New to the Workforce? 4 Money Moves to Make

by Maurie Backman | Published on July 23, 2021

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Check these items off your list once you've gotten your first job.

Entering the workforce can be an intimidating but exciting period of life. And if you're new to working, you have a solid opportunity to start off on a smart financial foot. Here are a few important moves it pays to make once your first steady paycheck starts rolling in.

1. Set up a budget

Getting paid is a good thing. But the last thing you want to do is mismanage that paycheck and struggle financially because of it. Having a budget can prevent that scenario, so be sure to set one up as soon as you can. Your budget should account for all of your recurring monthly expenses, as well as one-off expenses you'll need to cover during the year, like your annual auto insurance premiums. Once you have that budget in place, you'll be in a better position to figure out how much leisure spending you can swing, and that alone could help you avoid landing in debt.

2. Automate your savings

One of your first goals as a new member of the workforce should be to build a solid emergency fund -- one with enough money to cover three to six months of living expenses. And a good way to get started toward that goal is to put your savings on autopilot. Most banks these days offer automatic savings plans where you can arrange for a portion of each paycheck you collect to move from your checking account to your savings account before you get a chance to spend it. It's a good way to stay disciplined when you're new to managing money.

3. Assess your debt

You may be entering the workforce with debt already hanging over your head, and if so, don't worry -- you're certainly not alone. But it is important to come up with a plan to tackle that debt, so spend a little time assessing your situation. If you owe money on a couple of credit cards, for example, ‌you‌ ‌can‌ ‌start‌ ‌by‌ ‌chipping‌ ‌away‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌balance‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌higher‌ ‌interest‌ ‌rate‌ ‌and‌ ‌then‌ ‌move on to attack your second balance. In fact, it's a good idea to incorporate your debt payoff plan into your budget so you stay on track with it.

4. Map out some near- and long-term financial goals

Maybe you want to buy a home in the next five years, or retire at an earlier age than most. The sooner you establish some financial goals that are important to you, the better a position you'll put yourself in to achieve them. If you want to become a homeowner, for example, you can add a line item in your budget for savings toward a down payment. And if your goal is to retire early, you can start funding a 401(k) or IRA from a young age to make that more feasible.

Entering the workforce may be overwhelming at first, but if you make these money moves now, you'll have less financial stress to deal with. And remember, learning to manage money is an ongoing process, so don't sweat a few early blunders. Just do your best to get on a solid path as you enjoy the freedom of finally earning a paycheck of your own.

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