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Are You Bad with Money? Here’s How to Get Better

Think you may be bad with money? You’re not alone. A lot of people feel this way at one point or another. And considering that many of us haven’t had much guidance on how to be good with money, it’s understandable.

No matter what you do in life, managing your money is considered imperative to success. But as important as it is, money skills are not taught in many schools and may not be handed down by parents or family.

But rather than just assume (and accept) that you’re just “bad with money,” it can be important to figure out exactly where you may be going wrong.

So we’ve gathered some telltale signs that you may have some work to do when it comes to money management — plus some key tips and strategies that can help you get better with money.

4 Signs You’re Bad With Money

Sometimes the signs are clear, like getting multiple notifications for overdraft fees in a week. Sometimes, however, being bad with money is less obvious. Here are some red flags that can indicate you’re heading down the wrong financial path.

You Tend to Live Paycheck to Paycheck

Even if you are able to pay your bills in full each month, if you’re often broke after paying them, it can be a sign that you’re not all that financially stable.

Whatever your income or budget is, it can be wise to always have at least a little bit of extra money to put into savings. If that extra doesn’t exist, then you could be walking a financial tightrope, where a major crisis could be waiting just around the corner.

You Don’t Have an Emergency Savings Fund

Not having a contingency fund (tucked away in a separate savings account) that can cover an unexpected expense, such as a medical bill, car repair, or sudden loss of income, is an indication that you’re living too close to the edge.

Although the specific dollar amount you should have in your emergency fund varies from person to person, many financial experts say you should try to have at least three months worth of living expenses set aside to cover the unexpected.

Without this cushion, a single large expense or loss of paycheck even for a couple of months could put you in a debt spiral that can be hard to get out from under.

You Only Make the Minimum Payment on Your Credit Cards

Paying the minimum on your credit cards may seem like you’re keeping up, but in reality you are gradually getting further and further behind.

If you don’t pay the card in full each month, every dollar you put on a card can end up costing you many times more in interest charges over time. Credit card debt that you can’t get rid of can be a clear sign that you’re not being as good with your money as could be.

You Often Overdraft Your account

If you’re gotten into the habit of spending almost everything you earn, it can be easy to overdraft your account. This often results in a high fee, which can make keeping up with your expenses even harder.

Overdrafts can also result from disorganization. Maybe you have the money, but didn’t transfer it over to your checking account in time. This can be a sign that you’re not keeping close enough tabs of your money.

Recommended: How to Avoid Overdraft Fees

How to Be Better With Money: 11 Tips

Becoming better at money management doesn’t have to happen overnight. In fact, the best approach to lasting change is often to take one small step at a time. This can be much easier to do and, as you start to see the rewards (more money, less stress), you will likely be inspired to keep going.

The following tips can help put you on the path to being good with money.

1. Setting Some Specific Money Goals

You likely have a few things you’d like to do in life that having enough money can help you accomplish. Maybe you want to take a great vacation next year, buy a home in a few years, or retire early.

Setting some concrete financial goals, both for the short- and long-term, can give you something to work towards — or, in other words, a reason to be better with your money.

Recommended: What is Financial Therapy?

Need a way to manage your money?
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2. Tracking Your Cash Flow

In order to get better with money, it can help to know exactly where you currently stand.

You can do this by gathering all your financial statements for the past several months, and then adding up all of your after-tax income to see how much is coming in each month.

Next, you can tally up how much you are spending each month. To do this, you may want to make a list of all your spending categories and then come up with an average amount you’ve been spending on each.

You may find it helpful to actually track your spending for a month or two, either by journaling or using an app that tracks spending right on your phone.

Ideally, you’ll want to have more coming in than going out each month. That means you have money you can siphon off into saving and investing, which can help you build wealth over time.

3. Coming Up With a Budget Method That Works for You

Once you have a clear picture of what’s coming and going out each month, you can create a plan for how you want to spend your money moving forward — in other words a budget.

While budgeting may sound onerous, it’s simply a matter of going through your expenses, seeing where you may be able to cut back, and then coming up with target spending amounts for each category.

One budgeting framework that may help you get started is a 50/30/20 budget breakdown. The idea is that 50% of your after-tax income should go to necessities, 30% goes to fun spending or “wants,” and 20% goes to savings goals.

These percentages may not work for everyone, especially if you live in an area with a high cost of living, but they can give you a general rule of thumb as you get started with budgeting.

Recommended: Determining The Right Budget Categories

4. Curbing Impulse Purchases

If you tend to shop without a plan, it can be easy to grab this and that without realizing how quickly these small costs can add up. A perfect example is going grocery shopping. But the same thing can happen if you are mindlessly browsing shops at the mall or online.

Making a list–and sticking to it — whenever you shop can help you avoid overspending. If you see something you really want but you weren’t planning to buy, it can be a good idea to put the purchase on pause for a day or two.

