Welcome to another installment of IonTuition’s Q&A series with personal finance bloggers. Today we have My Debt Epiphany’s Choncé sharing her personal finance tips with us.
Choncé is a mom, blogger, freelance writer and financial coach who runs the personal finance blog My Debt Epiphany. She recently quit her 9-5 job as a content writer at a web design company to be a full-time blogger and freelancer. She has a degree in journalism and uses the personal experience that she and her husband gained while working their way out of $40,000 in debt to help others pay off their debt and become more financially stable.
What career advice do you have for those who have recently graduated college or started looking into new career paths?
Start networking and putting yourself out there. This was hard for me to do since I’m an introvert, but when I graduated and realized I had no jobs lined up and didn’t want to work part-time at a grocery store anymore I revamped my resume and started getting it in front of people while trying to differentiate myself from other candidates.
You can attend workshops and events in your career niche to meet people and attend job fairs to get leads and expand your network. These days, your network is a crucial asset that can help you land your first full-time job out of college. Don’t be afraid to let people know what type of work you are looking for so they can recommend you when they come across an opportunity.
What are your best tips for people who have debt?
If you are trying to pay off your debt, first get clear on why you want to pay it off. The debt repayment process can be long and dreary which is why you always want to have a clear ‘why’ to motivate you and keep you working your way out of debt even when setbacks occur.
Next, you’ll want to implement a strategy for paying down your debt. Determine which debt you’d like to attack first and make extra payments each month to get rid of that debt even faster. I cut my expenses and started side hustling in order to pay off my car loan 1.5 years after I graduated from college.
You may also want to team up with an accountability partner to make sure you are staying on track. This can be a friend or family member who either has similar goals or who will hold you accountable and check in with you to make sure you are staying focused.
Can you offer some advice for people who carry student loan debt and are working toward repayment and trying to become financially stable?
Lower your living expenses so you can pay down your debt. Live like a broke college student if you can and adopt a frugal mindset. If you can live well on less, throw any extra money from raises, bonuses at work or tax refunds toward your debt.
Also, create a realistic budget to help you stay on track. Living on a budget can help ensure that you are spending less than you earn and avoiding getting into any debt. For beginners, budgeting is a must and can help you feel more financially stable.
In your opinion, what are the most important workplace benefits recent graduates should watch for when accepting job offers?
Most college grads are looking for a pay increase like I was. While earning more money and having the opportunity to get raises every year is great, there are also other benefits you should consider like retirement plans and insurance options.
My first full-time job out of college didn’t offer any retirement benefits. I worked there for two years and had nothing to show for it. I eventually opened a Roth IRA on my own which is an individual retirement account, but if your employer offers a 401(k) with a match program, that is a huge incentive. If an employer offers to match your retirement contributions, it’s basically like getting free money which is always good. Another benefit to look out for is health insurance, because premiums can be high and your health is important.
A good employer that offers great medical, dental and vision insurance plans should be on your radar.
What was your biggest challenge when you entered the workforce (after graduation, if you attended college)? How did you overcome it, and would you do anything differently if you had another chance?
My biggest challenge was just finding a good job in my field. I studied journalism in college which is a really competitive field. When I graduated, I couldn’t find any newspapers in the area to hire me and pay me a decent wage.
Luckily, I also minored in communications and did various different marketing and PR internships during college, which is why I was able to showcase my flexible skill set and land a job in the content marketing field instead of hard news.
Living in a small town that didn’t offer many opportunities at the time was also an obstacle. I had to commute to my first real job for about 11 months until I decided to move closer. Location is definitely something to consider since you might need to relocate for a job.
Any other advice to help our readers manage their education or advance their careers?
Continue to build your skill set after college and invest in yourself. You might not realize it, but we change our minds about various things multiple times per day. You may think you want to go into a certain career field, but find that you don’t like it as much as you expected and need to pivot into something new.
That’s why it’s important to be diversified and have a flexible skill set. If I didn’t diversify my skills, it would have taken me much longer to land my first job out of college with no leads, instead of being able to land it in just two months.