Young Professionals

After years of hard work in school, you are finally in the "real world" and earning a steady income, but now what? Young professionals have many decisions to make once they leave college and start their careers.

Dealing with lingering debt
If you took out loans to pay for school, you need to be clear on each loan's repayment plan and interest rate. There might be an option to consolidate loans — letting you combine different loans from different lenders into one payment. Check which consolidation option will save you the most money on interest in the long run.

Beyond student loans, if you left school with credit card debt, it is important to get it paid off as soon as possible. Look for balance transfer options that can offer lower interest rates. Based on your new salary, create a budget, stick to it, and have a plan to pay it off.

Never too early to start saving
As you start to earn more money, it is wise to put a portion of your paycheck into savings. You can use this for emergencies — to avoid getting deeper into debt — or to buy a car, house or other big-ticket item down the line. You can opt to start investing money in stocks or mutual funds, or consider more stable options such as a money market account or certificates of deposit. A financial planner can help educate you on your options so you can make the right decision.

Although it seems silly to think about retirement when you haven't quite unpacked your boxes from school, talking with a financial planner can help you determine how to make the most of your savings options, such as an employer's 401(k) investment plan. If your job does not offer retirement benefits, look into other options that help you save for the future, such as an IRA.

Buying a home
If you are looking to buy your first piece of real estate, your credit record is more important than ever. It will be the key factor in determining your mortgage's interest rate, which can mean the difference between affording the townhouse you want in a good area or moving back home with mom and dad.

When choosing a place to buy, it is important to know what you can afford as a monthly payment and the local tax rates as well as home insurance costs.

Planning for your family
If you decide to start a family, beyond calculating the costs of daycare or diapers, starting a 529 plan to help pay for college costs is an option. You should also look into life insurance and disability insurance, not only for your new child but also to protect yourself and your spouse.

Life insurance is a vital financial issue that many people put off too long. Consider getting enough life insurance to cover up to 10 times your annual salary. This will help your family deal with emergency costs, lingering debt and other serious expenses such as a mortgage.