new inner circle of friends with people in the same economic situation—plan fun, low-cost activities such as picnics, game nights, and free outdoor festivals.

“We understand that you’re a college student and you’re not necessarily making a ton of money. That’s okay. You don’t need to act like it. You don’t need to act like you’re, you know, balling out,” Fields said.

Keep an eye out for “lifestyle creep”. That’s when your expenses increase at the same rate as your salary, which means the amount you’re saving and investing stays the same. And finally, splurge on life experiences. You’ll never be this free again.

It is also important to make a concrete plan for paying off your student loan debt, to start saving for retirement now, to start building your credit score, and to seek out financial advice from an expert.

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