Graduation season is upon us. Many colleges just had or are about to have their commencement services for the graduating classes of 2012. This is an exciting time for grads and the last thing a graduate wants to think about is paying off their student loans that will come due after a six-month grace period.
Right now, most students take advantage of their grace period by not paying anything toward their loans. This can be both good and bad. To help, here are a few tips and guidelines recent grads should follow:
1. Create a budget.
- Outline your monthly expenses and income using our budget worksheet.
- Plan accordingly for fixed expenses (bills, rent, loans, etc.) and for those that may vary from month-to-month (groceries, gas, personal, etc.). When estimating amounts, it tends to be a good idea to estimate high.
- Being able to see where your money is spent each month helps determine areas where spending can be cut or added to different places, depending on priority. It also helps you figure out where money can be set aside and saved for the future.
2. Set personal financial goals.
- Establish what you want for your financial future. Set priorities on your goals and determine what is realistic and what is not.
- Goals should be grouped based on their priority:
- Short-term – 3 years or fewer
- Intermediate-term – 3-7 years
- Long-term – more than 7 years (This is most likely where school loans will go.)
- Measure and keep track of your progress on any payments, ensuring they fit in with your budget and your goal plans.
- After laying out your financial budget and goals, you will be able to see where money can be saved into an account or invested into a retirement plan.
3. Manage student loans and debt.
- Create a payment plan for your student loans. Some lenders will even offer lower interest rates if you choose the automatic electronic billing and payment option.
- Choose a plan that works with your current income, and know that some plans can be adjusted over time.
- Pay off the loans with a higher interest rate first. Also, be aware of loans that have a variable or fixed interest rate. If you have any variable rate loans, consider consolidating them so you’ll have one fixed-rate loan and the same payment amount each month.
- Don’t put off paying back the loans or other debt and do not miss payments. Interest continues to accumulate during this time and you will end up paying more in the long run. Take advantage of the grace period by starting to pay the loans off early and avoid added interest. Paying early will lower monthly payments and you can end up saving more money.
When creating a budget and setting goals, it is a good idea to consult with an advisor. Contact Catholic Financial Life for more tips and information, and to get started on creating your personal budget.
Catholic Financial Life products and services not available in all states. Catholic Financial Life is not licensed in all states. Nothing contained herein should be construed as solicitation for insurance, financial products or annuity products in any state in which Catholic Financial Life is not licensed.