Welcome to another installment of IonTuition’s Q&A series with personal finance bloggers. Today we have The Penny Hoarder’s Justin Cupler sharing his personal finance tips with us.
Justin Cupler is an assistant editor at The Penny Hoarder. He has been hoarding pennies since getting married seven years ago and having his first son six years ago.
What career advice do you have for those who have recently graduated college or started looking into new career paths?
Don’t limit yourself to just one job title. Be open to taking roles that are more flexible while still touching on your preferred role. This will allow you to gain experience in multiple areas, which is a very marketable skill as you move on in your career. It is almost like being a jack-of-all-trades sort of thing – have a specialty, but be more than competent in many things.
What are your best tips for people who have debt?
Start chipping away at it now. If you can cut expenses to create a surplus in your income, use that extra money to make larger payments on your higher-interest debts. If you cannot cut your expenses any further, consider a side gig to help get the extra few bucks you need to start making larger payments.
Can you offer some advice for people who carry student loan debt and are working toward repayment and trying to become financially stable?
Income-based repayment is always my first recommendation for those with big loans. Not only will this typically drive down your monthly payments to just 10-15% of your income, but it also frees you of your debt after paying for 20 to 25 years. If your loan is small enough, take on a side hustle and put all your extra cash toward the loan.
In your opinion, what are the most important workplace benefits recent graduates should watch for when accepting job offers?
Health insurance for you and your (future) family is always first, but outside of that, I suggest checking out the retirement plans. Most places offer some sort of retirement plan, but they are not all created equal. Some companies will actually pay you more to save by matching your 401(k) contributions dollar for dollar up to a certain percentage of your salary. This percentage typically ranges from 4-6%. So, if you come out of college making $40,000 per year and max out the match on your 401(k), the company will essentially pay you an extra $1,600 to $2,400 per year through this matching.
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?
I had difficulty picking a career path and sticking to it. Honestly, this helped me build character and learn from my mistakes, so I doubt I would change anything about it. I am definitely a stronger person having gone through this. Not that this is the path that everyone should take, but if you see yourself heading in this direction, don’t fret and learn from every misstep you take.
Any other advice to help our readers manage their education or advance their careers?
Never fear the unknown. You cannot truly move forward in life without occasionally walking down a dark and scary hallway. Feel your way around, pick yourself up if you trip and don’t be afraid of asking for a guide (help) every now and again.