Investing can seem like a complicated and mysterious beast. How are we supposed to make sense of all of the jibber-jabbery jargon and numbers? Company-matching 401ks, Roth IRAs maxed out at $5,500 annually, $3,000 minimum investments, $8.95 fees for every trade, any time you trade and many more mind-boggling figures.

Prices like that make investing intimidating to anyone remotely interested in putting their money to work. Fortunately, three companies are taking advantage of new technologies by releasing apps and services that make investing a lot friendlier to people with a bit of pocket change, enabling us all to do something a little different it than letting our money gather lint in our sock drawers.

Just how much easier are these companies making it? Of the following three listed below, the highest minimum balance required is only $250. As far as introducing us to investing, one app is completely passive, meaning you don't need to do anything but set it and forget it. Another asks that you know a little bit about the company you want to invest in, and the last is variable - you can do as much or as little research as you like. No time needed, to as much time as you want. Prices range from (almost) free to $250. Sounds good, right?

Today's Top Three Investing Apps

Acorns (no minimum $ needed): Acorns is an app that rolls over the change from any purchases you make into an investing account. Say you buy a used book that's $4.85; $.15 gets rolled up, and every time your rollups add up to $5, an investment is made in a diversified portfolio, meaning a combination of stocks, bonds and short-term investments. You can pick between several different assortments, depending on how long you'd like to invest for, and how much risk you'll tolerate. Acorns will then make projections for your portfolio with best and worst case scenarios over a span of time. Though there are small fees and they are higher proportionately than they would be for large investment firms. Acorns allow you access to investing in great funds that no other company does.

Robinhood (minimum $ needed: the cost of a single share of stock): Their motto: “Stop paying up to $10 for every trade.” That means if you only want to buy a share of a company worth $10, you don’t have to pay an additional fee on top of that, thus simplifying the math and the process of buying stocks. What's more, the company is open about how they make money and about how technology makes their non-existent trading fees possible. They also have no minimum deposit, which when compared to the $500 minimum for both E*Trade and Scottrade, and $1000 for Schwab, it makes Robinhood a great beginner's option into the world of stock trading.

Motif Investing (minimum $ needed: $250): Motif is a way of packaging up to 30 companies together, called a concept, and you only get charged $9.95 for the entire transaction instead of the 30 trading fees you would be charged at other brokerages. Concepts can be trends (like tablets, wearable tech, and healthcare), a trading strategy (buying when stocks take a dip) or a retirement focus with an accompanying timeline. This allows you to invest in what you know, whether that is a certain industry, a place in the world or companies that are socially responsible. Motifs is both professionally built and generated by the community, so they all come with extensive history, user ratings and feedback.

These apps are a great, low-risk place to start for those interested in dipping their toes into the (not so scary) investing tide pool.

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After weeks of studying and cramming, school's finally out for summer. Time to kick back, relax and enjoy a few months of freedom, right? Not so fast. For most students, summer means time to get a job, and a less-than-stellar one at that. Here are some tips on how to feel better when you're deep in the throes of your lousy summer gig.

Camp Counselor
Love kids? You may not after doing the camp counselor thing for a couple of weeks. No matter what age group you're dealing with, looking after other people's children is hard work. Worse yet, you're probably making a mere $300 per week if you're working at a day camp. On the other hand, working at camp is sort of a rite of passage, and it makes for a great bonding experience. You'll make friends, get exercise and have some good stories to share when school picks up again.

Lifeguard
Lifeguards seem to have it made, huh? All they do is sit up there on their tall chairs, work on their tans and look out over the pristine waters below them. Try again. Being a lifeguard is difficult work, and spending hours in the hot, beating sun can take a toll on you both mentally and physically. Oh yeah, and there's also the pressure to, you know, save people from drowning--not exactly a stress-free gig, especially given the meager 10 bucks an hour you're probably making. On the other hand, there are worse places to work than the pool or the beach, and when the weather cooperates, there's nothing like sitting up in that chair and catching a breeze.

Waiter
Slap a smile on your face, because people are hungry and they're counting on you to get them fed. Being a waiter is hard work. From rude customers to all those hours spent on your feet, it's easy enough to grow weary on the job. The good news is that you've got the potential to make some serious dough. While waiters only make about $10 an hour on average, you can supplement your hourly rate with money earned from tips. So the next time a customer orders a cheeseburger and asks you to hold both the meat and the cheese, nod your head politely, flash your most sincere grin and go put the order in. You can roll your eyes and make jokes with the kitchen staff once you're well out of earshot.

Amusement Park Attendant
There's nothing like the joy you see on people's faces as they spend a fun day at the amusement park. Yeah right. Most amusement park outings are miserable for parents and employees alike. From crowds to line-cutters to tantrum-throwing kids, working at an amusement park takes a serious dose of patience. And at an average of only $10 an hour, it's no wonder you feel like calling it quits. But think about the upside. You're outdoors. You're getting fresh air. You can ride a roller coaster during your break. Things could always be worse.

Of course, just because you're only available for a couple of months doesn't mean you can't try landing an office job instead. Some companies see an uptick in business over the summer and need temporary employees on hand for everything from proofreading to data entry. While you may have to forego the casual summer wardrobe in favor of corporate attire, there's a good chance you'll snag a higher hourly rate by opting for a more professional environment. Plus, most businesses have air conditioning. Kind of hard to argue with that.

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If kissing your husband off to work and spending your day cleaning the house doesn't sound appealing to you, you're probably one of the many women not only in the workforce but leading it. With 7.8 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., making up 28.7 percent of all nonfarm companies in the country, according to National Women's Business Council, women in the workplace are here to stay. Whether you are heading off to college for your MBA or getting ready to venture into your own startup, feel empowered -- I am woman, hear me roar!

