It’s almost graduation season, which means thousands of 20-somethings are preparing to transition from the classroom to the workplace.
For you soon-to-be-grads, there’s good news and bad news.
Let’s start with the good: The average starting salary is on the rise across all 10 categories of degrees, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
While engineering and computer science grads are projected again to make the most ($66,521 and $66,005, respectively), these numbers are less than a 1% increase over last year. Math and science grads, on the other hand, are expected to see more significant increases — up 4.2% from last year, for an average of $61,867.
Now, for the bad: There are fewer jobs up for grabs this year — the first hiring decrease since 2010 — with employers planning to hire 1.3% fewer grads compared to last year.
So while finding a job may be more difficult, those who are successful can expect more pay than their 2017 counterparts.
Of course, finding a good-paying job is especially important for grads carrying student loan debt — which is a reality for about 45% of recent grads, according to a NerdWallet report. What’s more, 39% of those in debt don’t think they’ll be able to pay it off within 10 years.
The same report also estimates that the Class of 2018 can expect to purchase their first home at age 36 and retire at 72(!).
We get it, these are some daunting numbers, especially when you’re just stepping into the *real world*. But let these be motivation to start thinking about your financial future now. Here are three ways to get started:
1. Take advantage of employee benefits. Don’t just skim through these papers during your new-hire onboarding, you could inadvertently leave money on the table. Your employer may offer a 401(k) match, student loan assistance, commuter benefits, or a health reimbursement account — which could be game-changers for your finances.
RELATED: The New Grad’s Guide to Job Benefits
2. Start saving now. Saving money can seem like an impossible feat when you can barely cover your rent, but it’s seriously the best thing you can do. The earlier you start saving for retirement, the longer compound interest can do its thing (so you don’t have to work into your 70s). And building up an emergency fund can help you stay away from dreaded credit card debt. You don’t have to put away a lot — maybe it’s just $50 a month — but getting started early is key.
3. Address your student loans. If your student loan debt is giving you anxiety, you may be tempted to just ignore the problem. But guess what? That’s not going to make it go away — and it could have some serious ramifications. Instead, take stock of all your loans and their interest rates, and figure out your options (yes, there are options!) for paying them off.