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How To Handle Finances As A Recent College Graduate

As a new college graduate, you enter a new life stage, where you are transitioning from school life to work life. You’ve worked hard and excelled in college and now you need to know how to handle your money. If your college experience has been similar to mines, you probably had a limited amount personal finance education throughout high school and college.

So, how should you handle money as a recent college graduate? Here are some key steps to handling your finances effectively.


As a new college graduate, one of the first things you have to work on is your money mindset. Money is a tool that you can master and use it to reach your life goals. It’s important to define your core values and determine the goals that you have for your life. Take time to educate yourself about personal finances by reading personal finance books and blogs, or listening to personal finance podcasts.  Ensuring that your circle includes others who can provide accountability and encouragement is also important. This will help you to align your money with your personal values and goals.


Even if you don’t have a job, yet and you aren’t making any income, you need to know where you stand financially. Add up all your assets (cash, vehicles, investments, etc) and subtract all of your liabilities (credit card debt, student loan debt, personal loans, car loans, etc).


Once you know your net worth, you’ll know exactly where you stand financially. If you happen to have a negative net worth, even a large one, don’t let that define you. This is just a snapshot of your personal finances, today, and you have the ability to grow your net worth, by reducing your liabilities and increasing your assets ,over time.


This is one of the best pieces of advice that I took from one of Michelle Singletary’s many features on NPR. When you start out in your career, you should sign up for any retirement plans you are eligible to participate in, especially if a company match (read “free money”) is provided by your employer. Even if your employer does not provide retirement benefits, explore other options like a Roth IRA, Traditional IRA or MyRA. Your future self will thank you.


We all know that you need a budget. Instead of fretting about how many lattes you buy or weekend brunches you attend, focus on finding a balance for your money. Keep your ‘must have’ expenses low (aim for no more than 50% of your income), dedicate at least 20% of your income to savings and long-term investing, and allocate the rest to short-terms savings, additional investing, paying off debt and have fun with the rest! Of course, you should adjust these percentages based on your personal values and goals, but always maintain a balance, this is key.


Even as you are embarking on a new career after college, consider getting a side hustle. Learn new skills or use your innate talents to generate income on the side. This can provide an outlet for creativity that you may not have at your 9-to-5 and provide additional income to help you beef up your emergency fund, investments, and reach your financial goals faster.


The limit on your credit card is not your money. When you buy with credit, you are using  funds that belong to someone else and you are obligated to pay it back. It’s best to spend within the bounds of  the money you actually have in the bank.


Insurance provides protection for your assets, including one of your most important assets, which is your ability to earn an income. Understand the different types of insurance you need and getting the appropriate coverage. You may not only need life insurance, but rental or house insurance, car insurance, long and short-term disability insurance, and long-term care insurance to name a few, also.

That’s it for a quick run down!

If you are a recent college graduate what else would you like to know about handling your money? For long time graduates, what do you wish you knew about money when you graduated?

(Edited July 13, 2017)

Featured – Melisa Boutin on CBC National News: RBC fee hikes in the Caribbean

Melisa Boutin CBC National News Canada Royal Bank Fee Hike Caribbean

If you live in the Eastern Caribbean you are familiar with the recent roll out of a $25 XCD (~$9 USD) fee for savings account at Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Branches. Well, Caribbean people were having none of it and there was a wave of protests and a rush to close savings accounts at RBC Branches throughout the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union states, with people waiting in line for up more than 4 hours.

Sophia Harris of CBC National News recently spoke with me about why RBC’s Caribbean customers were so upset with the introduction of the new fees, to the point of protests.

Related Post: Caribbean Banks: When Raising Your Fees, You Can Do Better

I shared that:

  1. Customers were not adequately notified.
  2. Going from $0 to a $25 XCD fee was too steep of an increase.
  3. Royal Bank of Canada did not give enough consideration to customers when implementing the fees.

Sophia also shares the responses she received from Royal Bank of Canada.

You can read the full article here: Royal Bank sparks backlash with fee hike in the Caribbean

Were you one of the customers affected by the new fees? What do you think of the way Royal Bank of Canda rolled out the fee and the amount of notification given? Let me know in the comments below!

