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5 Ideas On How to Save & Invest Your Cash Gifts From Graduation

5 Ideas On How To Save & Invest Cash Gifts From Graduation

One major perk of graduation season, in addition to receiving the degree you’ve toiled so hard for, in hand, is the celebratory tokens, presents and cash gifts from family and friends.

Those cash gifts can come in handy for a well-deserved splurge, but before you spend it all in one place, consider these five ways to save and invest your cash.

1. Start Your Emergency Fund

As a college student with lean finances, building an emergency fund as you enter the “real world” is critical.

This is one area that I personally could have done better.. After graduating with student loan and credit card debt, I was so focused on getting a jumpstart on paying them off, that I neglected to build up an emergency fund. If any major financial emergencies had popped up, I would have had to take on more debt.

If you are graduating with little to nothing in savings, like I did, consider committing a portion of your cash gifts to start one, even if it’s only $100. Then you can continue contributing with any other extra cash that comes your way, before you start your first full-time job.

2. Fund Your First Retirement Account

The first time I heard about an individual retirement fund (IRA), was when my collegemate mentioned that her parents were gifting her a fully-funded Roth IRA for college graduation. Up until that point, I had no idea that there was an option to start funding your retirement, without an employer-sponsored plan. I never gave IRA’s much thought again, until I started my first full-time job after grad school, but I wished I had started saving in an IRA much sooner.

You can get a head start on saving for retirement and gaining a tax advantage by directing some of your graduation cash to an IRA.

Related Article: How To Start Saving When You Don’t Know Where To Begin

3. Jump Start Your Student Loan Pay Off

Student loans might be the last thing you want to think about after graduation, but getting a handle on how much you owe, who your lenders are and mapping out your own payoff strategy, can set you on the path to pay them off, quickly.

One of the best ways, reduce your total student loan cost (and pocket some of your lender profits at the same time) is to pay off any interest that accrues before the end of your post-graduation grace period. This helps you avoid capitalization on this outstanding interest, which results in the added benefit payments not going to interest on interest.

Funnel some of your cash gifts to help you avoid paying compound interest to your lenders.

4. Set Aside Money for An Apartment Deposit

If you plan to move-in to a new apartment as you relocate for a new job or finally leave the home nest, large deposits may be required. And I should know. During the first year of my first full-time job, after completing graduate school, I moved 4 times and had to come up with a rental deposit for 2 of those 3 moves.

Using your cash gifts, to build up your rental deposit funds is a great way to prepare for those moving related costs.

Related Article: Manage Your Finances After Graduation Using These Steps

5. Establish A Financial Buffer Before Your First Paycheck

If you’ve ever had a part-time job throughout high school or college, you should be aware that there is usually a two to three week period before you get your first paycheck, depending on where your employment start date falls in your employer’s pay-period cycle.

A cash cushion will be essential for tying you over until you can get your first paycheck. Putting a portion of your cash graduation gifts will position ahead of that curve.

As you implement these ideas, consider using Ellevest’s options to save and invest.  I’m excited to be working with Ellevest to share information about saving and investing towards your short and longer-term goals. I will receive compensation if you become an Ellevest client.

I am definitely not suggesting that you forego any post-graduation fun spending with your cash graduation gifts, but I certainly don’t want you to miss the opportunity, like I did, to use some portion of this extra cash to shore up your finances.

~Melisa Boutin

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5 Steps To Free Yourself Of Credit Card Debt

5 Steps To Free YourSelf Of Credit Card Debt

If you want to get serious about dumping your credit card debt, consider these steps.

1. Stop Adding To Your Debt

You can’t get out of credit card debt if you are adding to your balances every month.

2. Create A Budget For Your Spending

You’ll need a written plan for how you’ll spend your money, and get in the habit of checking your actual spending against it.

3. Build Up A Cash Cushion

Stack up cash for emergencies and costly inconveniences, so you won’t have to rely on new debt, for life’s surprises.

4. Increase Your Cash Flow

Keep track of how much money is coming in versus going out of your accounts and free up money in your budget to put towards the debt.

5. Create A Strategy To Pay Down The Debt

Making more than minimum payments, with no new debt, will speed up the process to get rid of your credit card debt.

