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Congrats, graduates!


You’re about to ride off into the sunrise. I know you’re traveling light, but the road before you is littered with hidden conditions, terms and penalties that can sink your finances before you get very far.

So while you’re packing the sunscreen and the graduation gift money, consider taking along just a bit of consumer advice.

  • Pay your bills on time. Once you’re 18, the major credit bureaus track how responsibly you pay your bills, and these reports, called credit reports, have a huge effect on your life.
  • Make saving part of your lifestyle.If you establish a plump savings account, you’ll be better equipped to handle emergencies like car repairs and do fun things, like travel, without going into debt.
  • Have a spending plan. You can get by in the short term without a budget, but it’s hard to be financially healthy longterm without one.
  • Be smart about credit. Under new federal rules, if you’re under 21, banks can’t let you open a credit card account unless you have a co-signer (which I generally don’t recommend) or you can show that you earn enough to make payments on a card.
  • Be careful with contracts. You’re going to be signing all sorts of contracts as a consumer. The single best way to protect yourself is to read every agreement before you sign it.
  • Debits can be dangerous. Debit cards look like credit cards, but they don’t work the same way. They don’t give you the same dispute protection as credit cards, but they do tend to put people in that same “plastic trance”: Consumers who use debit cards for everyday purchases sometimes lose track of their spending.
  • Protect your identity. Your Social Security number, your account numbers and your passwords are all valuable commodities. Keep them secret.
  • Plan for the long run.Once you start your career, do yourself a huge favor and begin investing in a retirement savings plan.


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