5 Tips for Planning Your Financial Future 

A woman dressed in a blue graduation cap and gown.

April is a time when many college seniors are thinking about final exams and graduation … and hopefully the new job they’ll be starting soon! Congratulations! 

If you are about to enter the workforce – again or for the first time – there are probably a lot of financial opportunities and challenges in your future. These can include managing your income and expenses, saving for goals and understanding employee benefits. If you feel like you don’t have the financial skills and knowledge you need or want a refresher, here are five tips to consider:  

  1. Think about your financial goals and priorities – What do you need or want to save for, in the short term and long term?  For example, a car, a home, a secure retirement. Think about what you need to do to accomplish each goal, including cost, how much you have set aside already and what you are able to save to reach the goal.  Remember: You can save for multiple goals at the same time!  

  1. Set a budget – This is a guide for how you expect to spend your money. Especially when you’re just starting out in your career, you may find it helpful to plan out where your money will go.  Tracking your expenses can also help you find ways to increase your ability to save. Not sure where to start? Check our guide here, or explore the many apps, spreadsheet templates and other tools available to help you set up a budget and stay on track to reach your goals. 

  1. Avoid or reduce your debt, including student loans – It helps to organize your debt, so that you can plan how you will pay down each debt and track your progress. Money that goes to pay interest, late fees and old bills could be saved and invested to earn more for retirement and other goals. 

  1. Learn about credit and credit scores – If you haven’t already, learn how credit works and how to improve or maintain good credit. And keep an eye on your credit reports and scores – these can affect your future ability to take out loans, rent or buy a home, or even get some jobs. 

  1. Learn about employee benefits – At your first job, you’ll hopefully have access to some employee benefits, like a retirement savings plan or group health insurance. Reach out to your HR contact or plan administrator to learn more about these benefits and how you can use them. 

To learn more about these tips and more ways to plan a strong financial future, join us for a free webcast on April 27 at 2 p.m. EDT. Register here for Planning Your Financial Future. 

You can also check out our publication Savings Fitness, which covers many of these topics. There are worksheets available in the document that you can print and use, or if you prefer, there are digital versions available here (you can even save your work and come back to it!). Publicación En Español and Hojas de trabajo

The key to a good financial future is to get started. Begin by joining the Department of Labor, along with the Department of Education and the Federal Trade Commission, this Financial Capability Month for the free webcast and get your questions answered.   

Ali Khawar is the acting assistant secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration.