6 Financial Tips for When You're Just Starting Out

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Landing your first real job is hard enough. As many young adults realize, a whole new set of problems arise when you start earning a paycheck. Money matters can feel overwhelming when you're just starting out, but making smart financial decisions early on can set you up for success later in life. From how to budget to taking advantage of your job’s benefits, here are some tips from Mental Floss and Discover to keep in mind.

  1. Get—and use—a credit card.

Using a credit card on a regular basis and paying your bills on time is one of the best ways to build up good credit. Paying only in cash—even if you are being responsible with your money—does nothing to help your credit score. To start building good credit, charge just a few monthly expenses you know you’ll be able to pay back. If you get a card that does not charge an annual fee, you can prove you’re a reliable client without that added expense. Try Discover - the only major credit card issuer that doesn’t have an annual fee on any of their cards.

  1. Start saving for retirement today.

It’s never too early to start saving for retirement—even if you just started getting paid on a regular basis. Getting a head start on a retirement fund can save you a lot of stress later in life. At this stage, setting aside whatever you can afford is a huge step above waiting.

  1. Build an emergency fund.

Retirement isn’t the only thing you should be saving for. Even if you’re doing well today, it’s smart to prepare for the worst. Losing your job, having to care for a loved one, or dealing with your own health issues are all circumstances that could lead to financial strain. Start setting aside money that’s reserved for emergencies if you haven’t already. Ideally, this safety cushion should be enough to cover about three to six months of living expenses, though any amount is better than nothing.

  1. Pay your bills on time.

Neglecting to pay your bills on time can lead to more than just late fees. Payment history is one of the biggest factors that determines your credit score—so even if you do eventually pay off your late bills, they can come back to haunt you when you try to buy a house or a car down the road. The number of days you avoid payment also factors into your credit score, so if you do miss a payment, try to settle that debt as quickly as possible.

  1. Take advantage of your job’s benefits.

If you’re lucky enough to land a salaried job when you’re just starting out, don’t ignore that benefits package. In addition to the big stuff like health insurance, your employer may offer you smaller perks like travel reimbursement and discounted gym memberships. And even if you’ve been at your job for a while, you can still reach out to your human resources department to go over any money-saving benefits you may have missed when you first joined the team.

  1. Learn to budget.

Calculating a budget and sticking to it is a simple way to reduce stress in your life. Start by figuring out what you spend money on each month and comparing that to your take-home pay. Which expenses are essentials? Where could you be more responsible? Can you afford to put more money into savings? Once you’ve answered those questions, you can start navigating your financial life with more confidence.

Managing your finances can seem daunting when you’re on your own for the first time, so it’s helpful to avoid unnecessary expenses and fees wherever possible. When it comes to choosing a credit card, Discover is the only major credit card issuer with No Annual Fee on any card. Learn more at Discover.