Friday, January 8, 2010

Advice for soon-to-be college grads

If you're a college senior and you watched the video, you're probably not encouraged. When I graduated a decade ago, jobs were plentiful and although the dot-com boom was about to go bust, unemployment never reached anywhere near 10 percent during the 2001 recession.

Students, are you concerned about leaving campus for the last time with the economy and job prospects still in the toilet? At least one reader has two questions that showed she's worried about exactly that:
What's the best way to invest money if you're a student w/ no real job but have leftover money once expenses are taken care of? If you were a student and you got an absurd refund, would you save it all or pay down an undergrad loan?
Both are good questions. After doing a little interviewing I found out that the questioner has about $600 in savings and as of now, no solid job lined up after graduation. If she doesn't find one, she plans on living with her parents while looking for work.

With that little in savings and facing graduation in a tough economy, I'd be adding any extra cash to my savings. I'm not sure how much it costs you to live a month under your parents' roof, but $600 isn't likely to last beyond a month or two. You'll need more cash than you have to weather the storm until you find a job. You can worry about stocks, bonds and mutual funds when you have a job and a serious income.

As for the refund, use the money to pay down the student loan. Remember that the refund is only a check for the difference between what you borrowed for school and the cost of a semester's tuition. It's not free money and ultimately you'll have to pay it back with interest. Better to do that now while your loans are in deferment than in a few months when you'll be paying interest on it -- perhaps without a job.

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