In honor of graduation season, CNBC Make It is rolling out the speeches and pieces of advice that America's leaders are most excited to share with the Class of 2017. Follow along using the hashtag #MakeItNewGrads.
College students graduate with nearly infinite possibilities in front of them, but too many grads also leave college with a ton of student debt. At the end 2016, outstanding student loans had reached $1.3 trillion.
But whether or not you have loans to pay off, one of the most important things recent graduates and young people can do is "get themselves in financial control," Sallie Krawcheck, former CEO of Merrill Lynch's global wealth management division and founder of Ellevest, tells CNBC.
Sound overwhelming and confusing? It doesn't have to be, according to Krawcheck. The best place to start is with credit card debt or high-interest student loans.
"Your first goal should be to pay that off," says Krawcheck, whose alma mater is UNC Chapel Hill. "This kind of debt is insanely expensive and does nothing for you, except keep you up at night."
Do what you have to do to pay it off: "Live with roommates, rent a smaller apartment, eat ramen," advises Krawcheck. "Get that high-interest debt paid down."