If you’ve just managed to secure your first job then you’re probably a bag of emotions right now. No more classes, subjects you hate, exams or res parties. You have officially entered the working world and, as exhilarating as that may feel right now, your world is suddenly filled with brand new responsibilities.
So, welcome to incredible independence and the freedom to… pay your bills
Your first paycheque is bound to feel extremely exciting. That chunk of change in your bank account will give you a new sense of fulfillment and achievement. You are successfully adulting now. Or so you think. Have you thought about what you’re going to do with that first paycheque? And no, this is not about purchasing those brand new sneakers you have had your eye on, nor is it about more freedom to indulge in the night life. This is about making sound financial decisions. If you are able to handle your money in a smart way you will inevitably end up reaching larger goals. Getting into the habit of saving at least ten percent of your income now, for example, will see you sitting pretty with some solid savings down the line. Need to purchase a new car? Want to travel overseas? Having savings can afford you these opportunities. Not to mention, if things go awry and there’s an emergency you have the money to assist you as necessary.
South Africans are very bad at saving. The youth need to learn more about saving and less about spending. And, there’s no course one can take on learning how to save money, you just have to knuckle down and do it. However, most things are easier to do when you have a plan. Having a financial plan in place now, when you first start earning an income, sets you up well in the future. This will help prevent you from struggling financially later on in life.
Have a monthly budget
Are you paying back a student loan? Are you paying off a car? Have you managed to rack up some debt on retail accounts? Make sure you create a monthly budget so that you can see exactly where you money is going. Also, when drawing up the list of your debit orders you can include non-negotiables such as your savings. By setting up a debit order from your bank account to your savings account you never have to think about it again but you can rest assured that you are saving each month and the money is safe and accruing interest.
Pay more than necessary to clear debt
You are allowed to have make some mistakes – a retail account that needs paying off; deposits on your new car. Having debt is probably one of the quickest ways to learn what you don’t want. But if you’re smart then you’ll start clearing your debt as soon as you have a secure income. Debt is part of everyone’s life but there is the concept of good debt and bad debt that helps you figure out what to get rid of. The short story is, get rid of all your retail accounts as they are short-term debt but will very high interest rates, cut up your credit cards and operate in cash only. And push additional money into your monthly car payments.
Cover yourself, medically
Being rushed to hospital is not only one of the most unpleasant experiences you’ll ever have but it can bankrupt you if you don’t make sure you’re covered. Covering yourself for private healthcare in South Africa is extremely important. Our public healthcare is not up to standard, the waiting periods for treatment and medical assistance are very long and the facilities themselves are less than ideal. But private healthcare is unaffordable to the majority of South Africans. If your new company doesn’t offer medical aid as a part of their offer then find a medical cover service provider soonest. Because your salary is small and possibly quite stretched already, consider health care options for hospital plans. By having a hospital plan you can rest assured that, should you land up in hospital, you’ll be covered. This is an absolute non-negotiable.
There are a myriad of other things to consider: ways to save, ways to make your working life easier. But for now, the three suggestions above will at least set you up properly. Once these three areas of your finances are sorted you can then consider the next option, or not. Sometimes, you need to ease into this adulting thing. It can be tough to be this responsible immediately.