College graduates need these 10 ‘inflation-proof’ career and money tips now

It’s graduation season — and that means millions of college graduates are ready to hit the job market right now or will be very shortly. 

This year’s graduates will be entering a workforce and economy that’s been hit hard by inflation. 

While the idea might be scary to some, career experts and personal finance gurus share smart advice for college grads that’s worth listening to closely.

FOX Business gathered 10 smart tips from top industry professionals. 

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Here’s what they say today’s new college graduates should know and do after they’ve earned their diplomas.

1. Review student loans

College graduates should review their student loans so they can come up with a plan of attack, say the experts.  (iStock)

“It’s a good idea to dive right into reviewing your student debt,” said Sara Parrish, the president of CampusDoor, a Pennsylvania-based loan origination solutions company.

“Start by reviewing your statements thoroughly, so you can take control of things early on,” Parrish said. 

“You should make note of your servicers, lenders, due dates and monthly payment amounts,” she also said. 

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“Once you have a solid inventory of what you owe and who you owe, then you should dive into your statements or online accounts to obtain an understanding of all your interest rates.”

“Start by reviewing your statements thoroughly, so you can take control of things early on.”

When doing an audit of student loan interest rates, Parrish advised new graduates to compare them to current rates refinance lenders are offering. That way, they can refinance for a lower rate, especially for private loans.

2. Eliminate debt

New college graduates should prioritize lowering their debts overall before making big purchases, advise those in the know. (iStock)

“Keep living like a college student,” said Dave Ramsey, founder of the Tennessee-based personal finance advising and wealth-building company Ramsey Solutions and host of “The Ramsey Show.”

“Chances are, you’re not making grown-up money just yet. So don’t go buying a new car or a new house,” Ramsey, the author of eight number-one best-selling books, also told FOX Business. 

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“Instead, get yourself out of debt,” he advised new college grads. 

“Get seven jobs, sell stuff online, do whatever it takes to pay off student loans and any other consumer debt you’ve racked up.” He added, “The faster you get rid of debt, the faster you’re going to have a life.”

3. Build a budget

Making a budget can help new college graduates figure out how much money they’ll need before they enter the salary negotiation phase. (iStock)

“Trying to negotiate a salary without knowing how much you need to make is like trying to build a house without looking at the plans before you order the materials,” said Josh Simpson, an investment adviser representative at the Lake Advisory Group in Lady Lake, Florida.

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He continued, “Before you start to interview for jobs, build a budget so that you know how much you will need to make to be able to support yourself.”

4. Prioritize a pathway

College graduates should position themselves for their desired career path. (iStock)

“Don’t take the job that pays you the best — take the job that sets you up for the future you want,” said Ken Coleman, a career coach at Ramsey Solutions and host of “The Ken Coleman Show.”

Coleman also recommended that new graduates learn how to budget, so they’ll be able to “live on less” than what they make. 

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“Those two decisions will give you a competitive edge,” said Coleman.

5. Be willing to put in hard work

Being a diligent worker is a trait that greatly benefits new college graduates. (iStock)

“Currently, U.S. unemployment is at a historic low of 3.6% and there are two job vacancies available for every person looking for one,” said Sankar Sharma, the founder and investing authority of RiskRewardReturn.com.

It’s a private trading and investment mentorship source based in the U.K.

“A good attitude takes you to great altitude.”

“This is the best year to graduate,” he added. “At the same time, everyone needs to be mindful of the inflation, and the rising prices of food and energy.”

“A good attitude takes you to great altitude. It is important to show up with a willingness to learn, zeal to work hard, showing up with a ‘can do’ and ‘will do’ attitude, and going the extra mile of your employer’s expectations will all give you great career success and progression.”

Each year, about four million college students graduate in the U.S., according to the Education Data Initiative. (iStock)

Additional tips he offered new graduates for “taming the inflation tiger” include putting up to 10% aside from paychecks for “investing and making the money work in the markets” or placing a lump sum into Series I savings bonds, which earn interest and are protected from inflation, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury.

