When I started university, I was a little nervous about what was about to transpire. Honestly, I thought I might be biting off more than I could chew. I should have known that I had little to worry about. But there are a few things I wish I had known — or at least thought about — before entering college…


Second Life in Undergraduate Education

Second Life in Undergraduate Education (Photo credit: Duke CIT)

Who is paying for college?
Many have their undergraduate education paid for by parents, scholarships, and/or loans in their name [or their parents’]. If your parents are paying for your education, be careful not to fail any courses. If you fail a class required for your degree, you will have to take that class again, paying for it twice. It’s not worth it, particularly since it’s usually difficult to outright fail a class. Paying for college yourself supposedly gives you ownership of your academic decisions while in school, but if you’re in a situation where you don’t have to worry about affording your own tuition, then consider yourself lucky.

Work shouldn’t interfere with studies.
I am quite grateful I didn’t have to pay for all of my undergraduate education. It allowed me to focus on my education and extracurricular resume-building activities in my field rather than focusing on earning income to afford tuition. I did find a few jobs, however. I stayed on campus for winter and summer sessions to take more classes, but with a lighter load during these in-between semesters, I held various part-time jobs, and these jobs provided me with a little extra cash. I probably spent it just as fast as I was earning it, however.

Open a Roth IRA.
These retirement accounts were brought into existence about 16 years ago. If I had had a way that I could put money away for retirement in a tax-advantaged account while I was in such a low tax bracket, I might have taken advantage of the opportunity. Then again, I might not have. It’s hard to imagine retirement before you’ve officially begun a career, but it’s harder to argue with long-term investing in the stock market–even in these times of economic uncertainty.

Like many, I played the “stock market game” in elementary school. By the time I entered college, I probably knew only a little more about investing, but my interests lay elsewhere so I did not particularly think about having a secure financial future. I’m not going to go on and on about the power of compound interest here, but suffice to say–it’s incredible when you start in college.

Avoid credit cards.
The credit card companies are (still) vultures on college campuses. The companies set tables outside the dorms with applications and free tee-shirts, enticing sub-fashionable freshmen (like myself, at the time) to sign up. Although I escaped relatively unscathed, having a credit card without a job is asking for trouble.

One particularly sneaky aspect of college-geared credit cards is the introductory offer. Even with the recently-passed CARD Act, the fine print on these deals are heavily weighted AGAINST the college student, and (of course) in favor of the banks.

Further, here are some other goodies for the financially-savvy student:
* Use credit cards sparingly
* Pay all credit card balances in full
* Get the best deal on a checking account
* Start saving
* Keep track of your spending
* Set a limit on entertainment
* Shop at second-hand stores
* Keep an eye out for free money
* Get a part-time job with tips
* Walk or ride a bike — don’t drive
* Look for student discounts
* Don’t eat out all the time

Had I known what I know now about compounding interest and idea of having a Private Reserve Strategy,  I’d be in an even better financial position right now.

And it’s not about having more money, it’s about having more options for doing the things we like to do.  If you want to know more how a Private Reserve Strategy can give you some financial options, get in touch with us.

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