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What college students can do now to start investing

What college students can do now to invest

No matter what school they attend, almost every college student has one experience in common: being broke.

It is no secret that college in America is expensive. Between textbooks, room and board, and tuition, most students end up taking out loans. In fact, the average student loan balance for millennials is $10,600.

About 70% to 80% of college students work while attending school. However, that income often goes directly to paying for school expenses, with little left over for saving, let alone investing.

So why should college students start investing, despite their limited means?

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The advantage to investing early is that you'll have time on your side. The concept of compound interest, for instance, could help you multiply your savings over time. The earlier you start investing, the sooner you can reach your goals.

Technology has made investing available to everyone and, in some cases, at prices even college students can afford. There are numerous investing applications that allow users to trade stocks and invest in index funds for low prices.

However, not every student has the funds to invest. So what can they do?

Financial advisor and CNBC contributor Ric Edelman, founder of Edelman Financial Engines, suggests that students ignore the future, for now, and focus on the present. "You're investing in yourself, and that's the best stock that you can buy right now," he said.

St. John's College students
Courtesy of St. John's College

When you're still attending classes and attending tailgates, it can be hard to imagine what retirement may be like 50 years from now. Instead, focus on your courses and absorbing as much knowledge as you can.

If you expect to graduate with student loan debt, design a plan for how you are going to pay down that debt. Also, avoid taking on new expenses such as credit card debt. It is important to remember to live within your means.

Edelman says the easiest and fastest way to save for retirement is to start saving into an employer-sponsored retirement account. Many employers will match employee contributions up to a certain percentage. If your employer offers a match, you should save enough to earn the maximum match; otherwise, you are leaving free money on the table.

You're investing in yourself, and that's the best stock that you can buy right now.
Ric Edelman
founder of Edelman Financial Engines

If your employer does not offer an employer-sponsored retirement savings program, do not worry, there are other ways to save. Individual retirement accounts (IRAs), Roth IRAs and SEP IRA accounts are all great options.

It's important to focus on the present. When you graduate with a degree, you're more likely to earn more. Instead of spending recklessly with that new paycheck, consider living like a college student for a few more years while you put away cash.

CHECK OUT: 53% of people saving for retirement are making the same mistake via Grow with Acorns+CNBC.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.