“Lock it for a year at least,” Sharma said. 

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“Series I savings bonds pay more interest than the current inflation rate and this is the simplified way to beat the inflation.”

6. Negotiate salaries, even if they’re entry-level

College graduates should practice salary negotiation; that way, they’ll get better at it as their career progresses. (iStock)

“Don’t be afraid to negotiate your salary,” said Kristin Myers, a New York City-based editor-in-chief at The Balance, a personal finance website

“You might think that with your age and lack of experience you are in no position to ask for more money, but [it’s better to] get into the habit of negotiating for pay raises and promotions now instead of later,” Myers continued. 

“The salary you earn now will impact the salaries you earn tomorrow.”

7. Think about retirement and beyond

New college graduates shouldn’t forget that they should be saving up for retirement and other long-term investments. (iStock)

“Start saving and investing now, even if it is $20 a week or a couple hundred dollars a month, not just for retirement, but also for big events down the road, like buying a home or boat, or saving for a wedding — you can do his with a bank or investment account,” said Michael Ashley Schulman, the founding partner and chief investment officer at Running Point Capital Advisors, a California-based portfolio management company.

“If your company does not offer a 401K retirement plan, open an IRA account and try to start by placing at least 6% of your regular paycheck into retirement savings,” Schulman also said. 

“You want your purchases to increase your happiness, not weigh you down.”

“I realize retirement can seem a long way off for a new college graduate, but the compound effects of long-term retirement saving and investing are immensely favorable.”

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He added that new college graduates can consult financial advisers if they need guidance; they should make sure to avoid high-interest debt like pay-day lenders and credit cards.

“You want your purchases to increase your happiness, not weigh you down,” Schulman said.

8. Inquire about discounts

College graduates should take advantage of deals and savings, so they can have more money for emergency funds, bills and personal spending. (iStock)

“Call your service providers and ask for lower rates or costs,” said Lauren Anastasio, director of financial advice at the NYC-based Stash, a personal finance app tailored to beginner investors.

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“If you have a credit card balance, call the card company and ask them to lower your rate. Surprisingly often they can at no cost,” Anastasio said. 

“The same would go for insurance providers, cable and cellphone providers, etc., who can lower your expenses.”

9. Make note of financial wellness benefits

Evaluating company benefits can help a college graduate save money in the long-term. (iStock)

“College graduates should pay attention to not only a starting salary or signing bonus, but also the broader financial wellness benefits that companies are offering,” said Edward Gottfried, director of product at Betterment at Work, a Texas-based employee benefit company. 

“This could include benefits such as a 401(k), a 401(k)-matching program, student loan management programs, a wellness benefits stipend, a flexible spending account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA),” added Gottfried. 

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“While having access to these benefits may not seem quite as exciting as receiving your first paycheck, they can’t be underestimated when considering how you’re going to set yourself up for long-term financial success in life.”

He continued, “Make sure that you sign up and take advantage of financial wellness benefits — otherwise, you’ll essentially be leaving free money on the table.”

10. Consider high-income industries

College graduates who work in high-income fields such as energy or technology often have a stable career path, even in a shaky economy. (iStock)

“In a world with high inflation, you’ll thank yourself for hitching your wagon to sectors that tend to do well during periods of high inflation,” Nathan Fort, a certified financial planner and founder of Texas-based Vital Retirement Planners, an investment advisory service.

“Stay valuable and well-compensated.”

“For example, looking for career opportunities in energy, information technology and real estate may give you the upper hand over careers in consumer discretionary sectors like high-end apparel, entertainment and automobiles,” he continued. 

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“Make yourself valuable to the world — and you’ll be compensated well for it.”

Regardless of which work sector new graduates choose, Fort said it’s in everyone’s best interest to fill their minds with information relevant to their field and skill set.

“Stay valuable and well-compensated,” he said.

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