Guest op-ed: Wolverine and Cougar grads: Setting up your financial life, for life
The Utah Valley University graduation ceremony is now complete, the gown has been returned and many new Class of ’21 Wolverines will be joining their fellow Brigham Young University graduates in starting their first “real” job in the profession of their dreams.
As you enter the Provo or Orem workforce with a newly minted degree, you are also setting out to establish your financial future — an important task that will have life-long effects. Several key ways to manage your paychecks can make a real difference:
Set a budget: Getting on a plan and developing good spending and savings habits will help you stay on track throughout your lifetime. Try living below your means – if you continue to live like a college student in Provo or Orem for the first two or three years after you get your first job, you will be amazed at how much you can save and invest.
Know your spending habits: Small expenses add up. Track your spending for a few months and, as objectively as possible, figure out where you can cut back. Many financial institutions here in Provo or Orem offer reports that will help you track your spending so you know exactly where your money is going each month. Avoid the temptation to make spontaneous or impulsive purchases. If you delay, you may find you are not as interested in spending your hard-earned money for impulse-buying.
Set money aside for emergencies: Set up a separate bank account for emergency savings. It will be much easier to do this now than any other time in your life.
Start retirement savings with your first paycheck: Today’s workers are becoming more and more responsible for their own retirement savings. If offered by your new employer, take advantage of employer-sponsored retirement savings accounts and company matches. Contributing enough to obtain the full company match is like getting free money to boost your savings. If you can’t participate in your new company’s 401(k) immediately, get disciplined about saving now by setting aside a percentage of your salary in a short-term investment vehicle, such as a certificate of deposit (CD).
Borrow prudently: Use loans for purchases that will likely appreciate over time. Keep your credit card balances low in relation to available credit, make more than the minimum payment as often you can, and always pay the bills on time. Building good credit will pay off in the future, when it’s time to apply for a car loan, rent an apartment in Provo or Orem and even buy your first home. Your credit rating determines whether you get approved for loans, what rate you’ll get and even the cost of car insurance. By using your credit card wisely, you can build good credit and save money in the future.
Change your financial plans as appropriate: As your life circumstances change, so should your financial plan. Significant life events like getting married, starting a family and buying a home should signal a review and reevaluation of your plans and goals.
Now that you have a career paycheck, focus on building a sound financial foundation — set your budget, manage your expenses and save for the future. Consider working with a Provo or Orem personal banker to make the best plans and then stick with them to start off on the right financial track for life.
Congratulations, Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University Classes of 2021, from your friends at Wells Fargo!