5 Hacks for Life after College from Your Future Self

in General

Don’t invest $500 in your friend’s hamster circus startup.

Chances are good there have been times you wished your future self would reach back through time and stop you from making an ill-advised decision.

Time travel may not be possible (yet), but if it were, your future self would do two things: tell you not to invest in a hamster circus and share tips for living a successful life after college.

Build your nest egg.

Experts estimate that a person with $30,000 in student debt ends up with about $325,000 less in their 401(k) at retirement. Finding ways to keep down college costs, like applying for interest-free student loans, could allow you to start saving for that nest egg earlier. When you have less student debt, you have more wiggle room in your income to fund plans like 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and individual retirement accounts (IRAs).

Get your finances in order.  

Develop smart money management habits now to save tons of hassle and debt later. Prioritize income by paying for food, rent, and other essentials first each month. After those are paid, put additional money toward high-interest credit card debt and student loans.

If you have extra money in the budget, create a plan to save or invest it wisely. A qualified financial advisor can help you decide what to do with the funds based on your goal, whether that’s paying off student debt early or saving to buy a house.

Create an emergency fund.

Life happens—often in ways you don’t expect. One day you’re sitting comfortably, and the next your car engine goes kaput. Up to 40 percent of Americans say they can’t afford an emergency expense of $400 or more.

Open a dedicated savings account now and use it to stash money for emergencies. This means you’ll be less tempted to put emergency expenses on a credit card, where the debt can potentially dog you for years.

Most experts recommend saving at least three months’ worth of expenses, although nine to twelve months is ideal. The amount you save doesn’t need to be a lot of money—even $25 per month will help build a cushion without strapping your current budget.

Build a professional network.

As you launch life after college, support your career by developing a network of colleagues. If you work for a large employer, don’t confine interactions to coworkers at your level or within your department; connect with as many people as possible, from the CEO to the crew member who empties the trash.  You’ll discover so much about life and business just by opening your ears and listening to those around you.

Take a breath every now and again.

Lean in! Embrace the hustle! Life and career advice during your college years is full of emphasis on action, momentum, and being flat-out awesome. But all that hustle is enough to burn out anyone.

Work hard, but make time to inhale deeply. Make time to laugh. Make time to eat lunch outside on a sunny day instead of eating hunched over a keyboard.

Life after college isn’t easy, as you’ll learn soon enough. Store these life hacks now to protect yourself in the future.