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Life Balance: Managing Your Student Debt and Finances

Being buried under a mountain of student debt can be a tough way to start out in the workforce. When your first paychecks start rolling in, you will kiss a bunch of money goodbye when you have to repay your students loans. So how can you build a future AND pay off your student debts? A recent post had a few great pointers on how.

Learn about your loans. Many student loans allow for a 6-9 month grace period before loan repayment begins. During this time, your loans may be charged a lower rate of interest. Consider consolidating your loans and locking in your interest rate while your loans are at a lower rate. This may not only help keep the cost of borrowing lower, but it will mean you only have to write one check per month.

Establish an emergency fund. You should have enough money in your emergency fund to cover three months of expenses. This money should be used only in the case of emergencies, and not for those late-night runs to Taco Bell.

Pay off your credit card. It's estimated that college graduates carry an average of $2,500 in credit card debt. Most credit cards have very high interest costs. Be sure that you are not one of them. You cannot build wealth while paying 19% interest on your credit card purchases. Do not begin investing until you have an emergency fund and have eliminated your credit card debt.

Sign up for free money. If you have just started a new job, check to see what type of retirement benefits your company offers. Many companies will match your contributions dollar-for-dollar up to a certain percent of your pay. In other words, you get free money if you invest in the company retirement plan. Make every effort to contribute enough to get the full match. By doing so, you are, in essence, receiving a 100% return on your money. And, don't assume you are too young to save for retirement. By saving now, and harnessing the power of compounding interest, you'll have enough to retire long before most of your friends. Remember the time-value of money!

Contribute to a Roth IRA. Once you've built up an emergency fund, paid off your credit cards, and taken advantage of any free money available through your employer, make every effort to invest any remaining dollars in a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA is the ideal place to put those extra dollars you were otherwise going to apply to your student loan principle.

After earning your college degree, you should take care of your loans as soon as possible. Then you dreams a secure finiancial future can be realized.


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