Keep Your Credit in Check When You Graduate to the ˜Real World

MAY 23, 2013

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Your degree is no substitute for real-world experience. So why should college be an excuse for not getting your finances in line? Like your degree, your credit score shows that youre disciplined and ready to take on responsibility. Here are some helpful tips for obtaining a solid score post-college.

Check Your Score and Check it Often

Think of checking your credit score  like you would check your grades. During college, you may have taken out a loan to help pay tuition, opened your first credit card or possibly financed your first car. All of these items have a great influence on your credit score.

College students are an easy-target for Identity Fraud or Identity Theft because their credit history is relatively untouched. Checking your credit report for credit history and inaccuracies might prevent problems once you get ready to sign a lease, finance a home, or even start business. Some of these can seem like too far off to worry about, but when the time comes to do them, youll want healthy credit to make it happen.

Pay Off Loans

Subsidized loans such as Stafford Loans or other education lenders often have a grace period of interest-free financing. Even if you arent making the big bucks right away, you should always make the payments on time. You can set aside any graduation gift money to pay off that first payment, so it doesnt make a dent in your checking account. Make a budget and work your student loan payments into it, so its always accounted for in your spending. If you can make higher payments, that will help you pay things off faster and save money on interest, but its not something many new grads are able to feasibly do.

Pay Your Bills On Time

Stay on top of your personal finances now and establish good habits for paying your bills on time. After college, most dont have the responsibilities of a mortgage, family or business to tend to which makes it the best time to live below your means, keep your credit card balances low, and pay off your balances in full each month.

Missed payments or maxed out credit cards could set you up for a long road of financial hardship and show up on your credit report. Additionally, some employers do credit checks during the job application process and an adverse credit history could impact your chances of landing a great job.

Get a Roommate, or Better yet, Stay at Home

More college grads are living with their parents after college and for good reason. Financial experts advise that rent should be no more than one-third for your personal budget. With entry-level jobs sometimes scarce and often low-paying, that could leave a very minimal amount left for paying rent.

If your new job leaves you fleeing the nest on a short budget, find a roommate to help split living costs. Online renter resource, William Paid, recommends a great list of websites and smartphone apps to help renters find compatible roommates post-college and can also help make sure you pay your rent on time with flexible online rent payment options.

Suit Up

Its often said you should dress for the job you want. Thats not always easy when you might be living on a part-time paycheck. Still, investing in proper work-attire before you hit the interviews could help you land your dream job. After all, what you wear to your interview could leave a lasting impression on your potential employer.

Be on the search for department store sales and purchase at least one interview suit that fits you well. Start mixing office-appropriate attire into your wardrobe that can coordinate with your casual style.

You Cant Afford Big Mistakes

After college, you no longer have your youthful abandonment to carry you through pitfalls. Be sure you take time to make careful decisions about the company you keep and the priorities you make.

After all, public records, like court judgments and bankruptcies, can stay on your credit record for up to seven years or ten years, respectively, leaving you struggling later in life. Start making responsible decisions about your lifestyle, finances and career now to ensure you have a solid future ahead of you.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from, Inc.   © 2013, Inc.   All rights reserved.