When a young 20-something graduates from college and starts her first job with a salary and benefits, $35,000 or $40,000 sounds like a lot of money. And often, the first salary is more than that. With money coming in, but student debt on their shoulders and hopes for a change in lifestyle, recent college graduates can easily find themselves in poor financial situations. The fact is that many young professionals do not know how to handle their new wealth. When Sue and I were first married, I spent way too much time worrying about money. The best way not to worry about your financial condition is to adopt good practices about the use of money early on. So I asked faculty and staff to provide some advice. This blog is short, and the wisdom is simple – purposefully spend, save, and give, and ask others for wisdom.
1. Learn about money management.
Read Personal Finance for Dummies or other self-help books on personal finances so you can start making smart money choices that will help you eventually own a home, keep credit card and other debt to a minimum, save for retirement, etc. – Dr. Saul Trevino, College of Science and Mathematics
We know that knowledge is power. That’s also true for finances. It’s important for you to understand how your retirement plan works, how much insurance costs and what it gets you, and how interest rates work. At least learn the basics.
2. Set a realistic budget.
Set a budget and don’t budge on it. Make sure you track every penny and see if you are spending it mindlessly on things or experiences you don’t really care about – eating out is a popular waste of money for students. Understand that ultimately, money means time. Calculate how much time you would have to work in order to pay for whatever it is you are wanting to buy. – Dr. Matt Boyleston, School of Fine Arts
Be thoughtful of what you are spending, and consider keeping yourself to a budget. – Dr. Lisa Ellis, College of Science and Mathematics
1 Timothy 6:6-9 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”
3. Pay off your current debts, and don’t go into more debt.
Continue living frugally and pay off your student loans. Don’t spend it before you make it (i.e. take on debt). – Dr. Karen Frederick, College of Education Behavioral Sciences
Pay your credit card balances off each month. – Dr. Matt Boyleston
Live within your means…don’t go into crazy debt. – Dr. Lesli Fridge, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences
Proverbs 22:7 states, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”
Save what you can when you can. No amount is too small to save. – Dr. Lisa Ellis
Your new paychecks may be the most money you’ve ever seen in your bank account! Contrary to popular belief, money will NOT burn a hole in your pocket. In fact, it is a good idea to pad your pockets with your new earnings. – Dr. Karen Frederick
Save for retirement starting with your very first paycheck. – Dr. Lesli Fridge
5. Be generous.
Tithe and find a charity to which to contribute. These expenditures will bless YOU as much, if not more, than they bless others. – Dr. Karen Frederick
Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all of your crops.”
Again, the wisdom is simple, and hopefully you’ve heard it before today. If you can’t handle having a credit card, get rid of your credit card. If you don’t have a stable income to pay off something that you’ve financed, such as a phone or a car, then find a more affordable version of that luxury. Recognize that some things are essential – food, clothes, rent, transportation –but you don’t need the most expensive food, brand-name clothes, a pricey apartment, or a new car. These first few years out of college are the time to pay off your debts, start saving, and build habits of being generous!
Thank you to the Houston Baptist University faculty and staff who contributed to this blog.
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Blog edited by Joannah Buffington