Personal finance for graduates

Tips for New Grads:

Consolidate Student Loans: There are many great websites out there to help you decide whether and how to consolidate your loans. Check out www.estudentloan.com, a site that offers information and student loan rate comparisons; www.dinkytown.net, a tool that helps you determine if debt consolidation is right for you; and of course don't forget to consult www.salliemae.com, the largest private student loan provider. The sooner you consolidate, the less likely you'll risk facing increasing interest rates -- the Fed just boosted interest rates by a quarter percent, and Congress is considering a law banning fixed-rate student loan consolidations: www.cnn.com/2004/EDUCATION/06/07/student.loans.ap.

Create a Budget: Analyse your current home budget with Sound Money's calculator. You can also go to www.dinkytown.com, where they have a variety of debt, budget and retirement calculators. Also useful is www.paycheckcity.com, which offers tools to help manage your paycheck.

Manage Credit Card Debt: Use our credit card payoff estimator to determine what you need to do to handle your debt. Then get the best financial advice on the web from Chris Farrell: www.rightonthemoney.org.

Research Renter's Insurance: A good place to learn the basics is www.insweb.com. That site also offers insurance comparisons, though it's wise to shop around at other sites and companies, naturally.

Invest in a 401(k) or IRA: What's a 401(k) and why should you invest? Your key resource is Chris Farrell's Right on the Money! site, specifically www.rightonthemoney.org. Other sites include Fidelity's or you can see what a non-profit organization has to say about them at www.401k.org. What about that IRA thing? Chris Farrell: www.rightonthemoney.org. The Motley Fools: www.fool.com.

Set up Direct Deposit: There's a site dedicated to direct deposit at, of all places, www.directdeposit.org, sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Learn more about health insurance at www.einsurance.com or www.assurantshortterm.com

For more assistance in your finances, head on over to www.jumpstartcoalition.org, an organization that promotes state-wide personal finance education initatives. There's also www.consumerjungle.com, a site with financial literacy tools and curriculum for schools and parents.

Finally, if it's offline learning you crave, definitely pick up copies of Beth Kobliner's "Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties" and Fran Katzaneck's "Kaplan Reality 101".

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