A reader was kind enough to forward to me a helpful article published by the New York Times, guiding new graduates in the right direction as they take on their first real full-time job. Many graduates have had experience in the work force before, but it’s not until graduation when they can truly begin focusing on their careers and the benefits they provide.
While I wrote yesterday about general financial tips for college graduates, the New York Times article hones in on that first job so those in this position know what to expect and can make some of the right decisions about benefits.
In fact, health insurance ranks at the top of the importance ladder.
Health insurance is expensive. Employers generally pay for some or most of it, but usually not all. You’ll probably pay your share of the cost in at least two ways. First, your employer will probably take some money out of your paycheck regularly. This is called the premium. Then, there’s something called a deductible, where each year you have to pay at least the first couple of hundred dollars toward many kinds of medical expenses…
Thinking back to my first job, no information about insurance was explained to me with clarity. Like many others, I was able to determine the definition of terms like “premium” and “deductible” as I went along, but I could have benefited from some of this basic financial information at the outset.
The article also provides basic information about payroll taxes, or why you never seem to take home as much as you think you’re earning. PaycheckCity is a helpful website recommended by the editors that provides several basic calculators, a walk-through of the W-4 form, and some additional features if you’re willing to pay.
What about retirement? This is an issue that are far from the minds of many freshly minted graduates, but when you’re right out of college is the best time to start thinking about the distant future. Even in the face of bills the likes of which you’ve never dealt with before, the article suggests taking advantage of your company’s 401(k). The article suggests making this process easy:
…[C]onsider investing in something called a lifecycle or target-date fund, which is fast becoming a standard offering in retirement plans. These funds will have names like the 2050 fund, which correspond to the year when you’ll probably be thinking about retiring. Managers allocate the money (mostly in stock mutual funds now, though the investments get more conservative over time), and all you have to do is shovel more in.
Regardless of investment, the best thing about many 401(k) plans is the employer match, as I’ve mentioned earlier. Anyone fresh out of college should recognize the value of “free” money. (Sometimes there’s a catch, such as you have to work for the company a certain amount of years before the money actually becomes yours, but everyone knows that there’s no such thing as truly free money.)
A Primer for Young People Starting Their First Job, Ron Lieber, New York Times, June 14, 2008.