Some of you are college freshman and have only been out of high school for a couple months. Others, who are getting ready to graduate, have been in the real world for a little longer. But one trend is common across our countries college campuses: a lack of basic money skills.
Did your teachers ever show you how to balance a checkbook? Did they teach you how to fill out and submit your taxes? How about what a 401K is and why it's important? My guess is: nine out of ten of our readers would say no to most or all of these questions. That's a serious problem. In order to be successful in the adult world, you will need to have a working knowledge of all of these skills and we'll tell you why.
Balancing a Checkbook
One of the most basic skills when you start dealing with money is learning to balance your finances. This goes hand and hand with planning and budgeting your expenses for the week/month/year. Knowing how much is coming in and going out will give you an idea of how much you can spend. If you can't balance a checkbook, you won't be able to track your money and where it's going.
Many people who can't balance a checkbook will find themselves forgetting to pay bills and/or running out of money at the end of the month. This is problematic. Educate yourself on how to manage your money effectively. Capital one has a good guide to balancing a checkbook, find it here. If you're interested in how to budget your money effectively, check out our article on budgeting here.
Taxes are literally the worst. They take money away from your check every week. But they are a necessity to keep our country running. While in school, and with a part time job, many students will find that they pay little to no taxes. But after college, and once you get your first "real job", you'll start paying a noticeable amount of taxes out of every check. Learning how to properly fill out your taxes and avoid an audit or fees will save you time and a lot of headaches.
Taxes for most people are relatively simple. The fear and mystery around filling out a tax return is mostly a myth. A majority of Americans can do their own taxes with only a couple minutes of research. Educate yourself on some of the basics of taxes on the IRS's website here. Remember, you also have to pay state and county (most people) tax. For a more advanced and in depth explanation of how taxes effect your paycheck, read our article here.
Saving for Retirement
Learning to save money for the future. This is something I'm very passionate about. Like we outlined in our recent article "Why Investing is so Important for Young Adults", the trend lately is to start saving for retirement around age 40. This is a massive mistake for many reasons.
The first is that by the time we reach 40, we'll have kids, a mortgage, and higher living expenses. That leaves very little funds to save for retirement. The second is the power of compound interest. Investing young, even if it's a small amount, will result in exponential growth. Your $1,000 will turn into $5,000, which will turn into $20,000. The last problem, which scares me the most, is that we are not guaranteed social security. The media reminds us every couple months that our social security system is massively flawed and may go under at some point. So hoping that you can survive on social security in 40 years might not be a safe bet.
My goal isn't to scare you, our readers. It's to make you think about what you don't know. Our high school and college systems have failed our generation by not teaching us these very important life skills. I've heard quite a few people say "I know what chlorophyll is and what it does, but I don't know how to fill out my taxes." That's a serious problem.
Our solution is to educate you and your peers. We created this website in order to bring knowledge to college students. We want you to be financially stable and independent. Let us help you! Browse our articles and learn from our wide array of topics.
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