You’ve Graduated! Now What?

by Spero Financial

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With graduation complete, you may find yourself wondering, “Now what?” Rest assured, we’ve all been there. This thing called adulting probably just got real, really fast. But before you allow your thoughts to run wild with the “what ifs,” take a moment to let it all soak in. You just graduated. That’s a huge accomplishment! Savor it. Celebrate it!

Be encouraged by this: Everyone’s transition from college to career looks different. There is no perfect formula. Don’t compare your situation to others. Whether you have a job lined up (or not), student loans to pay off, or a new budget to figure out, the key is setting goals that work for you and taking the steps to achieve them.

And remember, we’ve got your back. If you ever need some reassurance along the way, your Spero family is ready to help. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Navigating Your Career

In looking for a job, consider the importance of balancing your passion with practicality. Pursue a career you enjoy, but pay attention to the salary and benefits you deserve. The key is finding a job that you are well-suited for that pays a sustainable wage.

Research the market salary for your experience and desired position to better understand what a reasonable wage will be. But don’t just consider the salary. Look into the company benefits offered. A job that pays slightly less than others may offer superior benefits, making it a better fit overall.

Don’t get discouraged if your job hunt takes several months. It takes the average college graduate three to six months to secure employment after graduation — and that varies depending on your career field.

Once you land your new role — because we know you will — approach it with a positive mindset and a willingness to bring your best every day. Keep an open mind and embrace different tasks that expose you to new opportunities. You can only go up from this point in your career, so take every chance to ask questions, get feedback, and grow. Your first job doesn’t have to be your dream job. It simply is a launching pad for the rest of your career.

Taking Ownership of Your Money

With a job comes a steady paycheck. No doubt this is exciting; cue the celebration dinner for sure! But this is also an excellent opportunity to establish solid money management habits.

Now that you have a steady income, you can start formulating a budget that works for you. A budget is simply a tracker of your income (money coming into your account) minus your expenses (money coming out of your account). In the end, you want your income to be greater than your expenses — which means you are making more than you are spending.

Start by evaluating your past spending habits. Then, look at your anticipated spending in this new stage of life and adjust your spending to fit your current situation. List all your recurring bills, such as rent, utilities, student loans, insurance, and other essential expenses, such as food and transportation.

Next, do your best to save. Establishing a savings nest egg will help you prepare for any big purchases on the horizon. It will also help you be ready in case anything unexpected happens. While we like to be as optimistic as possible, the reality is that life doesn’t always go as planned. So, it’s best to prepare. If your budget allows it, also start saving for retirement — especially if your employer offers a 401(k) retirement plan where they match your contributions.

Your remaining money can go toward everything else. The choice is yours. Just be mindful of how much you have to spend and stick to it. Impulse purchases may offer instant gratification, but they’re not worth overdrawing your account, incurring unnecessary debt, or damaging your credit score. Also, think of the big picture. If you have a goal to travel, use this “extra” to stash away a little at a time to accomplish that goal.

The most important part of creating your budget is knowing how much you bring in each month versus how much goes out. And remember, it’s never set in stone. As your situation changes, adjust your budget accordingly.

Setting Yourself Up for Future Success

For many recent graduates, student loans immediately impact their finances. If this is you, start by understanding the type of loan you have — federal or private — and how much you owe. Then, take those required payments into account when developing your budget.

There are several payment strategies for tackling student loans. If your income isn’t enough to cover your monthly loan payments, you can apply for an income-driven payment plan, where your monthly payments are limited to a certain percentage of your monthly income. If necessary, you may even apply for deferment or forbearance. If you can provide proof of a qualifying hardship, your payments may be paused without interest.

If you have multiple loans, it might be worth consolidating them. Another strategy, the avalanche method, focuses on paying off your higher-interest loans first and then working your way down. Either way, making on-time payments is the key to maintaining your financial health.

For more on student loan repayment, we encourage you to check out this article.

Again, congratulations on your recent graduation, and welcome to adulthood! It comes with great benefits and great responsibility. But we know you are up for it. No matter your circumstances, Spero is here to help you navigate this new season of life. Visit your local branch today to get started on your journey to financial wellness. Your future self will thank you.

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