Six Financial Tips for New College Graduates

Marguerita Cheng |

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Recent college graduates should develop a financial plan to ensure they’re setting themselves up for a financially successful future.

With graduation season ending, new graduates will find themselves managing their finances on their own for the very first time. Now is the best time for grads to get ahead of their finances by creating a plan that will evolve with them.

College graduates have never had to develop their own financial plan, so it is essential they understand the reality of their financial condition and how to move forward. With these tips, you’ll remain on top of your finances and set yourself up for success.

The earlier young people create a system to manage finances, the better off they’ll be in the future. Since many may not know where to start, these steps can help keep your finances in check as you enter the “real world”

  • Create a cash flow: Are you keeping track of money that’s coming in and going out? This will help ensure you are able to fund your various financial priorities. Use your bank’s app – many offer a tool to help track your spending.
  • Build a balance sheet: Do you know what you own (assets) and what you owe (liabilities)? Assets minus liabilities equal your net worth, which for many 21-year-olds, starts with a minus sign. Don’t worry – time is on your side.
  • Check your credit report: Start the habit of checking this regularly to catch potential mistakes and maintain good credit standing.
  • Pay down debt: Your first priority should be paying off the highest interest loans (usually credit card and autos). If you’re burdened with student loan debt, make sure you understand exactly what you owe, and make sure you’re able to make your monthly payments.
  • Establish an emergency reserve fund: Begin setting aside funds in a safe, liquid account until you have six to 12 months of expenses saved.
  • Maximize retirement contributions: Try to contribute at least up to your employer’s match (usually 5-6 percent) in your employer sponsored plan – you’ll thank yourself in the future.

For more information, check out CFP Board’s

For additional guidance, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional can work with you to map out an easy-to-follow strategy reflective of your current financial situation to set you up for financial success.


The mission of Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. is to benefit the public by granting the CFP® certification and upholding it as the recognized standard of excellence for competent and ethical personal financial planning. The Board of Directors, in furthering CFP Board’s mission, acts on behalf of the public, CFP® professionals and other stakeholders. CFP Board owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements. CFP Board currently authorizes over 81,000 individuals to use these marks in the U.S.


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