Dear Dave,

I just graduated from college, and I’ll be starting my first real job soon. What can young adults, who are just getting started, do to avoid money problems now and in the future?

Ben

Dear Ben,

Congratulations! I’m glad you realize the importance of being responsible with your money and planning for things down the road.

There are three or four important things a recent college graduate — or anyone, really — can do to make the most of their money and protect themselves financially. The first is to always live on budget. When you write down a budget on paper, and give every dollar a name before the month begins, it helps you know what your money is doing instead of leaving you in a situation where you’re wondering where it went.

Two more important practices are saving money and staying out of debt. Your income is your biggest wealth-building tool. When you’re saddled with debt, your money goes to creditors instead of into your pocket. Saving money prepares you for all the things life will throw at you — both good and bad.

One more thing I’d include is investing. I know you’re young, but you still need to think about life after retirement. If you start investing just a little bit each month now in good mutual funds, you could easily retire a millionaire.

These are all very simple, basic things, Ben. But they’ll make a huge difference in your financial situation now and in the years to come!

— Dave

 

Creativity is the key

Dear Dave,

How do you have a wedding without debt?

Brooklyn

Dear Brooklyn,

It’s pretty simple. To have a wedding without debt you must be creative and think within your budget. In other words, you pay for a wedding with the money you have.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a small, inexpensive wedding. Once you realize and understand that fact, and start thinking about things with a budget in mind, you’ll realize you can scrimp and save and still have a great small wedding. Lots of people have beautiful ceremonies, and even small receptions, for well under $1,000.

Sure, you can go into debt by renting the fanciest venue, and buying a $9,000 wedding dress to wear for just a few hours on one day. Or, you can realize it’s not the place and the clothes that make a wedding special. What about an outdoor wedding at a friend or family member’s house? When it comes to a dress you can opt for something simple and inexpensive, or even one that has been worn once, for just a few hundred dollars. If you think that’s awful, let me tell you something that’s worse — going tens of thousands of dollars into debt for an event that lasts just a few hours!

Most people don’t have lavish, expensive weddings, and guess what? Years down the road they’re still happily married, very much in love, and they look back on their wedding as the best day of their lives.

— Dave

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