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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Students should start financial planning right out of college

As we get closer to graduation, more of us are looking to make the kind of money we’ve never seen in our lives at new jobs. Friends all around me are getting the dreaded boot from their parents.

No more phone coverage, car insurance or food money. Most people have no clue how to manage money, and they waste a lot of their first-year salaries because of it.

UF grads entering the real world should establish a plan now to save for big goals such as retirement and a home and not buy anything major in the first year unless it’s necessary — steer clear of salespeople of all stripes.

I’ve mentioned this before, but if you’re 22 or 23 the biggest gift you can give yourself is to sign up for your company’s 401(k) plan.

Finances might bore you, but commit to contributing at least until the company won’t match anymore and choose the lowest cost stock index fund if you have one.

At about 9 percent annual return, large U.S. company stock has returned more than it did in the past 25 years or so. Investing $10,000 at 22 is like investing $67,275 at age 42.

Also, any mortgages you get through the Federal Housing Administration require a 5 percent down payment.

It might take a while to get together $10,000 for a $200,000 house unless you put away a small amount of money per month for about 48 months for that purpose.

If you want a private loan so you won’t have to pay extra for private mortgage insurance, you need 20 percent down. So start saving for the future as soon as you start a new job.

When athletes, doctors, lawyers and the like pass the arduous processes required to get the big bucks, many tend to immediately buy the big stuff like houses, boats, luxury cars and more.

If you’re making $50,000 a year, you probably can’t afford a high-quality house in many areas if you operate on the don’t-buy-a-house-more-than-three-times-your-income rule.

If buying a house right out of school is a bad decision, then I think buying a brand new car for more than $25,000 has to be worse. Nothing loses its value faster than a new car. In fact, that new-car smell probably costs at least 100 times as much as any extravagant fragrance you’ve purchased.

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If you must have a car, look for something 1 to 4 years old so someone else can take the $10,000 to $20,000 price drop.

Did you go to Career Fair and see that Northwestern Mutual was hiring, or read that the Modern Woodmen have many jobs for qualified UF grads? The reason is the companies are hiring insurance salespeople, which costs next to nothing.

The companies put a lot of pressure on new employees to leverage the companies’ social circle to sell insurance products such as whole life, universal life and more.

I would almost guarantee you will get at least one acquaintance from college who’ll ask you to buy some financial product he or she is selling.

The insurance companies give their salespeople a huge commission for each “elephant they kill,” so let the buyer beware. Once you start a family, it will make sense to have a term life insurance, but whole life insurance is usually sold as an investment, and it’s not a very good one.

In general, you want to protect against massive losses that could bankrupt you. Whenever you buy an insurance policy, ask for a high deductible because losing $100 shouldn’t make you lose sleep, but losing $100,000 should and that’s what you need protection for.

For investing, if any financial adviser/broker/wealth manager approaches you to do something, please ask him or her if he or she is fiduciary, the legal obligation to act in your best interest. This one word will scare away most financial salespeople.

Save and invest for the future. Don’t spend on the big-ticket items, and beware of anyone who wants to sell you financial products — you will go far.

I know it’s tough to give up all those perks our parents have been giving us for the past 22 years of our lives.

You might start by asking Siri if that new iPhone is really necessary.

Travis Hornsby is a statistics and economics senior at UF. His column regularly appears on Mondays.

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