Youve just graduated from college and landed your first adult job. You dream of fancy vacations, designer clothes and a cool apartment. Then, like the average U.S. college graduate, you receive your first payment due notice for the $23,000 youve racked up in student debt.
And youve just learned your first adult lesson: Its time to pay up.
What life really costs is a hard lesson to learn, said Ellen Siegel, a certified financial planner with Ellen R. Siegel & Associates in Miami. College loan debt can be a big anchor around the neck of a recent graduate who is ready to enjoy the rewards of years of hard work in the classroom. On July 1, the interest rates on some federal loans doubled, which means future borrowers will face a larger burden.
The biggest challenges for [graduates with student loans] are prioritizing the debt as the first thing they pay off, and not quantifying what life really costs, Siegel said Theyre so in a hurry to get a paycheck and not be impoverished students.
Johnny Aguilar De Dios of Miami graduated from Florida International University in April with a bachelors degree in psychology and more than $20,000 in student loan debt. He works 17 to 28 hours a week at Best Buy Mobile in Doral while he looks for a full-time work in his field.
Everything I make is going towards living expenses like gas and food, said Aguilar De Dios, 24. Any little money that is left over is going towards savings, or to pay on credit card bills and my car note. I havent started paying my student loan yet.
Young adults graduating with high hopes and a burden of student debt need to have with a firm grasp of their financial situation in order to stabilize it, experts say.
Start with good habits
To a recent college grad, the first full-time job may come with a paycheck that looks like it will last forever. To someone who has only worked part-time, $40,000 may seem like a tremendous amount of money, said Ashley OKurley, a certified financial planner with John Hancock Financial Services in Miami. But if its the first time on your own, the bills will add up quickly. You have to watch spending and practice living within your means, from the start.
When it comes to financial planning, so much is habit based, OKurley said. The choices you make and the habits you develop will affect you throughout your life, he said. Make good habits.
Get a look at the big picture
If your parents have a financial planner, ask for a free consultation. I dont know any of my peers who would not give the child of a client an hour, Siegel said.
Learn the terms of your student loan, so you can understand your payment options. Stafford loans have a six-month grace period, while Perkins loans offer a nine-month period before the first payment is due. The grace period for private and other types of federal loans vary.
Federal loans typically have a 10-year term, but there are ways to extend the term and lower your payment if you cant afford the monthly note. The U.S. Department of Education, www.studentaid.ed.gov, has information on deferment and forbearance programs that delay repayment. The Project on Student Debt, www.ibrinfo.org, has information on income-based repayment plans.