Caribbean Banks: When Raising Your Fees, You Can Do Better

Sometimes I really have to wonder if the Caribbean can’t do any better. And, in this case, can Caribbean Banks do better?

I came across a back and forth conversation on Facebook about the implementation of a ~$9 US fee to savings accounts at the Royal Bank of CanadaSt. Kitts Branch, less than a week before the May 23rd, 2016 effective date. Keep in mind that less than a week is not a lot of time to move your money to another bank as an overseas customer, (it took me 3 days just to get a customer representative the previous month)  and would mean even longer than usual lines for customers locally.


For Commercial Banks in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), there is no regulation specifying the manner in which nor the period over which customers must be notified before new account fees take effect. Royal Bank’s regulator, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), even issued a press release that emphasized the limits of its power to regulate Commercial Banks’ account fees.

The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) is concerned about the increase in
commercial banks’ fees and charges across the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union
(ECCU) and the effects on depositors.

By law, what the ECCB has power to do, when it comes to Commercial Banks operating in the ECCU, is to:

[R]egulate the minimum savings rate, that is, the minimum interest rate paid on savings deposits.

The long and short of it is that the, ECCB, the regulator of  Commercial Banks, including Royal Back of Canada, can’t, legally, tell them nothing But the ECCB encourages Commercial Banks to be transparent with their customers and properly inform them of new fees. We all know how all that encouragement turned out…customer, confusion, protests, and 4+ hours long waits in bank lines….

Related Post: Featured: CBC Canada News, Royal Bank sparks backlash with fee hikes in the Caribbean

Caribbean Banks Can Still Do Better

Banks have to make money, and if instituting fees is required for their survival, then customers can vote with their dollars and bank elsewhere (or sadly, in some cases. not at all). For Royal Bank of Canada’s roll out of new fees for savings accounts, your ECCU customers in the region and the Diaspora were not adequately notified and it should not take a law to extend that courtesy. Well… maybe it will, since encouragement from the ECCB has not had much effect.

Posting a notice of new bank fees within the Bank Branch and, three pages deep, on RBC -Caribbean website should not represent the standard of service for a leading, financial institution in the region.

Next time around consider:

  • Notifying each customer individually in writing via the mail;
  • Notifying customers electronically, via email;
  • Providing options for customers to close accounts (via the phone and online); or,
  • Providing options for transfer of funds from closed accounts to customers or another financial institution of their choice.

If you are an RBC customer in the Caribbean affected by the new fees, how did you find out about them? Do you think there should be specific regulation or banks and/ or notification of new fees to customers? Let me know in the comments below.

We Need Student Loans Answers In The Caribbean

It’s sad to say, but my experience with my Caribbean student loan left a lot to be desired. From the time I took out my student loan, communication with my Caribbean lender was difficult. While attending school in Miami, Florida I had to send snail mail requests for disbursements, and had never received any account statements while I was in school.

I just accepted this as a Caribbean thing and put up with the inconveniences. Little did I know how this lack of communication would really negatively affect me.

On Groundation Grenada’s blog I share Why We Need Student Loan Answers in the Caribbean. I had a general understanding about how Caribbean student loans worked but  after 8 years of making payments:

 I would learn about other aspects of the agreement, of which I had no clue.

  • 9% interest is a hefty interest rate for a 5-figure debt.
  • A [$335 US] monthly payment sizable portion of my monthly earnings, especially when I had to service U.S. Student Loans too.
  • [0.00] dollars of my first two years of repayments would go to my student loan principal balance, which I only realized last year (2015).
  • 100’s of US dollars would have to be spent calling the Development Bank to keep track of my student loan payments.
  • There would times when I would not receive account statements; and that there was no easy way for overseas borrowers to access their account information.
  • Other borrowers have had the similar challenges.
  • That this experience would lead me to want to help others to understand their student loan and avoid challenges I had to face.

Read more on Groundation Grenada’s blog on here.

Do you have a student loan from a Caribbean bank? Share your experience in the comments!