Once you have a cool head and a fresh perspective, you can then ask yourself if you’ll actually use this item and if you can afford it, meaning you can pay cash for it now. If not, it may be a good idea to skip it.

5. Thinking About Larger Spending Cuts

There are only so many lattes you can skip or cents per gallon you can save by heading to the cheaper gas station around the corner. So when you’re trying to find places to save money in your budget, you may also want to think bigger.

For example, you might decide to ditch your car in favor of biking to work — a move that means you save not only what you’d be spending on gas each month, but also insurance, registration, and likely a monthly car payment. (And you might even be able to ditch your gym membership, with all that moving around!) Or, you might consider moving to a less-trendy neighborhood or getting a roommate to help split the rent and other household expenses.

While lifestyle changes might be harder to enact up front, once you commit to them, they can help you save large amounts of money on a regular basis.

6. Automating Your Savings

Building an emergency fund and saving for future financial goals are key steps toward fiscal wellness. So once you have graduated from being at risk of overdrafting your accounts, a great next step can be to automate your savings.

That means setting up an automatic transfer of money from your checking account (or wherever your money is deposited) to one or more accounts designated for saving. This can be done on a monthly (or bi-monthly) basis, and can be timed to happen right after your paycheck hits.

If saving is a chore that you have to remember to do every month, you may get busy and forget. Why not let technology do the heavy lifting for you?

7. Bringing in More Income

Do you feel like you’re cutting back on spending as much as possible, but not getting anywhere? You may need to work on earning more money.

How exactly you go about this goal is up to you, of course. Maybe this means sitting down with a boss and creating a path towards earning more money. Or, it could mean picking up some freelance work in your profession, or starting a side hustle (like pet-sitting or signing up with a ride-share or delivery app).

8. Listing All of Your Debts

Many bad financial habits are born from the easy access consumers have to money that isn’t theirs — and the need to pay those debts back, with interest.

As with budgeting, the first step in conquering your debts is knowing exactly what you’re up against. To get the big picture, you may want to create a computer spreadsheet (or just make a chart with pen and paper) and then list each source of debt that you currently hold.

This includes student loans, credit cards, car loans, and any other debts you may have. You may also want to include the loan servicer, the size of the debt, the interest rate, and the amount and date of the monthly payment on each debt.

9. Knocking Down Debt One at a Time

If you’re paying the minimum on more than one high interest credit card, you may want to focus on getting rid of one entirely. It could be the debt with the highest interest rate, or it might be the smallest overall balance, to give you the psychological victory of kicking a source of debt to the curb.

Whichever one you choose, you can then put as much extra money as you can towards the balance (principal) of that debt, while paying the minimum amount due on all the others. Once you pay that debt off, you can move on to the next one.

10. Avoiding More Credit Card Debt

Getting better at managing your money can be hard to do when you’re adding to your credit card balance. Credit cards are notoriously difficult to pay back when you’re only making the minimum payments, and can be nearly impossible if you’re doing that while adding to the balance.

So, you may want to use your newfound money management skills to find ways around going further into credit card debt. Maybe there are more cuts that can be made to your budget or some overall shifts in lifestyle that could help. No matter how you do it, it can be helpful to focus on spending only the money you actually have.

11. Contributing More to Your 401(k)

You might think saving for retirement is something you don’t really need to focus on until you’re older. But the truth is that the earlier you start, the easier it will generally be to save enough to retire well. That’s thanks to the magic of compounding interest, which is when the interest you earn on your money earns its own interest.

If your company offers a 401(k), it can be a good idea to contribute at least a small percentage of each paycheck. If your employer offers matching funds, you may want to take full advantage of this perk by contributing the max amount your company will match.

Recommended: When to Start Saving for Retirement

The Takeaway

You don’t have to master all of the above concepts right away. Becoming a person who is “good with money” is a journey.

Instead, you may want to start with one area and move on to the next as you feel you have mastered each financial tool.

Looking for Something Different?

One simple step that can make it easier to manage your money is to open up a SoFi Money® cash management account. With SoFi Money, you can earn, save, and spend all in one account. And, it’s easy to track your weekly spending right in the dashboard of the SoFi app.

Learn how SoFi Money can help you keep better tabs on your personal finances.

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Should You Buy or Rent a Home? Take the Quiz

Purchasing a home may be the biggest financial commitment you’ll ever make, so it makes sense to carefully consider the upsides and downsides of buying vs. renting.

Stay tuned for a quiz that might help you decide.

Rent or Buy a Home: Pros and Cons

Advantages of Renting

•   Your landlord is typically responsible for repairs and maintenance, so your money can go elsewhere.

•   Your landlord may also pay some of your monthly utilities, and you aren’t responsible for paying property taxes.

•   When your lease is up, you can renegotiate or move.

•   You don’t need to make a big investment (like the down payment and closing costs associated with home buying) when you move into the next place you rent.

Disadvantages of Renting

•   Your landlord may have restrictions that you don’t like, such as no pets or remodeling.

