4 Essential Financial Tips For Kicking Off Your Career

The time had finally come: I was an adult. Sure, I could vote when I was 18 and buy beer when I turned 21, but this was different — very different. No more hitting snooze until my 10 a.m. financial management class. It was time to start my career and begin the daily grind.

Young adults have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start their careers as well as their financial plans on the right track the first time around. If you have just finished college and are about to embark on your career path, the decisions you make today could have a lasting impact on the rest of your life. Dealing with the many changes taking place at this point in your life may be challenging. However, with a bit of planning, you can begin life's journey on the right foot to achieve all of your career and financial goals.

Establish Your Goals

The first step in achieving financial goals is to actually establish them. Just as you have your sights set for certain achievements in your career, your financial goals should be outlined as well. It is not enough to say you want to have enough money to retire in 30 years; you have to actually develop a plan that will turn your dreams into a reality.

I knew that I didn’t want to work until I was 65. My goal was to be able to be in the financial position so that if I wanted to retire at the age of 50, I could. But how was I going to do it?

First, I knew that I had have a good job that allowed me the chance to increase my income over time.  Check.

Second, I knew that I needed to save...a lot. I made a commitment to get all the free money in my 401(k) that I could and max out my Roth IRA each year. Definitely a good start.

Some of the goals you may be working toward include buying your first home or saving for a special purchase. Whatever your goals, write them down and determine what actions you have to take moving forward to make sure you are heading in the right direction.

Manage Your Debt

Debt is sometimes unavoidable regardless of our best intentions. Following the recent decline in the economy, more people are paying attention to how and where they spend their money. For young adults just starting out, you may feel as if you have a lifetime to pay off debt, and in some cases, you are correct. If not properly managed, it will take a lifetime to pay off debt, and in the meantime you will have difficulty achieving other financial goals.

I easily could have fallen into a feeling of self-entitlement when I got my first job and started making real money. Many of my fellow graduates did by buying new cars and electronics that they had lived without through their college careers. I, on the other hand, continued to live on my college budget and refrained from getting myself deeper into debt.

For this reason you should avoid debt whenever possible. If you are starting out in debt as a result of student loans or other debts incurred while in college, make every effort to pay off those debts in the shortest period of time. This will allow you to focus on other short- and long-term goals.

Save and Invest

There are few guarantees in life. However, one thing is certain. Every effort you make to save for future expenses, whether they occur six months down the road or twenty years in the future, will put you one step closer to achieving these goals. It is important to understand savings and investment strategies that will help you reach these goals. When you are just starting out, time is on your side, and this step is not one that should be placed on the back burner. Start saving immediately, and you will discover it becomes a habit that will last a lifetime.

Understand the Importance of Financial Planning

By thinking about the big picture and where you want to be 5, 10, or 30 years down the road, you can develop a financial plan that allows you to work toward those goals. Without a financial plan you are more likely to live in the moment, which undoubtedly results in poor financial choices. The steps you take today will set the pace for the rest of your life, determining your quality of life and long-term financial security.

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