Tag Archives: Student Loan Debt

Financial Planning for New College Graduates

You did it.  You earned your college degree.  Congratulations on this major life accomplishment.

Hopefully, you have a job lined-up in your field of study.  If not, don’t get overwhelmed.  Start applying and interviewing.   Before you know it, you will be working, growing your career, and earning a paycheck.

The good times are not over, but it is time to enter the real world.  By starting this next chapter of your life on the right track, you will be able to better ensure a sound financial future.  Right now, time is on your side.

As a new college graduate, I am sure the last thing on your mind is retirement.  Retirement might be many decades away, but the actions you take in the coming years will shape your financial future.  Below are the key steps that will help you to establish a plan that will guild you on your journey toward financial independence.

Step 1 – Save 15% of your salary.  Start this process of saving with your first paycheck.  It might sound like a high percentage, but this is just the first step.

Step 2 – Sign up for your employer’s retirement savings plan.  If you work in the for-profit universe, it is called know as a 401K.  If you work at a not-for-profit organization, it is called a 403B.  If you work for the Federal Government, it is a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).  On your first day of work, go to the Human Resources office and sign up to contribute 15% of your salary to their retirement savings plan.  Increase the amount that you contribute to your retirement plan by 1% every year.

Step 3 – If possible, only Invest using low-cost mutual funds and index funds.  Avoid trying to pick individual stocks or trying to time the market.  Identify an asset allocation that best matches your age and risk tolerance.  Historically stocks have produced higher returns than bonds. Stocks, however, are more volatile.  On the other hand, bonds are less volatile but do not keep up well with inflation.  Establish a plan that uses both stocks for growing your wealth and bonds to retain your wealth during bad economic times.

Step 4 – Establish a plan to pay off your student loan debt.  Don’t fall victim to the mindset of the masses when it comes to student loans.  You attended college and earned a degree.  Hopefully, you paid attention in class and are ready to put your degree to work for you as an employee.  You attended class, possibly lived in a dorm, and most likely ate your meals in the cafeteria.  It is time to pay back what you owe.  Avoid self-pity and feelings of entitlement.  Those ill feelings will just hold you back on many levels.

Step 5 – Get a part-time job.  For those who have the entrepreneurial spirit, start a side business.  You are young and full of energy.  Now is the time for you to be working and building a solid financial foundation.  Getting a part-time job will allow you to earn extra money.  Working a couple of evenings during the week and picking up some hours on the weekend will greatly help to increase your earnings. That extra money can be used to pay off your student loans, establish an emergency fund, or open a Roth IRA.

Step 6 – Put off attending graduate school.  Unless you work in an industry that requires a graduate degree to obtain entry-level employment, put off attending for a couple of years.  Find an employer who offers tuition assistance as part of their compensation package.  That will allow you to work in the day and take graduate classes in the evening or on the weekend.

Step 7 – Write a financial plan.  A financial plan is a map.  It allows you to identify where you are at from a financial standpoint.  A financial plan is also a map that can be used as a guide to where you want to be in the future.  It helps to have a guide than to go it alone.  Financial planning is too important of a topic to not have a plan and just fly by the seat of your pants.  A financial plan is a living document that needs to be reviewed annually.  The great feature of a financial plan is that it can be amended as your plans and goals change.

Step 8 – Establish a budget.  Calculate how much you will earn every month from your job.  Write out your budget based on percentages.  Know how much of your salary will go towards housing, food, entertainment, and every other expense.  Be sure to write a budget that is practical in terms of expenses and prudent in terms of savings. In other words, always try to reduce expenses and to increase savings.

Step 9 – Keep your transportation costs low.  Transportation costs are simply an expense in your budget.  Use your budget as a guide to determine how much you can afford to spend on a car.  Keep your transportation costs at 11% of your budget.  Your budget will determine if you can afford a fancy new car or a used economy model.  Try to keep in mind that a car does not determine your identity.  It is just what enables you to travel from Point A to Point B in a timely manner.