•   The rent you pay each month doesn’t give you any equity in a property. It just goes to the owner, unless you set up a rent-to-own agreement.

•   Your rent could spike .

•   If the owners decide to sell their home, you may need to quickly move.

Advantages of Buying

•   Getting a good mortgage rate makes the monthly payments more palatable. And as you make payments, you could be gaining equity in your home.

•   You have far fewer restrictions involving remodeling, pet ownership, and so forth.

•   You have more stability. You can generally stay as long as you’d like.

•   Sometimes a mortgage payment can be cheaper than rent. Looking at the price-to-rent ratio of a city helps gauge whether it makes more sense to buy or pay a landlord and wait.

Disadvantages of Buying

•   The price of homeownership may be painful in a hot market.

•   You typically need to qualify for a mortgage, make a down payment, and pay closing costs to secure a home.

•   You’re generally responsible for all repairs, maintenance, and utilities, plus homeowners insurance, property taxes, and any HOA dues.

•   If you decide to move, until your home is sold, you’re still responsible for mortgage payments and the expenses attached to your new place.

Take the Rent or Buy Quiz

Are You Really Ready to Buy?

The answer may already be clear to you. If you’ve decided to buy, it might make sense to do the following.

•   Make sure you’re ready for a long-term commitment. If you’ve saved enough for a down payment and know how much house you can afford, that’s a good sign.

•   Consider if your line of work allows for job continuity with steady income. Have you had this type of income for the past two years or more?

•   If your debt-to-income ratio appears too high for the loan program you would like to apply for, you may need to consider paying down some debt. To calculate your DTI ratio, divide your monthly debt payments by your monthly gross (pretax) income. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advises renters to consider keeping a DTI ratio of 15% to 20% or less (rent is not included in this ratio). In general, mortgage lenders like to see a DTI ratio of no more than 36%, though that is not necessarily the maximum.

•   Save money for a down payment, closing costs, and other fees, plus some funds for moving expenses and any remodeling/repairs.

•   Check your credit scores and work on improving them, if necessary.

•   Do a gut check to see if you’re really ready to be your own landlord, meaning being responsible for your own home maintenance, inside and out.

•   Get prequalified for a mortgage by providing a few financial details to lenders, who usually will do a soft credit check and estimate how much you may be able to borrow and the terms.

The Takeaway

Should you buy or rent a home? Reflecting on prices, your financial health, your desire for or fear of commitment, and other factors may yield the answer.

If you’re ready to be a bona fide homeowner, getting prequalified for a mortgage loan with SoFi is simple. SoFi offers competitive rates and may require as little as 5% down.

Got two minutes? That’s all it takes to learn your rate.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Tips For Your First Physician Sign On Bonus

If you’re a new doctor who has just been offered your first sign on bonus, you’re probably over the moon. Chances are, you’ve put in eight years of school, then another three to seven years of residency and fellowships, all while making do on a low salary. Now, your hard work is finally paying off financially.

The average doctor bonus for physicians who just landed their first full-time job reached nearly $30,000 in 2017, which is a record high. The size of bonuses has increased substantially since 2011, when the average was around $20,000 . The largest recorded bonus paid in 2017 was a whopping $200,000 .

Bonuses are very common: About 90% of doctors now get them. Swelling bonuses and salaries are partly a response to a growing physician shortage in the U.S.

The size of bonuses is especially impressive compared to what you’ve likely earned up until this point. The average medical resident makes only $59,300 a year. Given how frugally you’ve been living, you may not know what to do with this large chunk of change. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your bonus, and some words of caution about how not to spend that newfound cash.

What Not to Do with Your Doctor Sign On Bonus

Since you’re not used to having a large amount of extra cash, you may be tempted to use your bonus on a fun splurge. Or, you may simply not know what to do, having focused more on your medical textbooks than financial know-how. Here are some things to avoid doing with your bonus:

•  Don’t blow it on things that won’t last. After years of penny-pinching, it’s understandable that you’d want to treat yourself to some costly retail therapy, or on expensive meals and trips. There’s nothing wrong with spending on high-quality goods or a life-changing experience but be conscientious about each purchase.

•  Don’t let your money linger. Putting your bonus into a checking or savings account, can seem like the easiest thing to do and a way to protect your money. But, the interest rates you earn likely won’t even be enough to keep up with inflation. That means your money could decrease in value while in these accounts.

•  Don’t slide into debt. Having a large sum of cash can make you feel richer than are. You may be tempted to take on ongoing expenses, such as a house or car, that you can’t really afford once the bonus runs out. If your regular cashflow can’t sustain these expenses, you run the risk of going into credit card debt.

How Much is a Sign On Bonus Taxed?

Your bonus will be considered supplemental income and be subject to federal taxes, as well as state and local taxes depending on where you live. In 2018 , the IRS taxed supplemental wages at a rate of 22%.

