Our 8 Top Financial Tips for High School Grads

High school graduate
Paisan579 / Shutterstock.com

You’ve made it, high school grad! The real world awaits. And so does the need to get yourself on a sound financial footing. Here are some financial tips that you’ll need to navigate the ups and downs of your relationship with money.

Open financial accounts

Office scene.
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to open checking and savings accounts. Stop by our Solutions Center to find the best rate on a savings account.

“You may want to apply for a credit card. This will allow you to establish credit history that will be necessary down the line when trying to rent an apartment or buy a car,” says Anthony LaBrake, a certified financial planner and client adviser with Adam Financial Associates Inc. in Boca Raton, Florida.

If you don’t have a job, you may not qualify for a credit card on your own. Some alternatives — which will allow you to demonstrate your creditworthiness — are to get a secured card, or to have your parents co-sign for a card or add you as an authorized user on one of their existing cards. For more details on how that works, check out this post.

Get familiar with your credit card bills

Credit card bill
jason cox / Shutterstock.com

When applying for a credit card, look at the interest rate, annual fees and late fees — as well as the detailed terms of cash-back and reward points.

“Understand the billing cycle of credit cards,” says Becky House, Seattle-based education and communications director at American Financial Solutions. “At what point will you be charged interest on a purchase on the card? Avoid paying extra to borrow money from a credit card company.”

Explore some of the different types and terms available on this credit card search tool in our Solutions Center.

Build credit responsibly

Young woman shopping online.
leungchopan / Shutterstock.com

Be careful with that first credit card: How you use it has a big impact on your credit. So, use your credit card responsibly. Make small purchases that you can pay in full.

“If you are using a credit card, try to use it for something that is already a part of your budget. Do you pay for Spotify? Netflix? Use the card to pay for those services, and then use your cash to pay off the cards in full, every month,” House says. “This builds good credit and avoids debt.”

For more on establishing good credit, check out: “6 Simple Tips for Newbies to Establish Stellar Credit.”

Set money goals

Close up of a sprinter's feet at race start.
Jenny Sturm / Shutterstock.com

Set savings goals, LaBrake says. Then, make plans for that money.

Do you need to buy a car to get to work or college classes? Do you need to save for the deposit on an apartment so you can move out of Mom and Dad’s house? Or maybe your income can be set aside for a longer-term goal.

“A Roth IRA is a great idea for people at this age, and the compounding they can achieve by starting so young will go a long way in saving for retirement,” LaBrake says. “This money is taxed before you contribute it to the account and will grow, and can be withdrawn in retirement tax-free.”

To keep track of where your money is going, consider one of the many online budgeting tools. Our favorite is our partner site YouNeedaBudget.

Start a ‘curveball account’

Man with car troubles.
mimagephotography / Shutterstock.com

Anna Sergunina, a San Francisco-based certified financial planner with MainStreet Financial Planning, urges high school grads to prepare for life’s emergencies by building an emergency fund — which she refers to as a “curveball account.”

“I promise you, if you can master this step early on in your life, you will never have to worry about situations where you have to borrow for emergencies or opportunities,” Sergunina says. “There is a huge power in having a stash of cash that you can tap into any time!”

Tuck away three to six months’ worth of living expenses, and life’s downs won’t get you down.

Here are some creative ways to get started on an emergency fund, even when money is tight.

Get as much free money for college as you can

Woman, money falling from sky
pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

College is expensive, and scooping up free money will help to trim costs.

“Maximize money that does not have to be repaid,” House says. “Apply for financial aid. You may qualify for grants. Look into scholarships.”

The place to begin is with the FAFSA — Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Stay close to home to lower college costs

College student on campus
El Nariz / Shutterstock.com

Many young people dream of an idyllic college campus far away from home. But you may be able to trim costs significantly by attending a local college or university — or a community college.

“Attend a less expensive community college to knock out degree prerequisites,” House recommends. “Attend a college in state, rather than out of your home state.”

If college costs seem daunting to you and your parents, you are not alone. Check out: “12 Ways to Slash the High Cost of Earning a College Degree.”

All of these strategies will help to lower college costs and lower the amount you will need to borrow with student loans.

Be smart about student loan debt

Student with books, piggy bank.
pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

Most people graduate college with student loans, LaBrake says. So, be smart about borrowing.

“Be wise while selecting a college and take into consideration the financial aid as well as how much people in your field of study tend to make,” he says. “For instance, if you’re going to school to study art, it may not be financially savvy to take out $240,000 in loans for a private institution.”

Do you have experience or wisdom to share with new high school graduates? Do so in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
15 of the Fastest-Growing Jobs Today
15 of the Fastest-Growing Jobs Today

Times are tough, but these career fields are thriving.

How to Fix 6 Common Retirement Mistakes
How to Fix 6 Common Retirement Mistakes

Here’s how to strengthen your nest egg before or even during your golden years so these missteps don’t ruin your retirement.

12 Products to Keep Your Car Clean and Organized
12 Products to Keep Your Car Clean and Organized

These items will help put your vehicular mess to rest — and each is available for less than $20 on Amazon.

8 Award-Winning Products That Impressed 40,000 Shoppers
8 Award-Winning Products That Impressed 40,000 Shoppers

The Product of the Year awards help shoppers find the best pet products, personal care items and everything in between.

7 Things You Should Buy at Estate Sales
7 Things You Should Buy at Estate Sales

Here’s what an experienced estate sale shopper considers a great find.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

This iconic dinnerware is prized for everyday use as well as reselling for profit.

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs
Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Don’t let these health care expenses catch you off guard in retirement.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken
Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken

Something foul may lurk in those delicious, ready-to-eat birds.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make
7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make

Sometimes a big-ticket purchase is nothing more than a big waste of money.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.