Step 10 – Keep your housing costs as low as possible.  If you are renting, try to find a roommate or two.  Having a few roommates greatly reduces the amount you will have to pay for rent every month.  As you advance in your career and if you have a family, you might consider buying a house.  Use your budget as a guide to determine how much house you can afford.

Step 11 – Be sure that you are properly insured.  If you are under the age of 26, you should be able to remain on your parent’s health insurance.  If not, ask your employer about when you are eligible for coverage under their plan.  You are young and most likely healthy, but one trip to the emergency room could ruin you financially if you do not have proper health insurance.  Also, be sure that you have the proper amount of insurance for your car, home or apartment, and life insurance if you have a spouse or children.

Step 12 – Avoid Debt. Keep your debt to a minimum.  Avoid payday loans and credit card debt at all costs.  Having a high credit score is important because it will allow you to get the most favorable interest rates if you do have to borrow money.  To ensure you do not take on too much debt, monitor your debt with the Debt-To-Income Ratio.  Always try to keep your DTI under 16% and never exceed 36%.  In life, sometimes debt is unavoidable.  Most people will have to take out a mortgage to purchase a house.  Some people will have to take out a car loan in order to have a means of transportation.  When doing so, use both your budget and DTI to determine how much you can safely afford.

Conclusion

There you have it.  You are finished with college and ready to take on the world.  Don’t put off applying these steps.  You can start implementing some of these steps on your first day of employment.  If you start out with a well-established plan, you will be well ahead of your peers.  Use these steps as a guide and you will surely become a financial success story.

Do you agree with these suggestions?  Do you think that anything is missing from this plan?  What would you add or do differently?

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Why I Paid Down My Auto Loan on a Used Car as Fast as Possible

Cars are a necessary expense for most Americans.

Unless you are lucky enough to live near a good public transportation system or in a major urban area, you will likely need a vehicle to accomplish tasks of daily living, such as getting to work, buying groceries, or going out to dinner. Buying a car can be expensive, and having a car loan can be a pretty steep financial burden, particularly on top of student loans, a mortgage or rent and other obligations.

That is why it makes sense to buy a quality used car whenever possible — and to pay off your car loan as soon as you can.

My Story

For me, buying a used car just made good financial sense. As a father of three young kids who is still working on paying off my student loans while saving for their college, I don’t have a lot of extra cash to put towards the latest and greatest vehicle. And while having a new car can be great, it’s no secret that a car is a terrible investment, as a new car starts to lose value the minute you drive it off the lot.

So when it was time for me to purchase a vehicle, I looked for a solid used car that was safe, reliable and a good deal. Then I got to work paying off my car loan as quickly as possible.

Why I Chose to Pay Off My Auto Loan Faster Than Required

Many people accept car payments as a fact of life. For me, not having a car payment represents financial freedom. Car loans can often have high-interest rates, particularly if you arrange to finance through the dealership. Loan rates may be as high as eight or ten percent.

Car loans may also be sold by a lender to a different bank, and if it has a variable interest rate, it may become more expensive over time as rates change. For these reasons, it makes a lot of sense to pay off your car loan as quickly as fast as you can — and avoid car payments entirely.

Saving Money

Of course, there are other benefits to paying off the debt on your car. When you pay off your car loans ahead of schedule, you will save significant money on interest. Interest on your loan — even if it is at a relatively low rate — can add thousands of dollars to the total amount of your loan.

By adding even a small amount of money each month onto your car payment, such as $50 or $100, you can shorten your loan term considerably and pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars less on your car loan. A number of online calculators are available to help you determine how much you can save by paying off your loan early.

Freeing Up Money to Use Elsewhere

The money you save by paying off your car can then be used to start saving for your next car. Unfortunately, unlike a house or a college education, a car will not last a lifetime. By buying a less expensive car and paying off your loan early, you can set aside money for a down payment on your next vehicle. That will help you get ahead of the game for your next car purchase — and perhaps even avoid the need for a loan at all.