If you receive the bonus as a check, rather than as part of your paycheck, it will be up to you to make sure you pay taxes on it. Get clear on how much you owe before you spend the check, and set money aside for taxes—otherwise, you might spend more than you actually have and come up empty when tax time rolls around.

Smart Options for Spending Your Physician Sign on Bonus

If you’re looking for ways to use your physician sign on bonus to wisely plan for the future, there are a lot of options that can be beneficial for your finances. Depending on your personal situation, you’ll be able to determine which option will best set you up to try and hit your financial goals.

Make a Dent in your Debt

If you’re just getting your first physician job, you might still have a hefty amount of student loan debt. Over a quarter of medical residents have student debt over $200,000 .

Since you’ve been living on a pretty low salary, you may have racked up some credit card debt as well. Particularly if your debt comes with high interest rates, it could be a smart move to use your bonus to pay some of it off. This is particularly true for credit card debt, which usually has high interest rates.

With student loans, your bonus could go even further if you refinance. Refinancing student loans involves taking out a single new loan, which comes with a new term and interest rate, to pay off your existing loans. Now that you have a stable job and a higher salary, refinancing may get you a lower interest rate, which may reduce how much you pay over the life of your loan.

Use a student loan calculator to figure out how much you could save, and how putting some of your bonus toward the loan could reduce what you owe over the life of the loan.

Build an Emergency Fund

Many financial professionals advise that everyone have an emergency fund equivalent to about six months of living expenses. This fund is meant to pay for unexpected and urgent costs, such as medical bills, car repairs, or a layoff.

The money should be kept in cash equivalents, so you can access it as soon as you need to. The fund is meant to help prevent you from going into credit card debt or worse if an emergency comes up. If you don’t already have an emergency fund, it makes sense to use your bonus, or part of it, to create one.

Save for Retirement

A frequently cited rule of thumb is to have the equivalent of one year of your salary saved for retirement by the age of 30. But, you might be behind on building your nest egg, since you’ve been in school or in low-paying residencies and fellowships. If you already have an emergency fund, you can use your sign on bonus to increase your 401(k) contribution (the maximum is $18,500 per year).

After you’ve done this, you can also put up to $5,500 into either a traditional or Roth IRA. These are accounts you can open on your own, regardless of what your employer offers, and allow you to invest in a variety of stocks, bonds and other assets.

The traditional and Roth IRA offer different tax benefits, and you must make below a certain income limit to qualify for a Roth IRA. If you’re not sure whether you’re on track in saving for retirement, an online retirement calculator may help you figure out where you stand.

Invest through a Wealth Account

Opening an individual investment account, such as a SoFi Invest account, is a great way to help your bonus benefit you in the long term. You can put in as much money as you want—the minimum is $100—and withdraw it anytime. Your funds will be invested in five to seven Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), which consist of a diverse mix of stocks and bonds.

Diversification can help reduce risk, while investing in passively managed ETFs is a good lower fee approach. Plus, there are no management fees no matter the size of your portfolio. SoFi rebalances portfolios at least quarterly to maintain an investment mix and risk level you’re comfortable with. With a SoFi Invest® account, you can benefit from the low costs of automated investing, as well as the clarity that comes with human advisors.

The earlier in life you invest, the more value you can potentially create down the line. Of course, this isn’t guaranteed, since you can’t predict how the market will perform in any given time period. But the earlier you invest, and the longer you leave your money in the market, the more of a chance your money has to grow.

Suddenly having thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars on your hands can be confusing for anyone. It can be especially overwhelming for a new physician used to getting by on student loans or a low resident’s salary.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking short-term or letting your doctor bonus sit idle.Whether you pay off debt, prepare for emergencies, save for retirement, or invest, you can rest assured that your money will be put to good use. By thinking long term, you can use this windfall at the beginning of your career to help set yourself up for a successful well planned financial future.

Use your sign on bonus to invest in a fulfilling future. Open a SoFi Invest account and put your money to work for you today.

SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance.
This information isn’t financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on specific financial needs, goals and risk appetite.
SoFi doesn’t provide tax or legal advice. Individual circumstances are unique. Consult with a qualified tax advisor or attorney.
The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC, a registered investment advisor.

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The Ultimate Moving Checklist

So, you’ve decided to move. Be it for a new job, a fresh start, or just for an adventure in an exciting new locale, moving is a great way to kick off change in your life.

But before you start assembling boxes, folding clothes, and bubble wrapping your most prized possessions, there are a few key steps — some financial and some practical — you might want to take to ensure a seamless transition. Here’s a moving checklist that might help you get from your old home to your new place with relative ease.

3 Months Before the Move

Pick a Date and Make a Moving Budget

Pick a day to move. Assuming your new place is ready to go and you’ve already discussed the move with your current landlord or have sold your current home, a good first step is to decide on a moving day.

The least expensive times to move are typically during the week and in the mornings. Moving companies might offer better rates on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday because they aren’t typically as busy as on weekends.

