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Graduating into student loan debt? Financial tips for Class of 2019

Financial tips for college grads with debt
Financial tips for new college grads with student debt 03:15
  • Graduates of the class of 2019 have an average student debt load of about $33,000.
  • New grads should track their finances through budgeting apps, not only for everyday spending but also to determine how much additional money they can put toward paying down debt. 
  • Remember the three biggest priorities of financial adulthood: Pay down debt, build up emergency savings, save for retirement. 

It's commencement season, and as nearly 2 million American college graduates don caps and gowns and take their first steps into the real world, they're also going to have to learn how to manage their finances — especially when the student loan debt bills start coming in. 

About 70% of college students are graduating with debt -- and the average student debt load is around $33,000, CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger recently told CBS This Morning. Parents should encourage their children to sign up for budgeting apps, many of which are offered for free from graduates' personal banks and from companies like Mint or Clarity Money. "Find out what's coming in, what's going out," Schlesinger advised.

Apart from helping new graduates track their everyday transactions, budgeting can also help new graduates figure out how much they can put towards their student loans beyond the minimum monthly payment. College grads who want to pay off their debts more quickly should figure out the interest rates for each of their outstanding loans and consider targeting the highest rate loans first for any expedited payments. 

Many shifting financial priorities 

Recent college grads might find it exciting to get that grownup paycheck from the first post-grad job, but they'll quickly find that bills can add up for adults: "Welcome to adulthood -- we have multiple priorities,"Schlesinger said.

Schlesinger said that new grads should just focus on these three priorities: Paying down debt, building an emergency savings account and building up retirement savings. "One is not necessarily more important than the other, we sort of have to say yes to all of them," she said.

However, she warned parents never to shortchange their own futures to help their children, calling it "dangerous." Parents should wait until their own retirement accounts are secure before helping out their children with loans or down payments -- or they risk finding they have to rely on their children's generosity when they're older.

"You want to assist and guide, but not to enable," Schlesinger said. 

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