Monitor your credit regularly and for free through CreditKarma.com. Easy-to-use app with detailed breakdown of the various aspects of your score.
Get at least one free credit report a year – freecreditreport.com or any one of the other free services. CreditKarma is free and excellent for monitoring on a regular basis.
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Financial Advisors – always beware – they will almost always try to sell you on their bank’s own products, which are often against your best interest. ALWAYS DO YOUR RESEARCH ABOUT FUNDS AND FEE LOAD AND STRATEGIES. One great premium service (but for accounts over $100K in the US, so prohibitive for most recent graduates) is HSBC’s free financial advisor service, which helps you to invest in a diversified portfolio with funds from across the industry, custom-tailored to your financial needs and investment goals and risk level.
Don’t rush to open a brokerage account unless you have disposable income and can consider it lost. It can get worse than gambling, even if you’re well-versed in investing. Remember to have your financial condition well-diagnosed with an in-depth analysis by a financial advisor and/or CFP. Once you have a clear picture, you can plan on how to move forward. When you’re young, you should take a higher level of investing risk, most financial advisors would tell you.
Maximize your 401(K) contribution at work. It’s literally free money that’s untaxed until after you’re 59 1/2 and that stays with you even as you change jobs. The vested part kicks in per each company’s own policy after a tenure at the company of a certain number of years. Don’t rush to roll over your 401(K) when you change companies. The fees may make it a bad move.
Maximize your IRA contributions.
Take advantage of the disparity in capital gains tax vs. payroll taxes. Invest within your acceptable risk level what you can consider “disposable” and outside of what you need to have liquid for a cushion.
Minimize your taxable income by maximizing pre-tax deductions for:
1) Health savings account (HSA)
2) Transportation – subway card, etc. – city and state-specific rules apply
3) 401(K) deduction
4) Other relevant deductions, as possible
Monitor your cash flows trough Cashflow HD or any one of the other great apps available these days.
Monitor your spending trough apps like Spending. Once you see clearly what your spending patterns are in great detail, it’s much easier to diagnose if and how you’re wasting your money, what you can reduce or cut out entirely, what you can shift elsewhere to maximize utility and/or returns per your goals, and will also give you a sober picture of your spending habits. Once you have the diagnosis, it’s easier to change your behavior for the better.
Consolidate your picture of monthly purchases (receipts all in one place) through apps such as: Manila, Slice and OneReceipt.
1) your bill payments – takes chance and forgetfulness out of the picture and helps stabilize and improve credit score . Especially easy to automate: rent payment, monthly transportation, student loan payments, credit card payments, phone bill, cable/Internet, etc.
2) alerts to monitor your credit monthly, your purchase receipt totals, bills, bank statements (through an app or online), 401(K) statement, cashflows, spending, etc.
3) emails from your various services to tell you when bills are available.
Save, save, save for a rainy day (aim for at least 6 months’ pay stashed away), only then begin investing. You always need a cushion in case of job loss or other adverse changes of circumstance. This goes regardless of debt load, no matter what else is going on. Once you have a cushion and are current on your debt repayment schedule, start considering investment.
Pay off (or at least pay down) your highest interest debt first and pay it ferociously. It’s the biggest drag on your financial health, so must be eliminated ASAP.
Consider paying your loans every two weeks or one week, instead of each month, if possible. This speeds up repayment and lowers total amount repaid, since extra paid each month above interest goes against principal, which is what you want to maximize.
Set goals for financial health as independence. In X years, you want $Y in the bank, to buy an apartment or to take off 6 months and travel, buy a car, start a family, etc. The sooner you start planning with concrete time frames and specific amounts/achievements, the easier they will be to reach.
***Understand your relationship with money – are you profligate because you have an outsized ego or were never taught the value of money or because you were poor in early life and have a need to over-compensate? Are you frugal because you always has no safety net? When you diagnose psychological issues related to money, you can begin to address them appropriately.