Beyond the day of the move, you might also consider attempting to schedule your move in the morning because the temperatures aren’t as hot then, making the job just a bit easier for your movers (and for you, if you’re assisting). And, as an added bonus, it could help you get to your new home by the afternoon if your new home is close by, which means you’ll have the entire day to unpack.

Choose a moving company. Once you’ve picked the day it’s time to pick the mover. You could send out a few quote requests to local movers, check out the reviews online, and go with your gut on who you believe will take the best care of your belongings. Ask if the mover offers moving insurance. If not, it may be a good idea to seek out a third-party moving insurance vendor.

Create a budget. You know those movers above? Yeah, they can cost a lot of money. According to Zillow , the average per-hour cost to move fewer than 100 miles with the help of two movers is between $80 to $100 per hour on average. For a move 100 miles or more you should expect to pay anywhere from around $2,000 to $5,000 (or more).

When you create your moving budget, factor in the cost of movers; any penalties you might incur for leaving a lease early; ending a phone, cable, or internet package early; any and all repairs you need to make for your new home; and the transportation cost to get to your new place. Then, add in the cost of any additional items you need to buy for your new place.

Inform the important people in your life. Now might be the time to share the news of your move. Yes, tell your family and friends, but also tell other important people about your departure schedule, such as your children’s school and your employer. That way they have plenty of time to make plans.

Beyond people, you may also want to contact a few government agencies. For example, the Postal Service recommends setting up mail forwarding about two weeks in advance of a move. The service may be in place in a few as three days, but it’s smart to have some wiggle room.

If you’re moving to a new state, you may also want to set up an appointment at your new state’s department of motor vehicles, as you may be required to get a new driver’s license or register your vehicle in that state. And, if you’re moving during election season, reach out to your new area’s voter registration office to ensure you’re all set up to cast your ballot.

Need help financing your move?
Check out SoFi’s relocation loans.

1 Month Before the Move

Evaluate Your Belongings and Declutter

Walkthrough. You might want to do a walkthrough of your current home and look at each and every item you own. Then grab two sticky note pads with different colors, one to represent the things you want to keep and one to represent the things that must go. Every single item should get a sticky note. If you’re long distance house hunting, your real estate agent may be able to arrange a virtual walkthrough for you so you’ll have an idea of the kind of space you’ll be moving your belongings into.

Start selling. Instead of simply throwing away the things you no longer want, you could try to sell them online. After all, your trash could certainly be another person’s treasure. And this way you could have a few dollars in your pocket to spend on buying new things for your new home.

Donate unwanted, but still usable, items. Want to donate a few items? You can drop off clothing donations to thrift stores or a local homeless shelter. If you’re hoping to donate large items like furniture you may need to schedule a pickup and delivery.

Call your current and new cable and internet provider. Now might be a good time to call your current cable company and let them know about the move. If it offers service in your new location you could ask about switching over the service on the day you move. If it doesn’t, give them a cancel date for the day you move to ensure the service has ended and you aren’t paying a double bill. For your new place, you can research which companies are available, call around for a quote, pick your favorite, and set up an appointment for the day you move. This way you have service the second you walk in the door.

Cancel other subscription services. Are you a part of a local gym, CSA, or delivery service? Consider canceling these recurring payments so you aren’t charged for an extra month.

Three Weeks to One Week Before the Move

Collect Boxes and Start Packing

Collect boxes. As the moving date closes in, it’s time to get packing. If you’re looking to save a pretty penny, you could head to a local coffee shop, grocery store, restaurant, or shop and ask what days they typically get deliveries and if you can come to take the used boxes off their hands. Then, over the next three weeks, stop in and collect as many boxes as you can.

Buy the moving supplies you need. You will still need to buy a few items to get packing, including heavy-duty packing tape, a marker for labeling things, and bubble wrap for fragile items. If you’re not hiring a moving company, you might consider renting a dolly, which can make moving heavy items much easier, and furniture pads to protect your belongings from scratches and dings. Sheets and towels can also be used to protect furniture and as padding inside of boxes.

Start packing. At this point, it’s probably safe to start packing the things you aren’t currently using — out of season clothes, most of your dishes, extra blankets, towels, framed photos, and decorations. You’ll want to leave out the essentials so you’re not looking through boxes to find things you use on a daily basis.

1 Week Before the Move

Tie Up Any Loose Ends

Finalize important details. At this point, you’ve already cancelled your local subscriptions and memberships, but there will still be a few loose ends to tie up. Have you arranged to transfer banks yet? Do you have a vet picked out near your new home in case Fido gets sick right after you move? Think about how you can make the transition into your new life as seamless as possible.

Confirm bookings. You’ll have a lot of things to do before moving, but it’s important to take some time to double check all of your bookings. Confirm when your movers are coming, what time your flights are booked, and that you’ve arranged for your new utilities to turn on. There are a lot of moving parts that come with a move, so it’s easy to get booking details mixed up or to let things fall through the cracks.

