All Bell Bank locations and offices will be closed Monday, January 18, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. With the federal holiday, transactions after close of branch on Friday, January 15, will be processed on Tuesday, January 19.
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Although you've spent the last few years learning as much as you can to prepare for your career, you probably have more questions than answers.
We asked some soon-to-be college grads who have worked at Bell Bank about their burning financial questions. Then we asked some of our experts to answer them. Read on for their words of wisdom.
Q. When looking for a career, should I put more emphasis on the salary or the benefits I receive?
– Vincent Sweeney, customer service representative
A. You should consider both benefits and salary. With rising health-care costs and uncertainty over what Social Security benefits may look like in the future, it’s especially important to pay attention to a company’s health insurance and retirement plans. Don’t weigh benefits like leave and vacation time as heavily as salary, health insurance and a retirement plan. It’s very beneficial if your employer contributes to a health savings account (HSA), which is like a 401(k) for health expenses. Some companies also offer student loan reimbursement, so if you’re burdened by college debt, ask potential employers if they offer student loan reimbursement as part of their benefits package.
– Matt Bushard, wealth management advisor
Related: First Job? Start Out on the Right Financial Foot
Q. When starting their career, most people make more money than they ever have. How do you make sure you don’t overspend? After college, many new expenses come up, like trying to buy a house, new car or other toys, and saving for retirement, marriage and starting a family. How do I know how much I can spend on these expenses?
– Blake Anderson, customer service representative
A. Landing that first job and getting that first paycheck after completing college is no doubt exciting, satisfying and cause for celebration! But with newfound independence comes the accumulation of new expenses. Having a plan for saving should be a priority.
First, create a budget. Include a calculation of income against expenses. Whatever is left over should go to savings and an emergency fund. Second, cut out unnecessary spending. Ask which of your expenses are more want than need and where you can find other ways to spend less. Consider dining in with friends instead of going to a restaurant, carpooling, and shopping discount instead of name brand. Finally, be self-disciplined! If you can’t stick to your plan or you start outliving your means, you’ll fall behind in saving and likely have to play catch-up later on in your working career. Make saving for a goal, like starting a family, taking vacations and retirement, part of your budget!
– Craig Samuelson, investments manager
Related: Stepping into Retirement
Q. How important is having a good credit score, and what can I do to start building credit?
– Trevor Dahlof, teller
A. A strong credit score can be a great benefit. Conversely, a poor credit score can significantly inhibit your opportunities. For example, if you want to purchase your first home or lease your first apartment, you need to have a credit history and a good credit report. Lenders want to see how responsible applicants are with their finances, and a credit report gives a clear picture of that.
A secured credit card or CD-secured loan, which uses certificates of deposit as collateral for a loan, are good options for someone looking to build credit. It’s important to limit how much spending you do with a credit card in relation to the card limit and to make payments on time, in full, every month. Consistent, good payment history month after month will start you on the right path to a strong credit score.
– Tom Scheid, assistant branch manager
Related: How to Build a $10,000 Savings Account in 4 Years
Q. How do I start the home-buying process? Should I wait and keep saving until my student debt isn’t as large or is paid off?
– Bennett Lystad, customer service representative
A. Saving money is always a good thing! Loan programs and closing costs vary, and while there are down-payment assistance programs to help first-time homebuyers, there is still an investment that soon-to-be homeowners will need to make.
If you’re thinking about buying a home – even if it won’t be for several months – you should meet with a mortgage lender so we can talk about your goals and guide you through the next steps. We will do a credit check and verify your income and employment. This initial meeting is a great time to ask any questions you might have about the home-buying process. Realtors, sellers and builders are going to ask if you have a mortgage pre-approval letter before they start working with you, so it’s always best to meet with a mortgage lender first. Pre-approval is key and will give you an edge in a competitive market.
– Keely Schlichting, mortgage lender
Related: Millennials, You Can Purchase Your First Home
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