Molly’s Money | Reader Question: What to do after landing the first “big kid” job?

July 31, 2014·

We are BACK for another edition of Molly’s Money where I talk about all things money, personal finance, etc. And I’m really excited to bring another Reader Question to the series. These are some of my favorite posts to write because I feel like a lot of the questions that I get are questions that MANY of you want to ask…

Without further ado, let’s get right to it:

First off, I absolutely love your blog.  Thank you so much for putting time into it!

A bit about me: I’m 22 years old, just graduated [college] and just landed my first “big girl” job!  I will have a salary, benefits, etc!  So exciting!!!  As I start this though (and have more money than I’ve ever even seen coming in each month, haha), I realize how important it is to take advantage of my single-ness and very minimal debt (I only have $2,800 in total debt from college) and make sure I start off on the right financial foot.

[…] I was wondering if you had any additional tips that you think would be helpful for me as I transition into this new stage of life.  I have read your entire Molly’s Money series (shoutout to you for that) but any additional advice would be wonderful!


Dear M,

First, I have to say that the fact that you’re even reading my money series and reaching out to me for advice and questions says SO much about you and your maturity. Money just wasn’t something I really thought all that much about when I graduated college.

What I mean is, that I didn’t really concern myself with how money was leaving my account. I just saw how much was coming in, and when you’re making $30,000 a year as a teacher your first year out of college, that sounds like MILLIONS of dollars.

Going from being a broke college kid living on Ramen noodles and Diet Coke, $30K a year is a lot. So with that all being said, I am really glad to hear that you’re even considering how you need to be spending your money. You’re setting yourself up for big time success down the road this year.

First, since your job is providing you a salary and benefits, I would take a good look at your retirement options. If it’s a 401K, see how much your company will match (if there is a contribution match program), and max it out. So, if your company will match up to 6%, then you should be putting 6% every month into your 401K. That ends up being 12% a month of your income going towards retirement.

Now, maxing it out is not something you always have to do, but I would highly, highly suggest doing it as long as you can. If you don’t max your contribution to your 401K out to whatever your company matches, you are essentially leaving money on the table.

Next, get a firm grasp of what you will be BRINGING HOME at the end of the money (after taxes, 401K contribution, health insurance, etc.). Then, write down EXACTLY what expenses you HAVE to pay each month… rent, cell phone, cable, etc. Just write the bare minimum of what it costs you to live. Then, see how much you have left over. Figure from there that you want to throw AS MUCH at your student debt (even though it’s only $2,800) as you can. Get rid of that debt ASAP. And finally, then write out a detailed monthly budget. My gracious I so wish I had done this when I graduated college.

If you have a car, keep driving it until it dies. Don’t go get a new car because you think you can afford one. Wait. If you have a car that works, KEEP IT.

Don’t buy a house until you have at least enough saved to put 20% down.

Have fun, spend time with your friends, and enjoy those first few years after college. You’re in a really special and unique time of your life right now. You’re independent, but also not in school. You have a job, but no husband or kids at home waiting for you. This is the time to travel, if you can afford it. This is the time to stay out late, if you can handle it. This is the time to buy the shoes, if you’ve saved for them.

Ultimately, be smart about the choices you make personally, professionally, and financially. I just so wish that someone would have sat me down when I graduated college and told me not to be so foolish and naive about my money. I was so immature and had no real understanding of the consequences big financial mistakes would have on me years down the road.

And lastly, if you haven’t read this post: “10 Things I Wish I Had Known About Money 10 Years Ago” and this one: “How To Plan For Your Financial Future When You’re Single” – read those. They also include a lot of what I’ve said today, but even more.

In the end, you’re clearly on the right track. You got this, girl!


Now what about you? What advice would YOU offer to M? Got any questions you’d like answered? Leave them in the comments below or shoot me an email!