My name is Simon and I graduated with my Bachelors degree in Aeronautical Engineering in May of 2010. Within a few months, I started my first full-time job and quickly realized how little I knew about finance, retirement planning and tackling nearly six figures of student loan debt. A friend of mine gave me a budget template and I became committed to understanding where my money was always going and how I could have it work for me. I spent the years reading books, magazines, online research and engaging older alumni that had encountered all the same issues I was having and could provide a better perspective of what to expect down the road. I have now reached a point where I know exactly what all my money is doing and how each move I make will affect me financially. Now through this site, I can share my experiences and decisions so that you too can learn how to reach your goals.
There are numerous stories out there on people who were able to pay off all their student loan debt in record time. This is not one of them. I had a different goal in mind and ultimately chose a different path that led me to where I am today. As a result, I still have quite a bit of student loan debt left but in April 2013, for the first time since I graduated, I saw my net worth become positive. My assets and investments in almost three years surpassed all of my combined debt. I couldn’t be any happier because I know I made the right decision.
The End is the Beginning
My first employer offered a 401k plan which I knew absolutely nothing about. Rather than miss out on free money from the company match, I forced myself to invest 15% of my pretax income. As my portfolio began to grow, I took more interest in where my investments were and how they were performing. Instead of paying a financial adviser, I wanted to educate myself so I could make informed decisions. At the time, I wasnt 100% committed to investing yet and was still paying ahead on my student loans. But once my portfolio starting beating the benchmarks, I quickly realized the long-term potential it had over the short-term interest rates on my student loans. I updated my budget, starting paying the minimums on my loans and began pushing whatever else I could afford toward my retirement plan. The highest interest rate on one of my student loans was 8.5%. I knew my portfolio could beat that and even if it couldn’t, I would gain years of compound growth that a loan payment would have stripped me of.
On the Road to Success
After 2.5 years, I took a new job with a pay increase and made sure they had a good 401k match. Although I had to wait a year to take advantage of such benefits, I used it as an excuse to open an IRA and brokerage account. I continue to have zero credit card debt. I follow a budget, track my spending and ensure I am never spending more than I earn. For the past year, I have stuck to a 10% post-tax contribution rate into my investment accounts. I opened an American Express rewards card to maximize my cash back potential. I continue to make minimum payments on my student loans. I put 5-10% of my monthly income aside for an emergency. I have filed my own taxes every year since I’ve graduated. I check my credit report and score yearly. Overall, I have increased my financial awareness and ability with nothing more than commitment and a willingness to learn. If you are a recent graduate, I encourage you to use this site as a resource for building the solid financial foundation you need to meet your goals.