Related Article: How I Paid Off $13,000 of Debt in 13 Months

PIN 5 Steps To Free YourSelf Of Credit Card DebtRead more over at

~ Melisa Boutin

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How To Start Saving For Retirement Without A 401k In 3 Easy Steps

How to Start Saving for Retirement in 3 Easy Steps

According to the report “Are Americans Ready for Retirement?”, employer-based retirement plan sponsorship rates declined to 53% in 2011. This means that almost half of U.S. workers do not have access to a retirement plan through their employer.

Still, if you are an employee with an employer-sponsored retirement plan, saving for retirement is still your responsibility and is the only way to secure your financial future.

Although there are individual retirement account (IRA) options available via various brokerages, the minimum contribution amounts required can be a barrier for you to start investing for your retirement. Vanguard, for example, requires a minimum of $1,000 to open an IRA.

Of course, you can always save up the minimum contribution amounts in a savings account and then fund an IRA, but you’ll run the risk of losing motivation and falling off track, when life gets in the way.

Saving for Retirement On Your Own

You can overcome the minimum funding threshold barrier and avoid the pitfall of not investing at all by opening an IRA with a company like Ellevest, that allows you to establish an account with no minimum balance. I’m excited to be working with Ellevest to share information about investing towards your retirement goals. I will receive compensation if you become an Ellevest client.

Ellevest’s tools help you:

  • Establish a yearly target for your future retirement income;
  • Create a monthly investing goal;
  • Open an IRA to start investing for retirement; and
  • Incorporate other savings and investing goals.

Plus, you have the option to automate and increase your contributions to make funding your retirement, effortless.

Start Securing Your Retirement, Today

You can learn more about how Ellevest HERE, and start creating your plan in these 3 easy steps:

  1. Map out your retirement goal
  2. Create a plan to reach your retirement goal
  3. Fund your retirement goal

That’s it!

Bonus: When you set up an IRA, you can opt to direct a portion of your tax refund to your IRA account. Learn more at

If you’ve been confused and discouraged about saving for retirement, or just don’t know where to begin, use these simple steps to get started. Your future self will thank you.

~ Melisa Boutin


Grab this Retirement Start-Up Guide 

Free Resource - Your Retirement Start-Up Guide. Fund your retirement without a 401 k
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5 Money Ratios You Should Know

Money Ratios Your Should Know

Money ratios can help you quickly gauge the health of your finances and pinpoint what changes you need to make to improve them.

Here 5 of the important ones you should know.

1. 50% Budgeting Ratio

The budgeting rule of thumb that limits your must-have expenses to less than 50% of your income.

2. Credit Utilization Rate

The ratio of the sum your revolving credit line balances to the to the overall credit limit.

3. Student Loan Debt-To-Salary-Ratio

The upper limit of student loan debt to take on in order to realize the return on investment in earning a college degree.

4. Loan-To-Value Ratio

How much of the property you purchased with a loan, you actually own.

5. Debt-To-Salary Ratio

A ratio of all your monthly debt obligation compared to your monthly income.

Related Article: How To Start Saving When You Don’t Know Where To Start

5 Money Ratios You Should KnowTo learn more about why they are important and how to apply them to your finances, head over to read the entire post, at

~ Melisa Boutin

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3 Steps To Craft Your Debt Pay Off Strategy

While making the decision to pay off your debt is one of the first steps to achieving that goal, figuring out which debt to prioritize first, can be a real puzzle.

Instead of getting stuck on what method to use, when tackling a mix of revolving lines of credit and installment debt, apply these three steps to craft your debt pay off strategy.

1. Write Down All Your Debts

Before you start throwing extra payments on your debts, it’s important to get a comprehensive picture of your debt obligations. Make note of the amount of debt, the lender, the interest rate and minimum payment amount due.

2. Calculate The Daily Cost Of Your Debts

Get a good understanding of how much each debt costs, daily, based on the terms and conditions relating to the interest rate, billing cycle, and the size of the outstanding principal balance. This will help you clearly identify and rank debts from most costly to least costly.

3. Choose One Priority Debt To Start

More important than choosing and sticking to one method, is to pick one priority debt to pay off, once you’ve budgeted for the minimum payments of the other debts. Try making extra payments on the debt that annoys you the most first, and use the satisfaction of paying it off, sooner to keep you motivated to keep your debt pay off momentum going.

Related Article: How I Paid Off $13,000 of Debt in 13 Months

3 Steps To Craft Your Debt Pay Off Strategy
Read more about crafting your debt payoff strategy and a few more things you should consider in the original post, over at

~ Melisa Boutin

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