Reduce Insurance Costs

Paying off your loan may also reduce your car insurance costs. When you have a car loan, the lender will require a certain level of coverage. Once you have paid off your loan, you can reevaluate your coverage. You may not want to dip below a certain level of coverage, but you might be able to save some money by lowering the amount of collision or comprehensive coverage for your policy.

Boost Your Credit Score

Finally, paying off your car loan will boost your credit score. Without a car loan on your credit report, your debt to income ratio will improve (in other words, you will have less debt in relation to your income). This will make it easier for you to be approved for major purchases and to get lower interest rates on mortgages or refinancing your student loans — which can save you even more money and help you reduce your overall debt.

Closing Thoughts

While it may be more fun to drive a flashy new car or to always have the latest car, it makes good financial sense to pay off an auto loan on a used car instead. By making that choice for myself, I am helping my family reach our financial independence — and achieving more security for our future.

Josh runs a parenting, faith, and personal finance blog over at Family Faith Finance. As the father of 3 children, he is always looking for ways to save a few extra bucks for his family.

Next Steps to Take After Paying Down Student Debt

When you have finished paying off student loans, it is time to start building your wealth. It’s also time to achieve some of life’s most important milestones.

But first, I want to talk about the negative effects that student loans can have on your future.

There are many people that go to the bank to buy a home with tens of thousands of dollars of student debt on their shoulders. The loan officer looks at the debt and you can almost see the look of disappointment in their eyes because they are going to have to tell you that the student loans are driving up your debt-to-income ratio.

If you say, “but my loans are deferred” or “my loans are in forbearance,” the loan officer is going to look at you and tell you that it doesn’t matter because the debt has to be paid back eventually. At some point, while owning a home or car, the repayments may begin on your loans. That consumes part of your income. The bank doesn’t want to take the risk of you not having enough income to make your payments to them.

It is devastating, and it happens every day.

To keep this from happening to you, it is best to pay down your student loans as fast as you can so you can enjoy buying a home or new car without receiving bad news while sitting at the loan officer’s desk.

Think About Retirement

Another milestone that student loans can interfere with is investing. When you’re dealing with student loan payments, it’s difficult to put money into anything else. Of course, you can increase your income with a second job or find side gigs like I did. However, I still didn’t have a lot of room for investing until the student debt was gone.

Investing can take many forms. You can invest in stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. You can even invest in real estate crowdfunding, P2P lending, or business ventures. There are many things that you can do with your money when you have the funds to do it. Think about being able to retire early or just retirement in general.

The last thing you want to do is retire and find that you don’t have enough income. There are many senior citizens filing bankruptcy because of pensions that fall short, social security that isn’t enough, and medical benefits that are still too expensive.

Think About Your Family 

With student debt gone, it is also easier to expand your family on the financial end of things. When you don’t bring children into debt, you’re able to focus more on the financial needs of your child.

It is difficult to bring a child into a debt situation because so much of your income has to be put into debt while meeting the needs of your family. Of course, it can be done. But do you want to go through that struggle if you don’t have to?

Of course not!

Regardless of what phase of your life you are in, it is important to pay off your student loans quickly. Those high balances are holding you back in more ways than one. Many good people who went to college to do something meaningful and make a good income are plagued with debt for a while after graduation. They make their minimum payments but still pay the collateral consequences of having the debt.

It can be heart-wrenching to struggle or be told “no” by a bank when all you’re doing is what you’re supposed to do.

The fact is that you need to go above and beyond what you’re supposed to do to get ahead as soon as you possibly can.

Even if you already have a family, a strict budget and some discipline can help you pay down the student debt so you can start working on other milestones in life. It’s best to pay off debt as soon as you can, but don’t ever think you are too late. People thinking that they are too late causes them to not be aggressive with their debt when being aggressive can be one of the best things they ever do for themselves and their family.

Jacob runs Dollar Diligence where he blogs about debt repayment, saving money and side hustles.