So, you’ve landed your first “real” job! Now’s the perfect time to create your first investment plan and start investing.
First, let me congratulate you on getting through school and starting your first “real” job. You’ve worked hard to get here, and I’m sure there are many things you’ll want to spend your new paycheck on. An apartment of your own, some decent takeout (not from a student cafeteria), maybe a little traveling.
You should do those things, as long as they fit into your budget. You’ve earned a little breathing room. But now that you have some stability, you should also thinking about how to start investing for your future. Here are three ways to get the ball rolling.
1. Pay down debt
As a student, you may have accumulated a mix of debt, from student loans to credit cards. Create a debt-repayment plan that focuses on paying off your high-interest debt, like credit cards, first.
Student loans often carry lower interest rates, so these loans might not be your top priority. At the same time, many student loans require you to make a minimum monthly payment shortly after you graduate, and you only have so much time to repay the entire loan. You still need a loan-repayment plan to make sure you don’t default on these loans.
2. Build your emergency fund
Post-graduate life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes your air conditioner breaks down in the middle of a heat wave or your car dies on the way to a meeting. I suggest putting 10% of your paycheck into an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. The goal is to eventually have enough money in your emergency fund to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses, but it can take a while to get there.
Your emergency fund should be low risk and easy to access, like a regular savings account.
3. Think about retirement
This is the best time to take advantage of the power of compounding. If you start putting just $200 a month into a retirement savings account at age 25, and let it grow over the next 40 years at a 4% rate of return, you’ll have about $237,000 in that account when you turn 65.
Wait another 10 years to start investing the same amount at the same rate of return, and you’ll reach age 65 with about $140,000. That’s a big difference.
If your employer offers a 401(k), use it. With this tax-advantaged retirement account, you contribute pre-tax dollars directly from your paycheck. You employer will also match your contributions up to a certain percentage of your salary.
If you don’t have a 401(k), look into a traditional IRA (individual retirement account) or Roth IRA. With a traditional IRA, you’ll get a tax break on your contributions, while with a Roth IRA, you won’t pay federal taxes when you withdraw money in retirement. With both types of IRAs, you won’t pay taxes on any investment income you earn within the plan until you start making withdrawals.
This website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice or recommendations. For specific advice or recommendations you would need to meet directly with one of our advisers.