Personal Finance

Experts offer crucial money advice college graduates need to hear but never get

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Do new college graduates need to work with a financial advisor?

Based on the number of financial subjects they don’t understand, according to advisors, the answer is yes.

“The first thing [new grads] don’t get is that they qualify to work with an advisor,” said Katelyn Bombardiere, certified financial planner with Commas, in Cincinnati.

Bombardiere helps young adults navigate the world of employment, educating them on choosing employee benefits such as 401(k) plans – how to use them to save, choose investing options within and see if there is an after-tax, Roth option. She also explains different insurance choices, the value of using health savings accounts and how to negotiate salary and benefits.

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“They often don’t understand the concept of investing,” Bombardiere said. “I explain to them that there’s a difference between long-term investing and gambling, like day-trading.”

CFP Stephanie Campos, owner of Campos Financial in Miami, shared more financial issues new graduates don’t understand, including:

  • The benefit of refinancing their student loans. “It’s a powerful tool, especially when shortening the length of the term,” Campos said. “It can save thousands over the life of the loan.”
  • How much salary they will net after payroll taxes are deducted.
  • Credit card usage – when to avoid using, and when to refinance debt.
  • The need for an emergency fund and when to use it.
  • Total costs of home ownership – taking into account real estate taxes, homeowners insurance, etc.

How to get these young adults to work with a financial planner?

“They have to be told by a trusted person in their lives,” Campos said. “For example, some tech companies are offering financial planning as an employee benefit.

“The emergence of the monthly subscription model [for financial advice] is also helping.”

Bob Swift has created a new way to bring young adults into the financial planning fold. He is the founder of TCI Wealth Advisors and the non-profit 3rd Decade, a two-year financial literacy education program, both headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. The program focuses primarily on people aged 18 to 35, who receive periodic mentoring by financial professionals.

Through 3rd Decade, Swift stresses a fundamental truth about the power of a long time horizon.

“There’s an underlying assumption that you don’t start investing until you’ve paid off your debt, bought your furniture, etc., but the reality is, [investing] should be a non-negotiable financial decision from the day you graduate,” he said. “Your first $100 you have available should go to a Roth IRA [individual retirement account], before even paying any bills.”

Swift added that most of young adults he sees lack structure (knowing where their money is going) and prioritization (where they want it to go) regarding their finances.

New graduates also need help imagining possible future life events, said Jeff Tomaneng, a CFP and wealth advisor with Asset Management Resources in Hyannis, Massachusetts. To help them visualize their future selves, he sends them to websites that will apply decades of aging to a person’s portrait.

“I ask them ‘What do they want to happen before they get there?'” Tomaneng said. “For example, marriage, family, house, ideal job or entrepreneurship.

“It engages them emotionally, which makes it more likely that they’ll follow through,” he added. “It changes their mindset and empowers them to build new financial habits.”

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