In a more perfect academic environment, every college diploma handed out would come with a user's manual for navigating the new world of financial obligations, since money moves made — and avoided — in your 20s will reverberate for decades.
"The amounts you save matter less right now than the habits you form," said Ryan Frailich, founder of Deliberate Finances, a New Orleans-based advisory firm.
"If you get in the habit of having credit-card debt, that will follow you for a long time. If you get in the habit of just living paycheck to paycheck, that becomes your norm. The key at the start is to develop habits that will pay off for the rest of your life."
Here's how to get a great start:
Not wanting to get sucked into the world of high-rate credit card debt is admirable, yet a sad fact of your new financial reality is that building a strong credit score is important. Your payment history on a credit card is a major factor in calculating your credit score; your debit card spending does zilch for your credit score. Once you have a credit card only charge what you can afford to pay off in full each month.