Your First College Assignment: Think About Your Finances
CFP Board Consumer Advocate Encourages College Students to Start Planning for the Future
With back-to-school season in full swing, millions of soon-to-be college students are packing their bags, preparing to be on their own for the first time. As they prepare for a new academic year away from the comforts of home and cope with feelings of anticipation and excitement, they must also be prepared to make a number of significant financial decisions without the help of mom and dad.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (“CFP Board”) Consumer Advocate Eleanor Blayney, CFP® encourages college students to start their college experience on the right financial foot by equipping themselves with the information they need to make smart financial decisions.
“Financial basics are rarely taught in high school,” says Blayney. “Almost everything you know about money you had to learn on your own, glean from your parents, or assume you’d figure it out later—when you actually have some money. But here’s the thing: the best time to start financial planning is when you’re young.”
In the latest installment of CFP Board’s “Let’s Talk Planning” blog and the fourth feature in its “Financial Planning is for Everyone” series, Blayney proposes questions that all college students should be asking:
- What can I do to build a good foundation for my future earnings and long-term wealth?
Your focus should be simple: Do as much as you can to enhance your earnings potential, such as choosing a major in a field that you not only love, but is in demand by employers.
- How do I manage my debt and build the credit I’ll need once I graduate?
Managing your debt and keeping your credit score healthy is imperative for your post-grad plans. Be as conscientious about paying your bills on time as you are about turning in your assignments. And remember that credit cards are not free money – don’t use them for purchases you otherwise can’t afford.
- What financial mistakes should I avoid?
Avoid getting in over your head with student loan debt – make sure the total amount of your undergraduate student loans is no more than the typical first-year salary in the field you plan to enter.
- Where can I go for guidance?
You’ve probably heard that financial advisers focus on older clients with positive net worth and ample investible assets, not young adults. However, you can often find a qualified CFP® professional who is happy to help. Take those research skills that helped get you into college and use them to find a financial planner who will charge hourly to get you started. Most CFP® professionals will gladly extend their services to children of their clients.
“When you are young, you may be money-poor, but you’re rich in time, which is a powerful wealth builder,” says Blayney. “You are also at the point in your life when you are making important choices that will impact your financial situation for decades to come. Having a plan to guide those choices is like preparing an outline before you write that first college paper: you’ll know where you’re going—and whether you’ve arrived there—more quickly and efficiently than if you guess as you go.”
ABOUT LET’S TALK PLANNING AND FINANCIAL PLANNING IS FOR EVERYONE
“Let’s Talk Planning” is a blog by CFP Board Consumer Advocate Eleanor Blayney, CFP®, with posts each week with practical financial planning tips for consumers, as well as insights into the latest developments at CFP Board. In addition to offering counsel on timely and evergreen financial planning topics, once a month Blayney will remind readers that “financial planning is for everyone,” with tips for consumers of all ages and life stages.