Tips for the Class of 2020, from a Member of the Class of 2019

Do you have a recent college graduate in your life right now that’s trying to get their footing in the real world?  Here are some tips, both financial and otherwise, from a recent college grad that you can share with a graduate in your life right now.


College graduates are starting a brand new chapter in their lives. This makes it the perfect time to create new healthy habits physical, mental, and financial. Post-graduation can be a scary time, especially right now with all the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus. Stepping into post-graduation without a game plan can make it even more intimidating. My number one piece of advice to recent college graduates is to form good habits before bad ones have a chance to creep in.

Create a financial game plan and come prepared to start this new season out strong. Let’s discuss a few ways you can do this. Reflect on what you’ve spent on living expenses for the last few months while you’ve been in school, add in any new expenses, and create a budget that’s easy to follow. Make saving a priority. Find a reasonable percentage of your paycheck that you can transfer to a savings account and put it on auto-draft, so there’s no possibility of spending it. Out of sight, out of mind. Take advantage of your employer’s 401(k) match if they offer it and set your salary deferrals up as soon as you are eligible for the plan. Utilize personal finance apps like Personal Capital and Digit so you can link and manage multiple accounts in one place. Find a personal finance podcast geared toward millennials that you can listen to on your way to or from work, like Popcorn Finance or Millennial Money. And lastly, if you have student loans take that loan counseling that your university requires seriously and familiarize yourself with your loans.

It’s generally a good idea to get into the habit of making student loan payments sooner rather than later. Since most student loans have a six-month grace period after they graduate until they have to start making payments, it’s easy to just put it off until then. That can be a practical move depending on your situation, but if do you have a stream of income, it can be beneficial to start paying on them immediately – especially the ones that are already accruing interest. As my colleague Kathryn Beach discusses in her blog Student Loans and COVID-19, if you have federally-held student loans that were placed on administrative forbearance (meaning payments are not required and the interest rate is temporarily set at 0% until September 30th), or if your loans are subsidized (meaning the government pays the interest until the six-month grace period is up), continuing to make payments could have a greater impact in the long run and end up saving you significant money in interest. Maybe you moved back home temporarily after graduation and don’t have a rent or mortgage payment. Check out the average rent payment in your area and put that amount toward your student loans instead. Or, if you don’t have loans, put that amount in a savings account to build an emergency fund. Both of these moves help build a “savings habit” that is a huge benefit in the long run.

Next, don’t let lifestyle inflation creep in. In college, it’s pretty much a given that most people have to live very frugally. When you graduate and start getting paid more, it’s easy to justify spending more freely than you did in college. Don’t let that frugality that you developed in college go! Fight the temptation to buy the new car, or even get the $5 coffee every day on your way to work. Saving on even the small things can make a huge impact over time.

Lastly, try to get plugged into your new surroundings immediately. Looking back, two of the best decisions I made were starting at my gym and joining a small group through my new church within the same week I started my full-time job. I didn’t give myself time to get used to not going to the gym and being active. And it allowed me to meet new people and become part of a community immediately. Be intentional about getting plugged in and meeting new people from the start.

Also, don’t forget to breathe. Set aside a few minutes every day to relax and reflect. This is an exciting time. Congrats Class of 2020!


Any opinions are those of Hannah Bartlett and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notices.