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Illustration of a money sign with a graduation cap on it on a purple background.
Illustration of a money sign with a graduation cap on it on a purple background.
Illustration of a money sign with a graduation cap on it on a purple background.

A graduate’s guide to personal finance.

published june 2, 2023

We promise it’s not as hard as finals.

Congratulations on graduating! That’s a huge accomplishment. Now it’s time to set out and explore what the world has to offer.

That usually means starting your first post-graduate job, budgeting bills, and making new financial decisions.

If you’re new to managing your money, we have some steps you can take to make sure you start off on the right foot.

1. Find the right bank/credit union for you.

Picking the right financial institution can be overwhelming. A good place to start is thinking about what features you want. Here are a few to think about:

  • Is there an app and is it easy to use?
  • Are there any service fees?
  • Can I automate my savings?
  • Can I “bucket” my money?
  • Are there branches and ATMs available if I need them?
  • Is direct deposit easy to set up?
  • Are there minimum deposit or balance requirements?
  • Is it simple to access and transfer my funds?
  • Are there any penalties to get my money?

2. Budget, budget, budget.

Building a budget might seem like a no-brainer, but we put it here because it’s a key player in personal finance. Here are some tips on creating a plan that works for you:

Map out your income and expenses. Write out how much money you bring in every month. Then look at what you’re spending, including bills like rent, utilities, internet, and expenses like gas and groceries.

Create a plan. Now that you have a good look at where your money is, you can decide where you want it to go. Whether that’s starting your emergency savings, paying down debt, or even adding a little more to your fun funds, planning helps you put money where you want it to go.

3. Build your credit score.

Credit scores measure your creditworthiness. Having a good credit history will help open the door to lots of other financial decisions you’re going to make down the road. It could help you get better interest rates on money you borrow.

Plus, some employers may look at your credit score as part of a background check.

To build a good credit score, make sure your bills are paid on time, you lower your balances on loans, and only take out new lines of credit when you need to.

There are a lot of myths out there about credit scores. You’ll want to make sure misinformation isn’t holding you back.

It’s not always easy finding your way financially after you graduate. At STCU, we’re here to help you no matter what questions you have.

Want to learn more on your own time? Try the Zogo app. It turns learning about your personal finances into a game.