Personal Finance 

Personal Finance for College Students Series

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Personal Finance for College Students Series SealAfter a fruitful five years of college, I was fortunate to be one of the few who escaped with a reasonable amount of student loan debt (~$25,000), zero credit card debt, and degrees that made it easier for me to find gainful employment in an otherwise difficult job hunting season (Spring of 2003). I didn’t become interested in personal finance until a few years later, coinciding with the creation of this blog, but I had luckily and inadvertently built a solid foundation onto which to apply that learning and new found interest. That being said, looking back with 20-20 vision, I think that there are many things a college student can do that will make their lives much easier in the decades after graduation.

If you’ve made your way here and will be attending or are currently enrolled in college, you are much farther along in your financial maturity that I ever was. Hopefully I can impart some of the wisdom I’ve gained with the benefit of years (only a few) and hindsight.

The topics I’ll tackle will try to be most relevant to the college-aged crowd (establishing credit, handling credit cards, basic budgeting, furnishing an apartment, and much much more!) and some may seem pretty basic for those of you who are connoisseurs of blogs (I see readers of blogs as trying to squeeze knowledge like water out of a stone – blogs are probably the final frontiers in terms of valuable knowledge so I commend you!) but often we forget that when we’re learning something new, it’s not the difficulty of the topic that trips us up but that we didn’t even know the topic existed.

So, I welcome you to join us, both as a passive reader and an active contributor, as I try to dispense small golden nuggets of wisdom about personal finance for college students.

This article is the introductory post (and the index) of a new series I’ve started called Personal Finance for College Students (PF College).

    Getting A Job After Graduation

  1. Always Keep Your Resume Updated
  2. Use Student Loans for School Only!
  3. Credit

  4. Establish Credit Early!
  5. Get A Credit Card
  6. Investing & Retirement

  7. Start Thinking About Roth IRAs
  8. Frugality

  9. Don’t Buy Nice New Stuff
  10. How To Make Saving A Habit
  11. Use Your College Facilities
{ 7 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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7 Responses to “Personal Finance for College Students Series”

  1. eROCK says:

    Personally, one should stay away from credit cards. I don’t intend to say college students shouldn’t have one, but rather that they should use it wisely. I graduated from a large private university and have around $50K in loans and $5K in credit card debt. Couple those two items with a apartment, cable bill, brand new car, etc and you’ll quickly realize you could have lived without those purchases you charge instead of paying cash for. Post-Graduation, like many other students, I quickly realized that a shiny new iPod and a top of the line computer were at the bottom of the list. Rising to the top of the list are college loans, furniture, food, and saving for a house. The sooner a student realizes these facts of life, the better of they are!

  2. eROCK says:

    As an aisde (just found this) I checked out your net worth goals … you contribute the max to your 401k (15K a year!?)? That’s a heck of an accomplishment. I contribute around $3K a year w/ an employer match so it comes in around $4K give or take a few. I think once my bills are covered (CC bill and car loan) I am going to open an IRA (probably Roth) and try to put $4k in that a year in addtion to my 401K, but damn $15K? I guess once I make more it won’t be so bad 🙂 You know us recent college grads, we want instant gratification and we want it now!

  3. jim says:

    When I wrote it I was contributing the maximum each year, but after I bought a house in May of 2005 I scaled that back to around $5k a year in order to help make mortgage payments. I recently took a new job and will be trying to increase my contributions to get closer to the maximum. I’vealso been pretty lucky in that this blog has generated enough auxiliary disposable income that I’ve been able to contribute that much to my 401(k) without impacting my lifestyle.

  4. eROCK says:

    Congrats! I was wondering how you contriubte the max and own a home. Do you factor you home into your Net Worth? It doesn’t seem that way and I think it should def NOT be included.

  5. jim says:

    I struggled with that question for a variety of reasons:
    1) My parents helped me out by loaning/gifting me money for a downpayment.
    2) The value of the house is really subjective, do I take recent home prices? Just use the appraisal value?
    3) It doesn’t really matter!

    The value of tracking your net worth is in seeing how it changes, not the number itself. Did your net worth go up or down? Whether it’s $5,000 or $500,000, the value is in the changes, not the number.

  6. Chris says:

    I don’t agree with eRock that college students should not have credit cards. It is not the credit card that puts someone in debt, it is the fact that they are not educated on how to responsibly use one. I am a college student (graduate school) and have had a credit card for 5 years now, have never carried a balance and have imrpoved my credit score a lot because of my responsible use. Now when I want to make a large purchase after college, my debt will be much cheaper; so a credit card can be of good use.

    On a differnet note, the area where I feel that I save the most money compared to my peers is food / eating out. I cook all of my own meals, and if I have a busy schedule I’ll pack a brown bag lunch. On average, I spend less than $7 a day on food, compared to my friends who spend $7+ on each meal. Those little things add up and can save thousands of dollars over the course of a year.

  7. ISPF says:

    […] Jim over at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity is a seasoned PF blogger and I subscribe to his feeds and he usually has very interesting posts. On his blog he has put together a bunch of posts targeted for students which I think are a good read for aspiring financial saavy students. Check them out at the PF College archive at blueprint for financial prosperity […]

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