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Ed McQuarrie shares post-college financial advice

Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011

A college graduate's first job out of college is a cauldron of expectations, excitement and opportunity. The last thing the average 22-year-old wants to think about is financial planning for the future.

But Ed McQuarrie, a Leavey School of Business professor at Santa Clara University noted for his scholarly articles on financial planning, says such newbies have a golden chance to get started on the right foot financially.

His top pieces of financial advice for first-time workers:

It's the recurring expenses that will kill your finances.
Many young adults budget for big items, like rent, car payments, car insurance and food. But they forget to factor in the full cost of seeming necessities like cell phones, Starbucks, cable TV and Netflix.

Pretend you're still a starving student, even if you're not.
Chances are in college you lived on maybe $8,000 a year, from parents or part-time work. To suddenly be told you'll be making $50,000 a year may seem like a bonanza. Stop. Just this once, more than will ever be true again, money that you commit to put in savings - whether it's retirement or emergency-fund money - won't be missed. You'll still feel richer than you were last month. "You will spend everything in your take home pay - so don't take it all home,'' McQuarrie says.

Retirement investing is a must, but not necessarily the way the experts say it must be done.
Part of your savings must be for retirement, and experts will usually tell you to put as much in your 401(k) as possible, or if your company doesn't have one, invest in a Roth IRA because your contribution will be taxed but the earnings will be tax free someday when you'll be in a much higher tax bracket.

Both of which are potentially very wrong, says McQuarrie. For starters, you may want to open and fund an IRA if your company's 401(k) is not a good one (a good financial planner can analyze it for you, but one warning sign is not many index funds or very exotic mutual funds to choose from). If you go the IRA route, McQuarrie says think twice about a Roth: getting a tax deduction now can be very valuable, and he predicts many young workers won't be in a higher tax bracket when they retire, anyway.

Benefits aren't just for old men in black socks and sandals.
Don't blow through H.R. Day at work. True, benefits are boring but making the wrong choice on things like health care costs can bankrupt you if you're not careful. Ask for advice, spend the time, do it right.

New dogs need to learn old tricks.
The financial planning basics will serve you well. Pay yourself first, track and minimize your monthly expenses; don't get into debt over your head and don't neglect your student loan or it will haunt you forever. Get a roommate even if you can afford the place alone.
Save. Always. From the beginning.

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