Congratulations Class of 2013! I wish I had known the following financial steps at graduation, but my hindsight is your benefit.
1. Organize your financial life
Get everything in one place. Mint.com offers a free online and mobile account aggregation app that makes this a piece of cake. There are helpful budgeting and goal setting features too. It's indispensable.
2. Start saving
Save early and save often. Try starting with a simple budget: 50 percent of your income towards fixed costs (rent, student loans, groceries), 30 percent towards fun, and 20 percent towards savings (emergency fund, retirement, buying a house).
3. Enroll and invest in your employer's retirement plan
Two words: free money. Most companies will match the contribution you make to your retirement plan up to a limit. Max out the match even if you have debt.
4. Fund a Roth IRA
Don't have a 401(k) or still have money to put towards investing after maxing out your match? Start a Roth IRA account.
5. Watch your credit history and credit score
Check your credit history at annualcreditreport.com. Look for any mistakes.
Next, visit myFICO.com to get a free snapshot of your credit score and tips to improve it. A good score will save thousands in interest payments on cars, mortgages and credit card balances.
6. Use your credit card (wisely)
Credit cards can improve your score if used responsibly. Don't forget extra goodies like airline miles, cash back and extended insurance.
If you have an existing balance, pay it off first before adding more.
7. Automate your finances
Auto-pay as many expenses as you can with your credit card and have checks mailed out via bill pay for the other expenses (e.g. rent). Auto-pay your credit card in full each month from your checking account. Automate retirement contributions from your paycheck. No more late fees, no more stamps.
8. Think about your goals for the next five years
Are you starting a career in a field you enjoy? If not, now is the time to consider a change. The opportunity cost will only get higher the longer you wait.
9. Invest in yourself
The future income you'll make is worth far more than your current paper assets. Work on ways to increase that value.
10. Meet your professional peers
Join young professional groups and industry associations. You never know when a chance happy hour conversation will pay off.
If you follow these steps, you'll have a strong financial foundation. Good luck!
-- Jordan Kunz, CFA, CFP®, is an advisor associate at Sargent Bickham Lagudis LLC (sblfinancial.com), an independent wealth management firm in Boulder.