Managing Money, Credit and Debt After Graduation

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By Lorraine Young, 3rd-year – Journalism

Attending college was an important investment in yourself and your future. After graduation, maximizing that investment means increased responsibility to manage money, credit and debt. Finally being in a position to make money can be rewarding, but there are still plenty of life lessons to be learned.

About 65% of Mohawk students had some form of financial assistance from the government through OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program). Even those who self financed their education may find they have payments to make.

“Many students are graduating with significant debt – sometimes up to $20-30,000 of outstanding student loans when they leave college,” says Marilyn Micucci, Director of Financial Assistance, Convocation and Registration for Mohawk College. “For the students who have learned how to manage their money, its not as big of an issue because they have a plan and they realize that they have to start putting money aside to start paying their OSAP back.”

Having a plan includes deciding on an overall approach to your own financial well-being – what your priorities are, where you want to focus your income, and what your long term objectives are. Managing your expectations can make a big difference in terms of where you end up.

If you already know where you want your money to take you, the best tool to make sure it gets you there is a budget.

Micucci recommends that graduating students have a budget to get started, and that they begin by realizing what their expenses are: “Sometimes it takes a couple of months of just jotting down everything that you’re spending your money on and you start to see a bit of a pattern,” says Micucci. “For some it may be that they go out to party and they are spending 100 bucks a night on the weekend – maybe they should cut back and spend $50 instead.” Making choices is what money management is really all about.

The budget puts all your expenses together so that you can see your results and make adjustments. Paying bills first, even good debt like student loans is important to establishing a good credit rating. If your goals include buying a car or a home or starting your own business, that solid rating can lead to lower interest rates and can enhance the strength of your loan application.

Managing your money can be challenging, and rewarding. Micucci’s best advice is to learn to “live within your means”. Don’t spend more than you make, no matter what amount that is. As your income grows you can expand your spending – but until your debt is under control you will be better off to use your money wisely – and to keep learning along the way.

Source: Financial Advice for Mohawk Grads by Lorraine Young

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