1 Day Before the Move

Pack Your Final Belongings and Say Goodbye

Pack up. Pack up any of the remaining items you’ve left behind and make sure they are all ready to roll for the move.

Create a folder of important documents. Have a folder ready for the move that includes your old lease (if you’re renting), along with the new signed lease, the contract for the movers, and all receipts from the move.

Say goodbye — your way. Order your favorite takeout, have friends over for wine, and give thanks to everything this home has provided for you. It deserves it.

Move-In Day Checklist

Embrace a Blank Slate

Get everything from A to Z. On move-in day, the priority should be finalizing your move. There will be plenty of time later to rearrange furniture and to organize your new walk-in closet. Focus on making sure all of your belongings make it from Your old home to your new one, so you can start fresh tomorrow without making a trip back to grab that last box you forgot.

Clean up. As tempting as it can be to start unpacking right away, a great time to give your new home a deep clean is before the contents of those boxes are strewn about. Once you unpack, it won’t be so easy to clean the inside of every cabinet and to vacuum every inch of carpet. This may not be one of the most fun things to do when moving, but it can be a good way to make your new house more homey.

Unpacking Checklist

Unpack and Get To Know Your New Home

Unpack. Now that the hustle and bustle of the move is over, you can focus on unpacking and taking your time to find the right spots for all of your belongings. Unpacking in the reverse order of how you packed allows you to access your most-needed belongings first.

Think ahead. While you’re unpacking, you’ll get a lot more familiar with your new home and all of its needs. Keep a pen and paper ready so you can create a post-moving to do list. Take note of any repairs you want to make now and create a maintenance checklist you can refer back to in the future.

The Takeaway

Moving is stressful, as you can see by reviewing this checklist, and the last thing you want to do is worry about money. As we outlined above, moving can be expensive. According to HomeAdvisor , the average move in 2021 will cost $1,513, with a typical range of $829 to $2,220. A high-end move could cost upwards of $11,000.

If you don’t have that kind of cash on hand, you could consider applying for an unsecured personal loan to help cover the cost. SoFi offers low rates and no fees on its unsecured personal loans, which can be used to pay for moving expenses as well as other expenses that life brings your way.

Enjoy your move without having to unpack all your finances, too. See if a relocation loan from SoFi is right for you.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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46 Tips for Joining the Real World

46 Tips for Joining the Real World

It’s finally happened: You got the degree, a fancy new job (or a few prospects to choose from), a lease or mortgage, and maybe a dog or cat. Life is great, right?

Well, maybe not quite.

Now that your college days are over, so too are the comforting routines of class courses, odd (but fun) jobs, late nights out, and the “I’m just a student” excuse to blow off “adult things” like learning what ROI stands for or finding an in-network doctor.

46 Tips for Recent College Grads

Whether you’re just out of college or several years out, you’re hardly alone if you feel you are struggling to pull up your big boy, gal, or non-binary pal pants — or gym shorts if you’re working remotely. Read on for tips for joining the real world and finessing your finances, career, and personal life.

1. Your overall financial situation

Your finances can include a ton of stuff, especially as you get older and your investments and income become more complex. But at its most basic, understanding your financial situation means knowing your credit score, taking stock of your outstanding debts, figuring out ways to pay off student loans (if you haven’t already), and what your monthly bills are.

Recommended: What Is Considered a Bad Credit Score?

2. Budget

Once you know how much money you have, owe, and make, it’s time to figure out your budget. Even if you have one already, post-graduation is a perfect time to reconsider your budget and make updates as needed. Never made one before? Check out these personal budget tips to help you get started.

3. Job perks

No matter if your job is still shiny and new or an old hat at this point, it’s good to take time to review your employee handbook for perks you may have overlooked. Check out your company’s retirement plan types and health insurance plans. You’ll also want to review potential bonuses and perks, such as free gym memberships, commute stipends, or work-from-home stipends.

4. Retirement savings/401(k)

This may not be the most fun thing to review, but your future self will thank you for taking a weekend to dive into your current 401(k) or review your options for starting one. If you’re not sure where to start (or if you’re not even sure what this is, check out this primer on 401(k) plans.

5. Where you live

Location, local, location, right? Depending on said location, it can be hard to find affordable housing or even a job if your industry isn’t hot in your market. Before signing on the dotted line, consider how much home you can afford to buy or rent, and whether or not you’re ready to commit if you’re buying.

6. Your living situation

You may have been looking forward to living alone for the first time, but your first few years after college may not be the time to make this dream a reality. It can be expensive to live alone, and you may not be approved without a cosigner. Keeping roommates can be a great way to save money.

7. Your salary

Talking numbers can be intimidating for recent grads. Having knowledge about what a good entry-level salary is for your job ahead of negotiations can help you ensure you’re getting a fair offering.

8. Your social media

Even if you’ve already got a job, you may want to take stock of your social media. A professional online presence may help prevent current or future employers from second-guessing hiring you.

