Financial Tips for High School Graduates

If you’re graduating this May, let me be the one of the many to say congrats! Whether you’re heading to college, joining the workforce or taking a year off to figure out what you want from life, here’s my unsolicited advice to help you become accomplished in your new phase of life. These are three things I wish I had taken more seriously after I graduated from high school.

Make a budget

I’m sad to say I didn’t make a budget until I was well into my twenties. Budgets seemed like something that applied to homeowners or people with full-time jobs. As a recent grad, I was still living at home and had scholarships to school, so the money I had in my pocket went to going out with friends or filling up my gas tank.

Creating a budget can help you figure out what your goals are and how to reach them—like a new car, a debt-free education or a semester overseas. As a newly minted adult, thinking long term is a skill you’ll have to get good at, and budgeting is a quick way to start carving a path toward the life you want. Check out this article on how to start a budget and this one on budgeting apps to help you stick to it.

Get a job

Listen, I’m not your parent but I can definitely say that having a job, even just a part-time job during the summer, can be a great move for a few reasons. First, it’s a good way to start building your resume, it helps put some extra cash in your budget, and most importantly, a job gives you invaluable people experience.

There will be people you encounter in life that you won’t jive with. Learn how to work together now so you’re a better team player during group projects and in professional settings.

Understand Interest Rates

To build a credit history, I applied for my first credit card right after high school and I didn’t shop around for interest rates. If you’re in the same boat of your first credit card, check out these tips on how and when to use it wisely.

Interest rates weren’t something I gave a second thought to until I started budgeting. It wasn’t until then that I realized the card I’d had for nearly ten years was charging me a substantially higher interest rate than some of the others out there—especially for my needs. Look for the two words “low interest.” Anything between 10 – 15% is right where you probably want to be.  

It’s true you know a lot more now than you did 13 years ago when you started school, but don’t live as if you’re done learning. When it comes to personal finance, renting your first place, approaching class assignments or anything that may confuse you, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask them often and ask them over and over again until you understand the answer.

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