I just graduated from college, am completely broke and don’t know what to do. Help!
Figuring out what to do after college isn’t easy.
I get this plea for help through email, comments, and tweets fairly often. It’s the harsh reality of life after college. Being dead broke and feeling stuck is all too common among college grads. This is also a topic that I’ve seen covered on many personal finance blogs in the last little while. I thought I would jump in with my thoughts.
The first few things that I would recommend for those of you that are out of college, dead broke, and looking for help are:
Get a job. Anything that will bring you money.
You need to find a job because you need a source of income. Any job essentially. You might have to swallow your pride and take a job that’s beneath you. All that matters is that you find a steady flow of money. This can be on a part-time or a full-time basis. The goal should be for this to be temporary and only to be used as a backup plan. If you can find the right job in your field then go for it right away. If not then take any job you can for the time being.
Of course you can try something entrepreneurial to bring money in. The only caveat is that you can’t be investing $10,000 into some business idea when you’re dead broke. If you can find a way to make money with very little overhead (blogging) then try it out. You’ve got plenty of time and hopefully are loaded with energy.
If you don’t enjoy the work then please don’t get depressed. Just try to turn your brain off and preserve your creativity for your other projects.
Defer your student loan payments.
If you can’t afford to make your payments due to a lack of work, then you need to defer them. Most programs that I’m aware of don’t start charging you until 6 months after college is completed. Every student loan program is different. The general theme from readers is that student loan companies are willing to work with you if you inform them of your situation.
Long time reader Edward informed me of the following on student loan companies:
If you are having financial problems, student loan companies WILL work with you. Mortgage and credit card companies are notorious for working against you, but student loan companies will do whatever it takes to keep you in good standing. During my unemployment, they’ve reduced my payments to more or less just the interest. I may not be paying down that debt, but I have an extra $100 per month to buy groceries with.
Join a related professional group.
There’s likely a group of professionals in your field that network together on a consistent basis. Don’t be intimated or feel that you don’t have anything to offer. Everyone has been there at one point or another in life. Every journey begins with a single step. Show up, ask lots of questions and read Edward’s post on mastering the networking event NOW!
Stay at home for a bit.
After college you really don’t want to live with your parents because it interferes with your social life, but sometimes you just have to suck it up. When you have no or very little money, staying at home a bit longer becomes a mandatory sacrifice.
Consider more education.
In some fields an undergraduate degree is not enough. You might need to go to Graduate School or take some certificate courses on the side. The only issue here is that you need to decide and research if getting into even more debt for education is the right decision for you.
You should strive to not rack up any debt at all. Living cheap is pretty self-explanatory. This basically means that you should live like a college student while out of college. The bottle service and Armani suits are going to have to wait until you got a bank roll.
Avoid BS drama.
Don’t mess anything up. This isn’t the Jersey Shore and you don’t want a crazy girlfriend or a weekend of binge drinking to mess you up in any way. Sure you need to get out there and have a great time with friends. You just don’t want to get side-tracked with BS. I’ve seen too many friends get caught up with toxic relationships and stupid habits due to too much free time.
Those are my thoughts on steps to take after graduating from college broke with very little money. What would you recommend? What would you do after college?