9. Networking

Networking is crucial to helping you achieve your career goals. Whether through industry conferences or social media sites like LinkedIn, it’s smart to stay connected with professionals in your industry to get career advice and learn about job openings you may be the perfect fit for.

10. Job offers

When you’re first starting out, it can be tempting to take the first job offer that comes your way. But if you know it’s not a great fit and you’re already viewing the job as a stepping stone until you can find something else, you may be better off continuing your job search. Check out this list of things you should consider before taking a job offer.

11. Quality over quantity

This adage exists for a reason, and it applies to friends, experiences, clothes, possessions, and even the way you spend your time. Being mindful of your decisions is a great habit to get into.

12. “You” time

This tip can help you get important stuff done, both professionally and personally. Exercising or taking a 15-minute meditation break may boost your job performance and help you avoid burnout.

13.Emergency fund

Life is full of the unexpected, and that’s why it’s smart to have an emergency fund. Once you have a steady income, it’s wise to take a few weeks (or months, depending on your salary and bills) to build up your emergency fund. Don’t know where to start? This article on how to start an emergency fund could be helpful.

14. Medical care

This tip is especially important if you’ve moved to a different state or city. Out-of-network bills can be costly, so having a doctor and knowing which hospitals are in-network can help you save money and stress in the long run.

15. First-aid kit and emergency bag

No, that free purse-sized first-aid kit you got your freshman year in college probably isn’t going to cut it. Store-bought first aid kits may be good starting points, but allergy relief pills, antacids, and other over-the-counter medicines will take your kit to the next level.

If you’re inclined to ready an emergency go-bag, consider packing at least three days’ worth of clothes, a mini first aid kit, cash, a flashlight, and other provisions you think you (and your pets or loved ones) may need if you need to leave your home in a rush.

16. Life insurance

If your employer offers life insurance as a benefit, you may be wondering what it is — and if you should pay more to increase the amount. Understanding life insurance types and reviewing these Life Insurance Policy Tips can help you make the right decision for you.

17. Hobbies

Not everything you do has to relate to your career. In fact, it’s likely healthier if you have interests outside of your career. You can learn to play instruments, sing, run, join a local soccer team, play games online, or enjoy any other hobby that helps you unwind and relax.

18. Taxes

Being organized ahead of tax season can help you avoid filing them late. Whenever you get an important piece of paperwork that’ll affect your taxes (such as W2s, charitable contribution receipts, or even home office receipts), you can put these in a safe place so you’re ready to go come tax time.

19. Work-life balance

We all have different ideas for work-life balance. If you’re not sure what yours is, consider taking the first few weeks on the job to figure that out. If you feel tired or overwhelmed, it may be time to renegotiate those work-life boundaries.

20. Basic home repairs

Home repair costs, can add up but you could save a lot by doing them yourself, especially if or when you own your own place and don’t have a landlord to pay for those costs. If you do have a landlord, you could get a discount on your rent by making simple repairs yourself. Just be sure to get a signed agreement from your landlord outlining how that will work.

21. Fear of asking for help

Don’t know how to format a spreadsheet? Can’t remember the protocol for that report? Ask for help. Reaching out for help is key to creating healthy work relationships (and personal ones).

22. Subscriptions

Monthly subscriptions can add up, be them boxes, auto-reorder groceries or personal care items, streaming services, or magazines. Consider looking at what you’re actually subscribed to. Do you really need both Hulu and Netflix, and do you really need that wine-of-the-month membership?

23. Boundaries

It’s easy to lose track of time, especially in a work-from-home situation. You may also feel you need to put in extra hours to impress your boss. But working to the point where you have no time to yourself can be counterproductive.

24. Cooking

Takeout is great, but you could save a ton of money and calories if you cook most of your meals at home. It’s also helpful to plan your groceries ahead of time to avoid overspending and food waste.

25. Speaking up and out

If you think you don’t have much to add to the conversation, agreeing with what someone has said — and tacking on an extra thought — can be a way to participate and not feel like a wallflower.

26. Regular bedtime

Going to sleep around the same time every night can help to ensure you get enough zzz’s so you can make good decisions and keep healthy habits.

27. Investing

The idea of investing may sound intimidating, but you don’t have to be a Wall Street wolf to invest. Many rookies start small. Check out these tips for investing in your 20s.

28. Avoiding compare yourself to others

We all have different goals for our lives, and we all take different paths to get there. It’s smart to embrace your uniqueness and try to avoid the compulsion to compare yourself to coworkers, online friends, or even friends and family.

29. Mistakes are just part of learning

If you are open to criticism, you can be more likely to learn from the experience. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when they’re new. That’s why it’s important to let your mistakes be growth/learning opportunities, both professionally and personally.

30. You’re good enough, smart enough …

Your social media may be full of engagement photos, job promotions, and new puppies. That’s because most people don’t post about fights with loved ones, struggles with balancing their cash accounts, or troubles at work. Keeping that in mind can help you avoid joining the proverbial rat race.

