10 Financial Pointers for Young Professionals Coming Out (or About to Come Out) of College

by Sharif Muhammad, CPA, Unlimited Financial Services LLC | January 23, 2019

Graduating from college and other advanced degree programs is a big deal — not just for the education obtained, but for the commitment of focusing oneself for four to five years on a goal. Here are my 10 pointers for young professionals:

  1. Save 25 to 35 percent of your net pay. You never had the money before, so you will never miss it. Start building your war chest of savings now, because it will come in handy later.
  2. If you have student loans, use every disposable dime (after saving per #1) to pay it off. I’m serious. Get rid of those loans.
  3. Invest money in one or two custom-made suits, custom-made shirts, some high-quality shoes and a nice coat. It will cost some serious money, but if you are on the lookout for deals (i.e., finding a quality tailor, looking out for yearly deals from stores like Nordstrom, tagging along to a friends and family event at a luxury retailer, etc.), you will be amazed by the money that you can save.
  4. Start developing a secondary source of income. Start off with a Stock Dividend Fund, a Municipal Bond or Treasuries. Then, consider investing in an investment or rental property. Invest in a business or restaurant. Whatever. The point is, you will do yourself a favor by growing a source of income that is NOT from your job. 
  5. Sign up for match – as in your 401(k) match.  Since your income is expected to be relatively low, here’s a retirement savings trick that I would recommend – Contribute to your 401(k)/Roth 401(k) just enough to secure the company’s match (which is free money), stop contributing after that and max out a ROTH IRA. Many employer Retirement Savings Plans have mediocre investment options at best and are full of hidden fees.
  6. Cash Rules EVERYTHING Around Me (CREAM).  If you can’t pay for it with cash (and I’m not referring to your savings), don’t buy it. Credit is not an extension of your income. It is BORROWED MONEY.  Nothing is sadder than seeing a young adult paying on a credit card balance for clothes that he/she bought a year ago, or for a trip that you took two summers ago.
  7. Be pennywise… and I don’t mean that big-headed clown from It.  Live frugally. Notice that I did not say “cheap”. Being frugal is all about being an informed and vigilant consumer. You take the time to shop for the best deal possible.
  8. Understand that all things that glitter, isn’t gold. You will have friends that have a new car, bought those $100+ jeans, partied last weekend in VIP at ‘the club’. They’re living this fabulous lifestyle. However, they have no assets, bank account is just above the minimum (if not constantly incurring overdraft fees), and they’re barely making ends meet. This is not a judgement – just an observation. 
  9. Luxurious living costs you big time. Thinking about moving to the “hot urban areas” with the brand new apartment complexes? With one bedrooms costing nearly $2,000/month ($24,000/year), you say “what the heck… you only live once, right?” That may be true, but if you were able to find a studio a few miles away at $1.250/mo ($15,000/year), you can save $9,000 year which could go towards, savings, investments or retirement.
  10. Speak to a professional. You may not necessarily be ready to work with a financial advisor year-round, but it doesn’t hurt to pay a few hundred dollars to meet with an accountant and a fee-only advisor to discuss tax, budgeting and investment strategies for the ensuing six to 12 months.

Also, you can utilize tools like Mint.com or Betterment.com if you feel comfortable and savvy enough to navigate through this with a little help.

This abridged article was reprinted with permission. It was originally posted on www.njcpablog.com.


Sharif A. Muhammad

Sharif A. Muhammad

Sharif Muhammad, CPA, MBA, MST, CFP, is the founder and chief executive officer of Unlimited Financial Group Inc. He is a member of numerous NJCPA committees and interest groups.

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