So maybe you aced algebra in school, but when was the last time you had to factor a polynomial since you graduated? When young adults get out into the real world, it often becomes very apparent that some of life’s most important skills are often not taught in school. You may know when the Battle of Gettysburg was, but do you know how to file your taxes?
Get out your pencil and notebook, because here’s a crash course in Personal Finance 101.
Budget, Budget, Budget
The most important money management tip that someone should’ve told you along the way is to make a budget every month. Knowing what’s coming in and what is going out is crucial to financial stability. If you sit down and realize that you have more going out than coming in, examine and see what you can cut back on. It’s best to write down or digitally keep track of your budget.
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Learn About Credit Scores
Before opening your first credit card, learn about credit scores. A good credit score is typically above 700, while a score above 800 is considered excellent. Realize that making payments on time and as entirely as possible will be vital to maintaining a good credit history. You also don’t want to utilize more than 30 percent of your credit allowance at any given time.
Pick a Card, But Not Just Any Card
Research the type of card that might suit your needs best. If you plan on traveling, consider a travel rewards card. If you’re just looking for a card for general spending, a cash-back card might be best.
Read the Fine Print
Many credit cards try to reel you in with flashy promotional offers. Be sure to read through the terms and conditions carefully. If the card is interest-free for a year, look into what the interest rate will be once the promotional period is over.
First of All, File
If you had taxes deducted from your paycheck , you need to file income tax. Be sure to obtain a W-2 form from each company you worked for. Most employers will send you your W-2 by January 31.
Tax day falls in mid-April, but you’ll have your W-2s much sooner. Allowing yourself time to gather your tax documents and seek help if needed will prevent you from scrambling in April.
Being a full-time student can affect your tax filing in a number of ways. Your parents may still be claiming you as a dependent, in which case you cannot claim any exemptions. If you are paying for your own education, you may eligible for certain deductions. It’s important to know your status and what you may be eligible for.
You are never too young to start saving for retirement.
The sooner you start saving — and the more you save early on — the more secure your financial future will be.
Consider contributing 15 percent of your income to your retirement. Starting as a young adult will simply make this seem like a habit. Also, look into your employer’s match program, and contribute enough to earn the maximum match. Even if your employer doesn’t offer to match your contributions until you reach a certain age , you shouldn’t wait. Because of compound interest , beginning to save earlier will allow you to achieve your goal sooner.
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Insurance is typically one of the first independent financial ventures young people embark on. As with anything else, doing your research is essential. Request quotes from multiple insurance companies. Be aware that your location will impact your premium. Also, look into whether you need certain coverage. For example, if your car is a lease, the car manufacturer will require a certain amount of collision coverage.
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Going off your parents’ health insurance can be particularly stressful. Whether you’re going through your employer or on your own, it’s tempting to choose the cheapest option, particularly if you’re generally healthy. But this may not always be the best route to take.
If you are established with doctors, check to make sure your doctors are covered not only by the insurance company but by the specific plan you choose. Frequently, the cheapest insurance plans are very limiting in the doctors that are covered. Additionally, more affordable premiums often equal higher copays. So keep in mind that while your monthly fees may be lower, you may be forking over a good chunk of change at your physicals .
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Becoming financially independent can seem daunting, especially if you feel as though you have not been adequately prepared. School may not have taught you all you need to know about personal finances. Therefore, educating yourself is crucial.
Being financially literate will pay dividends not only now but throughout your life.
Hope you took good notes on these basics because real life is fond of giving pop quizzes.