Money 101: A young-adults guide to personal finance

Money 101: A young-adults guide to personal finance

June 28th, 2009 by Brittney McKenna in Life Entertainment

Young adults cannot live on Easy Mac alone. Experts say you can take charge of your future by taking control of your money.

"College is a learning experience, and the financial skills you develop will prepare you for a lifetime of smart choices," said Claudia Goldbach, associate director of college guidance at Girls Preparatory School.

Here are money tips from experts.

Pick a career that pays.

Pursuing a high-profile job is great, if you're suited for it. First, determine your marketable strengths and passions.

"The main thing I always encourage is that (students) are doing something they're passionate about," said Donna Cooper, counselor in the Counseling and Career Planning Center at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

If you're unsure of where your talents lie, there are online tests that can help.

* Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator determines your personality type and offers matching career choices.

* The Career Key addresses a variety of topics including choosing a major and career planning.

* Students.net offers free career tests that make recommendations based on your skills and personality.

Still unsure? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics included these occupations in the 30 fastest-growing careers for 2006-2016:

* Data communications analyst.

* Computer software engineer.

* Veterinary technician.

* Personal financial adviser.

* Skin-care specialist.

Manage debt wisely.

There are two types of "free" money: The kind you get from cutting costs and the kind you get from taking on debt.

Experts say:

* Eliminate some of your debt now with scholarships. The HOPE scholarship in Tennessee offers up to $4,000 for students who meet requirements. Georgia's HOPE scholarship varies by institution but awards up to $3,500 for private institutions or tuition for the number of hours enrolled at public institutions to eligible students. Web sites such as FastWeb.com and College.gov also offer a variety of scholarships. Look to your activities for potential aid, too.

* "Scholarships from churches or parents' jobs could be a resource," said Jocelyn Hogg, associate director of financial aid and scholarships at UTC. "Community service sometimes gives students scholarships."

* On the flip side, credit cards can create grave problems for many students. Consider credit alternatives.

"I have recommended my college-age children instead use a debit card," said Barton Close, vice president of investments at Close Financial Planning of Raymond James & Associates. "They have the convenience of plastic but can only spend what they have."

Save for the future.

Ensure you won't face a future financial fiasco by saving now.

* "Find a financial institution that waives fees for students so (you) have no costs to defray the savings (you) can accomplish," Mr. Close said.

* Certificates of deposit pose little or no risk and offer a higher interest rate than typical savings accounts.

* Mutual funds yield profit but come with risk. Different funds have different risk profiles and fees, so do your research.

Cut costs.

One area of your finances where you're in control is cutting costs.

* If you're living off campus, consider getting roommates to split rent and utility expenses.

* "Always ask if a student discount is available," Mrs. Goldbach said. Many stores, restaurants and attractions offer discounts if you show your school ID. A couple dollars here and there adds up quickly.

* Get creative on weekends. Invite friends over for a potluck, look for free events at a nearby park or museum, or spend a few dollars and go see a local band. A fun night out doesn't have to cost a fortune.