31. Mentors

They can help you navigate your workplace’s ladder, offer advice, and keep you motivated and sane when things get stressful. They also have contacts that may be helpful for you to know.

32. Changing your mind

You’ve probably heard that tons of people end up with jobs outside of what they studied, even after getting a master’s or MBA. It could be that there aren’t a lot of jobs in that field –or maybe they realized that what’s interesting in theory is not in practice. If this turns out to be the case for you, just remember that fulfillment can be found outside of work. And people can change their minds.

33. Getting help

Unemployment, Medicaid, and other social nets exist for a reason. There are going to be choppy waters, and these services are meant to help. Using them because you got laid off or furloughed isn’t shameful.

34. Home maintenance

When was the last time you cleaned your dryer vents? Do you know how to change the filter in your HVAC? Avoiding these kinds of things for too long can result in big maintenance bills — and potentially be a safety hazard. Not sure what to clean? Check out this ultimate house maintenance list.

35. Growth mindset

When you’re starting out in a new career, you know that you have a lot to learn and need to put in time and effort to advance. After a few years on the job, though, the learning curve can become less steep, making it easy to attribute your success to talent more than to anything else. That is the definition of a fixed mindset. Someone with a growth mindset knows that the key to advancing in one’s career (and evolving as a human being) is to continually be open to learning, improving, and taking on new challenges.

36. Travel

Hopping on a plane and traveling to far-flung places can get a lot harder to do the more “adult” you become. You have to take time off work, arrange a house sitter, find kid- or pet-friendly destinations (or pay a sitter to take care of them) and maybe even have to schedule time for important work meetings or tasks even while you’re on vacation. Even if you’re broke and paying off debt, it’s possible to travel cheap!

37. Saying no

Don’t want to go out for drinks? Can’t finish that report by Monday? Your best bet may be to just be honest. Taking on too much may only backfire, so learning to say no without feeling guilty can be important for your mental health and work-life balance.

38. Lifestyle creep

Lifestyle creep can ruin your budget. The more your income increases, the more you may want to spend. While a pay raise may mean you can splurge on that fancy latte with oatmeal foam, double-shot espresso with coconut milk, and a pump of vanilla, you may want to double-check that the increase in lattes doesn’t mean a decrease in your savings.

39. Sales versus deals

Cheap clothes or stuff on clearance aren’t a deal if you don’t need them or they don’t last very long. For some things, such as your new professional wardrobe, Tip No. 11 about quality over quantity definitely applies.

Recommended: 9 Tips for Finding the Best Deals Online

40. Side jobs

Seems like everyone is hustling, but you may want to be careful that the side gig doesn’t take up too much mental or emotional bandwidth. If it is, you may want to dial it back or find a new side job that doesn’t unduly add to your stress — and possibly interfere with your ability to do your main job.

41. Meal planning

Now that you’re shopping for your own groceries, planning out your meals can be an easy way to save money on food. Taking an extra half hour to take stock of your leftovers and cabinet items can save you from buying stuff you already have or throwing out perfectly good leftover lasagna.

42. Your home office

Are you going to be working from home for some or all of your week? Having ergonomic, comfortable, and functional furniture can help keep your back and neck from hurting and your mind from getting distracted. Click here for some home office ideas if you’re in need of some inspiration.

43. Pets

Before bringing a pet home, you may want to check if you can afford vet bills and cover emergency situations, like a dog biting a visitor or having to kennel your dog for a sudden trip out of town. It may also be important to consider the time pets take. Will you be able to take your pup on walks or to the dog park? Before you dive in, you can check out this list of cheapest pets for lower maintenance friends you may want to adopt instead.

44. Your caffeine fix

Basically, your mom was right: as convenient as buying a coffee on your way to work is, it can add up day after day, week after week, year after year. Making your morning caffeinated drink at home can lead to real savings.

45. Car insurance

If you have a car that’s over 10 years old, you may want to consider auto insurance. This could save you money in the long term if you need maintenance or repair work done to your trusty old wagon.

46. What’s most important to you?

You may think and feel that you can do it all. And maybe you can at first. But at some point, you may find yourself having to back-burner some of your goals. When that happens, you may want to make sure they aren’t all the ones that reflect your values and bring you joy.

The Takeaway

Your post-college years can be exciting and fun while also being confusing and difficult. With your increase in income and independence may come a host of challenges of responsibilities you have to manage. That’s why it may be smart to ask friends, family, and mentors for help.

And if your student loan payments are getting in the way of you living your best post-college life, you may want to consider refinancing your student loans. (Please note: in refinancing, you’ll be forfeiting certain federal student loan benefits including payment suspension and repayment programs.) SoFi is a leader in the private student loan space, offering refinancing options with no application or origination fees.

Check out your interest rate in just a few minutes—with no strings attached.

Photo credit: iStock/Rattankun Thongbun

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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