You DID IT!  You worked hard, you burned the midnight oil and now you are a college graduate!  And if you were one of the lucky one, you have a job in your field that you love and are on your way to financial stability.

If you play your cards right, that is.  Graduating, hitting the work force full time and enjoying your success can also be a pitfall. Especially if the financial decisions made are not well thought out or do not benefit you in the future!

Here are a few tips for that college graduate to help maintain financial freedom years after the degree is framed.

Invest in your companies 401K:  It may seem like you have years to save money for retirement.  And it may be that you have heard of so many companies going under and employees losing their money that you are worried.  But the reality is that a companies 401K is still the best way to save for your retirement.  And the sooner you invest, the more you will have later on down the line.

Set up automatic draft to your savings account:  Out of sight, out of mind is a popular saying for a reason.  In reality, 10% of your paycheck should be going to savings every time you get paid.  But we all know that we often live outside of our means and that is we see it in our paycheck, we want to spend it.  So setting up an auto draft through your employer and forget about it!  Just like your 401K it goes in an account and accumulates for when you really need it!

Stay away from Credit Cards: It is so tempting to take a “special offer” or a “12 months of no interest” but the reality is, that time flies and you end up paying a large rate that has accumulated over the year.  In addition, a lot of those offers come with some fine print that can have you paying additional fees, higher rates and annual fees that you overlooked in your excitement of the offer.  Credit scores affect everything from mortgage rates to whether or not you get a job these days.  It is best to stay away from credit card debt if you can at all avoid it!

Whatever you do after college, try to be smart.  The best way to get ahead is to start out ahead.  By saving and investing wisely and staying away from the typical pitfalls, you can remain financially secure long after that great graduation!