First step after high school graduation should be financial stability

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CLAY COUNTY – I can feel the excitement in the air this month as graduating seniors celebrate their achievements and prepare to go off to college, join the military, or begin working. My children are still a few years away from graduation, but as a proud resident of Clay County, I’d like to share a few tips for the new graduates in our community.

First, make an effort to learn about finances. This investment of your time will pay you back many times over throughout adulthood. Learn early and reap the benefits throughout the rest of your life.

Second, invest in yourself by putting money in some type of savings every month, whether it’s $5 or $50. As your salary increases or your financial situation improves, add more. Why save rather than spend that cash? In the worst-case scenario, you’ll have a safety net to help you pay an unexpected bill. Best-case scenario, you’ll have built a nest egg that might help you buy a car, put a down payment on your first home, or go on an awesome trip.

Third, make a budget. I recommend the “50/30/20 rule.” It’s simple: take your after-tax income (or monthly allowance) and spend 50 percent on basic needs; 30 percent on things you want, but are not essential (like dining out or a trip to the movies); and allocate 20 percent to debt repayment or a savings/investment account.

Fourth, begin building a strong credit score and history. While you do this, be diligent about managing debt and keeping it at a minimum. Only spend based on your budget and pay the balance off each month. Check your credit history yearly to make sure everything is correct.

Finally, protect your financial information! Don’t share passwords to your debit and credit cards or online accounts. Consider getting online statements. Keep your Social Security card, passport, checkbook and insurance information in a safe place.

And, if you are college bound, I encourage you to apply for Jax Federal Credit Union’s annual scholarship contest. We’ll award a $500 scholarship to a student from each Northeast Florida county we serve: Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Nassau, and Baker.

The deadline to apply is June 30. Visit our Orange Park branch or Jaxfcu.org/scholarship

for more info.

Congratulations to the class of 2019. I wish you all a future of financial success.

Joe Nowland lives on Fleming Island and is the president and CEO of Jax Federal Credit Union.

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