Rent, paychecks, insurance, utilities. With more responsibility, how do you navigate through it?

For most people, your first job out of college is when you take your first big steps towards your financial future. This is when your career truly begins. Suddenly, you find yourself with more financial responsibility and freedom. With the rising cost of college and student debt in America, you might begin your first career with significant financial burden. The following are some key points for navigating the unchartered waters as you set sail on your professional voyage: 

  1. Budget: Know how much you need to earn to meet your budget. For most people, what they spend their money on is a dark and murky sea. Do yourself a favor and develop a budget, track your spending, assess your fixed and variable expenses and come up with as clear a number as you can of how much you need to earn to meet those obligations. Don’t forget to include the money you’ll need for hobbies and future goals.
  2. Ask for a higher salary: Once you have that number you’ve budgeted, make sure the opportunities and companies you’re applying with can meet it, and, regardless of whether the number they offer you is sufficient, ask for more. This may be especially true for female graduates. There is evidence this is the first step in the persistent wage gap in America between men and women. Be prepared, back yourself up with your experience, believe that you are valuable and have something to offer, share this with your potential employer, and go for it. For most employers, and certainly the one’s that you would truly want to work for, the simple act of asking for a higher salary can make you more respected and valuable in their eyes.
  3. Contribute to your company’s 401K: This is an easy way to start saving, and one that many people simply pass by. Don’t be like them. Start contributing now. Aim for starting out at a manageable level for your contribution and develop a plan to gradually increase that each year. If your employer has a match, find out what amount you need to contribute to get the full match and make sure that you contribute at least that amount. An employer match is free money, a tax-deferred raise that many companies include in their benefits package, yet few employees take advantage of. 

As you look towards starting your career, consider these three steps. Take action sooner rather than later, and remember that this is only the beginning.

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