One of the most stressful parts about transitioning to adulthood is the sheer number of things you have to remember. Your parents are no longer in charge of getting you to a doctor and dentist each year. The only person keeping a roof over your head is you. And suddenly you have to think about medical benefits, retirement, and how to pay off student loan debt on your own.
When I first became an adult, I wished there was a checklist to help me remember all the tasks I need to do to be “Responsible.” Well, just because I didn’t have it doesn’t mean you can’t!
Here’s the financial checklist everyone in their 20s needs to read.
A financial checklist for your first time adulting
This isn’t meant to be a read-once-and-leave-it kind of list. Instead, you’ll probably encounter each of these issues at different times — and some more than once. Keep this checklist handy so you’ll be ready for anything.
How to negotiate a job offer
There’s nothing scarier than negotiating your first job offer. It’s so hard to break into the workforce that you might think you have to take whatever offer comes your way.
But now is the time to learn to advocate for yourself. Sure, you’re probably not going to get your dream job, amazing perks, and fantastic pay right out of the gate. But that doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate if an offer comes your way.
Career coach and recruiter Angela Copeland suggests waiting to bring up the money conversation when you’re in an interview until they bring it up — but making sure to use sites like Glassdoor, Salary.com, and Indeed to get an idea of pay for your desired role.
And, when it comes time to negotiate, Copeland let us in on a little secret:
“The first rule of negotiations is don’t be afraid to ask for more. Most of the time, HR has already approved a higher salary amount that they keep in their back pocket…In general, it’s acceptable to ask for 5-10 percent above the offered salary.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be humble and respectful when asking for more money, as well as throughout the rest of the process.
How to get your first apartment after college
Once you’ve snagged employment, it’s much easier to get out of your parents’ house or your college housing. But without those crutches, it could be tricky to navigate this part.
You might not have enough credit yet to get an apartment on your own. Some workarounds to this: ask a parent or guardian to cosign the lease as your guarantor or find a place with roommates who have good credit.
And, when you get your apartment, pay on time every month. Not doing so can ruin your credit, leave your roommates or guarantor on the hook for your rent, and possibly even lead to eviction.
Here’s where having student loans can be somewhat helpful for a change — you can build credit by paying your student loans on time.
Why you need medical coverage — and how to get it
You’re young, you’re able-bodied, and you can certainly wait until your 30s to worry about things like medical coverage, right?
Wrong. I found out the hard way about the pain of not having insurance when I was young, after a simple doctor’s visit for strep throat left me with a $120 bill. (And that was before paying for medicine.) The worst part? That’s a best-case scenario. You don’t even want to think about what happens if you end up in the emergency room.
Your age can be helpful if you’re able to stay on your parents’ insurance until you turn 26. But if not, and if your employer doesn’t offer insurance, sign up for a health insurance plan on your own.
It might not feel like it’s worth the money, but this is just one adult cost you’ll have to get used to. After all, even if your job does come with insurance, you’ll likely have to pay something for it each month.
While you’re at it, make sure you have car insurance.
How to start building credit
From interviewing for jobs to finding an apartment to shopping for the best insurance rates, your credit will follow you around nearly everywhere.
That’s why now is the time to begin understanding how credit works. Here are a few quick points to know:
- Your credit report is not your credit score — your report is your credit history, and your score is a number based off of that history, which can differ based on the model and algorithm being used.
- You have credit scores from each of the two main scoring agencies — FICO and VantageScore — but you cannot see them on your credit report.
- There are three credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) and you should dispute errors on your report with them immediately.
- You can view your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus for free once per year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Because there is more than one type of score and model, you have more than one credit score — and the ranges can vary quite a bit.
- In the old days, credit scores were shrouded in mystery or shown to you for a price, but now there are many places to view your credit score for free.
Now that you know a few basics about credit, here’s what you need to know about building credit in two quick charts. First, the factors that influence your FICO score:
Second, the factors that influence your VantageScore:
As you can see, both scores care about roughly the same things. Therefore, here are the most important tips you need to know right now for building up your credit:
- Make payments on all of your bills on time, every single month.
- If you have credit card debt, start paying it down as much as possible because carrying that debt will hurt your score, while using your card and paying it off every month will help your score.
- Keep accounts open so they can age and give you a strong credit history.
How to manage your student loan repayment
Speaking of timely payments, not falling behind is incredibly important with student loan debt.
Student loan debt is nearly impossible to discharge in bankruptcy, and if you’re having trouble making your payments, ignoring them is the worst thing you can do. Defaulting on your student loans will send them to collections and destroy your credit. And if you have co-signers on your loans, default will damage their credit as well.
Instead of letting things get to that point, seek an income-driven repayment plan if you’re struggling to repay federal student loans. These plans will cap your payments at a percentage of your income and even help you become eligible for forgiveness if you follow the guidelines.
And whether you have federal or private student loans, you may be able to temporarily suspend your payments with deferment or forbearance if you need a break on payments.
And if you’re not having trouble making your student loan payments, here are a few tips to help you get out of debt even faster:
- Make biweekly payments to sneak in an extra payment per year.
- Use tax refunds and work bonuses to make lump sum payments on top of your minimum amount due each month (and claim the interest you pay on your student loans on your taxes to get a deduction).
- Use a strategic debt payoff method rather than simply paying the same on all of your loans each month.
- If you have a stable job and income and can afford to lose access to income-driven repayment plans and federal student loan forgiveness, refinance your student loans for a lower interest rate.
How to prepare for retirement — yes, really
This might sound crazy, but the age you are right now is just about the best time to start saving for retirement, thanks to the phenomenon of compound interest.
Here’s how you can get started:
- If your work offers a 401(k), deduct from your paycheck at least as much as the percentage your employer is willing to match — not doing so is giving up free money.
- If your work doesn’t offer a 401(k), open an IRA and deposit as much as you can afford each year, up to the annual limit.
- Interested in exploring investments for the first time? Robo-advisors are a great way to dip your toe in.
Don’t stress about reaching perfection
I don’t know about you, but I found balancing health, finances and other goals right after graduating to be pretty anxiety-inducing.
If you feel overwhelmed, know that perfection isn’t the goal. The question isn’t if you’ll slip up in these matters, it’s when you’ll slip up. Knowing that, give yourself a break if you make some mistakes and focus more on learning from them than preventing them completely.
The beauty about this time in your life is that your responsibilities are probably fewer than they’ll ever be. You’re not dealing with a mortgage, a spouse, or children yet. That means you can experiment, take risks, and find yourself — and that’s what you should do.
Just keep this list on hand so you can be ready to deal with the responsibilities you do have.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.47% – 5.87%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.47% – 8.03%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.95% – 6.37%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.48% – 6.25%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.72% – 8.32%6||Undergrad & Graduate|