College students spend years studying, and yet many graduate with little knowledge about money. A study conducted by Arkansas State University found that college students lack an understanding of their own financial situation and basic budgeting skills. In fact, over one-third of students surveyed admitted to having no idea how much credit card or student loan debt they owed and overestimated future earnings by more than 20 percent. Entering the real world upon graduation is going to be a real wake-up call!
As you begin searching for a gift, consider one that will help boost a grad’s financial smarts for succeeding in the real world:
Financial planning session
A certified financial advisor will offer the most effective approach for establishing a budget on a limited income. These professionals can also explain how to manage student loans with current lifestyle desires, provide tips for paying off debt faster and illustrate the importance of saving for retirement early. You are likely better off scheduling a session with a fee-based/fee-only planner who charges by the hour.
Personal finance books
If a professional financial planner is out of your budget, opt for the DIY approach: buy a book. You may think a book is a bad gift for someone who just retired their textbooks, but personal finance advice is invaluable to a generation laden with debt. Plus, many of these books are authored by witty writers with relatable experiences. Try Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance In Your Twenties and Thirties by Beth Kobliner; The Broke and Beautiful Life by Stefanie O’Connell or Complete Guide to Personal Finance: For Teenagers for high school grads heading off to college.
More than half of college students (56 percent) remain unemployed six months after they graduate, according to a Student Clearinghouse report. A career counselor will guide a college grad through the job search process while identifying career options based on individual passions, talents and training. The average fee for a job coach will run you around $50 per hour. Review this list of Top 25 Certified Job Search Coaches on LinkedIn for help finding one for your grad.
Most 20-somethings are caught up with immediate financial concerns including how they’re going to make money, where they’re going to live and how to defer those student loans. The last thing on their mind is retirement savings. Opening a Roth IRA will jump-start the grads’ future planning while opening their eyes to the power of compound interest. Account holders make after-tax contributions but principal and earnings are free from taxes on withdrawal at retirement, which is an enormous savings over time. Plus, they can withdraw contributions tax- and penalty-free at any age, so it could even serve as a down payment for a house if necessary.
One of the biggest hurdles any college grad will face upon entering the “real world” is managing living expenses with social activities and savings. Learning how to create a budget that fits those needs and goals is crucial. A budgeting course would make the perfect gift for a grad who has no idea how to manage money on a limited income.
In addition to enhancing skill sets, being in the know about the latest events and industry news helps job seekers and employees stay informed and relevant. A digital or hard copy subscription to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine or Kiplinger’s Personal Finance ensures a well-rounded education on current events and personal finance. Alternatively, offering a trade magazine within the graduate’s area of study or interest is another smart option.
Online brokerage account
Start your college grad off with a few stocks that he or she can manage on eTrade or Sharebuilder. You can even find coupon codes online to save on startup fees for a new account.