Aguilar De Dios applied for and received forbearance, which delays the first payment of his federal student loans until January 2014. The loan will continue to build interest, but it will delay the payments until I am on more sound financial footing, he said. I firmly believe that a new job with better hours and better pay will help me manage my finances.
Make a budget
People have no idea where their money is going, said Austin Frye, a certified financial planner with Frye Financial Center in Aventura. They dont want to budget, because they dont want to know.
Download a spending plan worksheet at www.mint.com or www.quicken.com and figure out how much real life costs, Siegel said. Factor in student debt, housing, transportation, clothing, food, entertainment and health insurance. If you dont have enough money to cover everything, figure out where you can cut. Can you live in a smaller apartment? Buy a used, instead of a new car? Get a roommate?
Look at your monthly earnings. Subtract 25 to 30 percent for taxes. Now subtract your expenses. Whats left?
If its zero or below zero, you either have to cut the expenses or increase the revenue, Frye said.
Just say no to credit cards
Recent grads are bombarded with credit card offers, and some mistakenly take them all, Siegel said. Some young adults dont understand that credit cards have to be paid back, and that you have to pay interest, she said.
Be strategic about the debt you incur. Prioritize, Frye said. After your student loan debt, housing should be your next priority. Because mortgage interest rates are at record lows and real estate prices are still down, it may be an opportune time to buy, he said. Consumer debt, or using credit cards to finance things like new clothes or fun, should be your lowest priority, he said.
Remember that credit cards often come with the highest interest rates, OKurley said.
Pay your discretionary expenses like going out to a bar with friends, only in cash, Siegel said. When youre not using plastic, money is very real.
Maintain your credit
Work out a plan to pay your debt on time, or your credit will take a hit. One way is to set up automatic debits from your checking account to pay your student loan, Siegel said.
Maintain the integrity of your credit, Frye said. A lot of people are casual about accumulating debt and declaring bankruptcy. People have to be careful about that.
A bad credit score can not only make it more expensive to get more credit when you need it, through higher fees or interest rates, it could also cost you a job.
Frye said his company recently declined to hire a good job candidate when they learned the person had bad credit. The credit report is a marker of how a person handles responsibility, he said.
Manage your debt
Uncontrolled debt is the silent killer of a financial plan, Frye said. The clients who really sink, who end up in foreclosure or with a mountain of bills they cant pay, are the ones who never learned to take control, he said.
You dont have to avoid debt altogether, because you need it to buy a home or a car. Its your best friend and your worst enemy, he said. You just have to be smart about it.