Now What? Tips on Navigating Finances Post Graduation For New Alums

by Kimberly Lawrence

Rent, Car Payments, insurance, gas, food, heating and water bills, student loans, taxes, clothes—it all adds up quickly once you’re on your own. For many new graduates, budgeting monthly expenses and keeping track of cash flow can be overwhelming. That is why each year, seniors can take a one-credit Life After Stonehill course to help set them on a positive path.

A piece of advice that Heather (Callaghan) Heerman ’96, director of Career Services, who instructs the course, gives the soon-to-be grads: “Live within your means! Always track your spending, income and expenses to make sure you are not living above what you can afford.” SAM asked three other experts to share some financial tips and pitfalls to avoid.

“Live within your means! Always track your spending, income and expenses to make sure you are not living above what you can afford.” 
—Heather (Callaghan) Heerman ’96

Peter Wallace
Retired Associate Professor of Business Administration and Author of “Life 101: Real-World Advice for Graduating College Seniors”

>>Budget, Budget, Budget: Budgeting is the first skill you have to master to survive in the grown ups’ world. In most cases, you will earn a salary, which will be paid twice a month. You have to have a budget plan so that you know where every penny is going.

>>Cash In/Cash Out: Write down all of your monthly expenses and compare those expenses to your take home pay. This will give you an idea of your cash flow—what cash comes in and what cash goes out. At the beginning of your career, this difference will be relatively small. As your salary increases, you will be able to save some money.

>>Think Retirement Early: Contribute to your employer’s 401(k) retirement program, especially if the employer matches your contribution.

>>Credit vs. Debit: A credit card is the most expensive way to borrow. If you feel you need to carry a card, get a debit card. Debit cards do not charge interest and will stop you from overspending since the money comes directly out of your bank

Katherine Moan ’11
Senior Financial Analyst at EMC

>>50/20/30 Rule: 50 percent of your take home pay (after taxes, etc.) should be allocated to monthly fixed costs. 20 percent should be put towards your savings/financial goals for the future, and 30 percent should be set aside for flexible spending (groceries, eating out, drinks, gas, activities).

>>Undergraduate Loans: Consolidate where possible to obtain a lower rate but make sure you are aware of the implications, and pay more than the minimum since a portion of every payment is going towards interest and not the principal.

>>Untouched Savings: Once you have a good handle on your monthly spending, create a separate account to direct deposit the leftover money in your paycheck to a savings/brokerage account so you don’t touch it. is a great site to use.

>>Diversify with the Stock Market: When you can, try to invest money into the stock market. Even $100 will make a difference in the long term. Savings accounts aren’t giving you any return, so you’re actually losing money through inflation each year if you don’t diversify into the stock market.

>>Sweat Equals Reimbursement: If you belong to a gym or take exercise classes, make sure to check with your healthcare provider. Many offer reimbursement for memberships and/or classes that are taken within a specified timeframe.

Tyler Hebert ’11
Financial Analyst at a High Tech Firm

>>Commuting Costs: If you live in a city with decent public transportation, consider selling your car. This will significantly cut down on your monthly expenses and is good for your carbon footprint.

>>Reasonable Rent: Find a place with a reasonable monthly rent—you don’t want to be spending half your salary on housing as other expenses add up quickly.

>>Credit Score: Make sure you pay off what you owe each month on your credit card, and you will slowly build your score up. Remember that no credit history does not equal a good credit score.

>>Out to Eat? Pay attention to how much you are spending on food each week and take advantage of farmer’s markets and buying in bulk. Eating out every night of the week adds up.