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Personal Finance
Life After College

Michael Griffin -- For most students graduation means entering the real world, which includes paying your own bills and surviving without financial assistance. While all this may seem overwhelming at first, money management is a skill that everyone must learn at some point and it can be easier to master with practice.

Graduating from college is an exciting event and a major milestone in life but after graduation comes the real world, an intimidating place for recent grads that now have to make it on their own for the first time. Now is the time to find a job, pay your own bills, and survive without the financial assistance of parents.

Finding a job is usually the most difficult part of entering the real world. After that, your general finances will most likely be dependent on your salary. Starting your job search long before graduation will greatly alleviate this stress. Use your time in your last year of school to make contacts within the field you are interested in, even if they don't have a position available, they might know of someone who does. Continually update your résumé and when necessary, send these contacts an updated version. Use your college's career resources now, while you still have them. Career centers can help you with everything from résumés to interviews to actually locating a job. Having a position secured ahead of time will make the transition from school to work much easier.

With a job you will now have the thing that most young adults are most concerned about -- incoming money. Although it may not be much, it's a start. Now, more than ever, is the time to learn financial responsibility. Make a budget and stick to it. Allot specific amounts for rent, bills, groceries, and other expenses. Also, set aside what you can each month for savings. Sticking to your budget may be difficult, but the best way to keep to it is to monitor your spending.

One good way to control expenses is to use prepaid credit cards. Load your allotted amount onto a card and use it for only the things specific to that part of your budget. For example, if you put your grocery money on a card you now have that card specifically for groceries and nothing else. It prevents you from going over your budget and ensures that you have that money set aside. Each month the card can be reloaded again and you can track the spending online to know how much is left. While all this may seem overwhelming at first, money management is a skill that everyone must learn at some point and it can be easier to master with practice.

As you will discover, jobs, salary, and personal budgets are always fluctuating, so you'll need to be able to adapt your personal finances in any situation. As time progresses, you will most likely have to realign your budget for certain circumstances. While life may not be as easy as it was in college, it shouldn't be difficult either. Planning ahead can help you transition into the real world with ease. So, instead of looking ahead to graduation with anxiety, look forward to it as an opportunity to grow.

Michael is currently a 4th year accounting student at the University of Texas at Austin. He is particularly interested in business finance and debt. Additionally, he is writing his thesis on prepaid cards, such as prepaid credit cards, distinguishing how young people learn the importance of handling their money only by hands on experience.

© 2010 Michael Griffin

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