6 Financial Things College Students Should Do

If I was in college today and bombarded with the amount of information and opinions of this era, here are six things I would focus on:

  1. Work: Being a full-time student can be challenging, but working simultaneously can be extremely beneficial. A job, an internship, or your own business will teach you a lot. These will provide opportunities to deal with people, to earn money, and to develop skills (not the least of these is time management). All of these can be extremely beneficial. I’m not suggesting full-time work and full-time school, but just know you won’t be learning the real world solely from the classroom.
  2. Invest in a Roth IRA: Don’t wait for your first “career” retirement plan to start investing. Start putting money into a Roth IRA — even a small amount. Take advantage of compound interest over the long-term, and even more importantly, establish your foundation as an investor. Of course, some caveats may apply here (you need earned income to be eligible, or a 401k with an employer match could be a better option, etc.) but the long-term growth potential of a Roth IRA tax-free many years later is an advantage that most young people should seize upon.
  3. Don’t use a credit card: Every campus fair wants to give you a T-shirt or water bottle to sign up for a credit card. Don’t do it — even to establish credit. You can do that later. So many young people slowly and unknowingly fall into the debt trap because it is easy money.
  4. Minimize or avoid student loans. Just because it’s become the norm for your peers to take on the burden of student loan debt doesn’t mean you have to be like them. Avoid taking out a loan if you can, but if you must use student loans, make a commitment to pay them off after graduation within two to five years.
  5. Interview professionals: If you are interested in an industry, the fastest way to learn and get advice is to talk with a successful person in that industry. Ask them what they would do differently, what they have done well, and whatever else you want to know. Also ask them who else you might be able to interview. You’ll be learning and building a network all for the price of a cup of coffee (you should buy their coffee). You might question why a busy professional would meet with you. Most professionals actually want to help aspiring young people attain their goals, but sometimes it is just simply because you asked. Your initiative will go a long way.
  6. Give: You most likely have more discretionary time than money at this stage of your life but aspire to give both even in small amounts to causes you care about. It’s easy to say you’ll give back once you are established, but be a giver first. It might seem paradoxical, but it’s amazing how people who put others first are rewarded in so many ways over the long term.

In a “noisy” world, establishing a strong foundation starts with a purposeful approach.

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