Life After College - Iowa College Access Network - ICAN

Life After College

The skills you learn in college – academic, social and financial – will be useful throughout your life. As you move from college to career, set financial goals and make a plan to reach them.

As a college graduate, you will:

  • Evaluate job offers and benefits packages.
  • Begin making savings and investment choices.
  • Consider insurance for your health, your life and your belongings.
  • Manage student loan repayments.
  • Budget your new income.

These tips can help you achieve financial success:

  • Create a monthly budget for life after college and stick to it. On a starting salary, you may be short of cash, so find ways to cut everyday costs and living expenses. Use a budget calculator to set up your budget.
  • Understand employer benefits packages. A new employer may offer benefits that pay part or all of your medical and insurance expenses and that help you save for retirement. Some common types of benefits are:
    • Health insurance to help pay for medical, vision, dental and prescription coverage.
    • Disability insurance to help make up for lost income if you can't work because of an injury or sickness.
    • Life insurance to pay a lump sum to your family or others you name if you pass away while employed there.
    • Retirement benefits, like a 401(k) plan, that let you contribute part of your pretax income to retirement savings. An employer might match some of your contribution, although you may need to work a certain amount of time before you're eligible for the match.
    • Vacation and sick time based on the amount of hours or days you work in a pay period or on the number of months or years you've worked for the company.
    • Other perks like day care programs, tuition reimbursement, fitness facilities or employee discounts.
  • Start saving and investing right away. Include savings in your monthly budget and make this a habit for life. If you invest early, you have a greater chance of building up substantial earnings over your lifetime because the interest begins earning interest. Investment plans include:
    • Savings accounts with your bank. You earn a small amount of interest, but you can withdraw your money anytime.
    • Certificates of Deposit (CDs) with a higher interest rate. You basically loan your money to the financial institution for a set number of months or years. You'll have to pay a penalty for withdrawing your money before the time is up.
    • Bonds, which vary in their risk level and earning potential. You earn a specified rate of interest for loaning your money to a corporation, federal agency or the government. You earn interest until you are repaid your original investment amount.
    • Stocks and mutual funds that have a higher earning potential but also higher risk. Value fluctuates with the market, so you may make a lot or lose some or all of your money.
  • Create an emergency account. Try to keep at least three to six months' expenses in a savings account for an emergency.
  • Pay all your bills, including student loans, on time and in full to keep your good credit score and to avoid late fees.

Download Life After College (PDF), a booklet from ICAN, to find out more about achieving financial success after college.

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