You’re Graduating During a Pandemic — Now What?
After years of early morning classes, late night study sessions and more ramen noodles than you can count, you’re finally graduating from college. Celebrations are definitely in order. But there’s a twist nobody was expecting: you’re graduating in the middle of a pandemic, into an economy that’s seeing the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. While no one knows for sure how quickly things will rebound, there are things you can do in the meantime to start laying a strong financial foundation. Let’s see what they are.
Take Budgeting Seriously
Consistent and realistic budgeting is the key to financial security. Use an app or spreadsheet to track all your expenses for 30 days to discover your true spending habits, which have probably changed the last few months. Based on what you learn, identify opportunities to trim expenses or move funds into other budget categories. As the pandemic response continues to evolve, be sure your budget keeps pace with your actual spending.
Consider Gig Work
With the pandemic, delivery services like Postmates or GrubHub are in high demand. You also might consider remote freelancing via digital platforms like Fiverr or TaskRabbit. Gig work not only can bring in much-needed cash, it also can help you stay busy and teach you new skills that can come in handy when applying for full-time jobs.
Be Cautious wth Credit
New grads often receive multiple with pre-approved credit card offers. But don’t be tempted to open multiple cards — during the pandemic or otherwise. One credit card is enough to start building a positive credit history, which is important because good credit plays a role in nearly every life milestone from buying vehicles and homes to even landing some jobs. The best way to build credit is to have one card you use and pay off in full every month. Avoid overspending and carrying a balance, as fees and interest can quickly add up.
Be Prepared to Interview
While in-person interviews probably won’t be happening for a while, prospective employers may still want to interview you over the phone or via video chat. Keep a professional interview outfit clean and ready, study successful interviewing skills and maybe even do some mock interviews with a friend or family member to practice and help calm your nerves for when the real things happen.
Don’t Ignore Student Loans
As a new grad, you have a six-month grace period before you must start paying back your federal student loans. Even with government action to assist federal loan borrowers during the pandemic, you still have to select a repayment plan. If you don’t, you’re automatically enrolled in the Standard Plan, which requires fixed payments over 10 years. That may not be the best option depending on your finances — especially during these difficult times. Plus, there’s no guarantee the government will take additional action by the time your grace period is over. If you’re overwhelmed by the options, contacting an experienced student loan counselor can help.