The statistics are clear: Women are more business-focused than ever.
Gone are the days when women had no expectations except to sit at home cooking. In fact, there's simply no limit to what women can do today. If you've always loved the smell of repairing cars or the thrill of designing a website, there's virtually no limit on your ability to learn and grow in this field. Some fields continue to lag, but there are programs and conferences taking place around the country encouraging today's young women to enter fields such as tech. The Conference to Advance Women in Tech at UCLA, for example, brought together influential women in April 2015 to discuss mentorship, opportunities and how to get more women interested in this lucrative career. You can be a part of this now.

Not interested in working but want to run a business?
This is where some of the really interesting statistics come out. Women are not just working more, but they are staring their own businesses. A recent article at Entrepreneur.com has these facts to show for women business leaders in the U.S.:

  • $2.5 trillion in sales in the U.S. economy come from women-lead businesses.
  • There are more than 19.1 million people working in women-lead companies. This accounts for one in every seven people working in the country.
  • Women entrepreneurs contribute $38 billion in the information technology sector and $25 billion in telecommunications.
  • They make up 16.4 percent of retail trade, 45 percent of all service industries, and 6 percent of the construction industry.

Still not too sure if you want to lead a company? You don't have to.
Some women are fully satisfied right at home.

If the thought of settling down with a nine-to-five isn't something you're ready for, don't worry about it. Many women find that remaining at home, raising a family or just enjoying their lives on their own terms is completely acceptable. That's what makes this trend of women getting into the workforce so interesting. Women can choose to be a part a company or stay home. Both avenues are completely acceptable today.

There's still a lot of work to be done, ladies (and men).
That's not to say, though, that things are equal in the workforce when it comes to women. A recent Time article shows that women still earn less than men. The gender pay gap has dropped to 24 percent of what men make, but that's still significantly less than what any of us would call acceptable. There's still some good news, though.

  • More women are graduating from high school than ever.
  • 71 percent of all women now go to college (only 61 percent of men do).
  • 40 percent of mothers are now the sole or primary income earners in the family.

These figures, from ResourcefulManager.com provide a clear indication of one thing. Things are changing. Women, you should feel as though you have every opportunity to achieve your dreams no matter if you want to bake a soufflé today or lead the next technology startup to change the world.

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Being the IT guy in a business can either make you the most hated person in the company or the man (or woman) of the hour. Most of the time, it's somewhere in between, but it's a highly-regarded position in any company.

The IT sector is one of the fastest growing industries in America, and that trend is expected to continue through at least 2020. So, why the huge growth, and why would someone want this job instead of another (besides playing on a computer all day for a living)?

Look at the Benefits
First, the pay certainly doesn't suck. The average pay for a network engineer is $64,429 nationwide, and other disciplines net in the 75--100K range from day one. While managing the Wi-Fi for ranchers in Iowa probably won't net this much, other areas pay substantially more (California, I'm looking at you). There's a job shortage in IT, so everyone is competing with benefits, great pay, vacation -- you name it -- to get the top talent. To top it off, Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter, Amazon and Netflix have some of the best places to work in the world.

Ok, so not everyone has a "nap room" like Google or unlimited vacation time like Netflix, but it is still a pretty cool gig, even at an average job and title. Some jobs are more engineering centric, while others are call-center oriented. IT is a very wide sector to get in to with many opportunities to cross-train, advance and get paid well doing it. My personal favorite reason, though, is because I love what I do. And if I have to work 40–60 hours per week, I might as well do what I love. It's not for everyone -- it requires a very unique mix of creative and highly analytical skills. Patience certainly helps in the troubleshooting process, but if you don't have it, it's helpful to remember computers don't judge you for yelling at them -- even if your coworkers do.

Start Learning Today
So, if you want to get into IT, what should you have or do? By far, the most qualifying credential is the love of learning and computers -- and learning about computers. Despite popular belief, programming skills are optional depending on what field you want to go in to -- ut at least knowing the basic functions is handy. Sites like Code Academy and EdX help with that (I'm all about free learning -- but for a wider and deeper approach, something like Lynda is certainly worth the dough). Some other notable sites to learn are ALISON, Coursera, and Udemy. Even Google is also absolutely invaluable to find documentation and forums, and YouTube "how-to's" have helped me out of more than one pickle.

A college degree of any level is certainly helpful and provides the information necessary to get started. Certifications are also a great way to get noticed on your resume -- especially if you have no college experience. With that being said, experience is king for most employers. If you don't have any experience and don't want to go to college, begin by getting some certs first. Cybrary is my personal favorite website to help get certification. Start with the smaller and more basic ones like CompTIA’s A+ and Networking+ for a solid Desktop Support or Helpdesk role, and work your way up to wherever you want to be. There's a certification for everything under the sun, from Cisco's entry level cert for networking to the coveted CISSP.

While certifications prove you know your stuff, experience is still the best option. Because nobody begins experience with experience, certifications (or college) can help to get your foot in the door. Besides, with the variety of options within the field, you can tailor your education and training to fit a future career that works for you.

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We all know that recommendation letters can play a pivotal role in the college application process. But do they work the same way in the professional world?

Some hiring managers will tell you that they're not interested in recommendation letters. Others may prefer to speak to your former bosses and colleagues and ask questions rather than just read what they have to say.

But then there are those for whom recommendation letters are instrumental when making hiring decisions. And since you never know what the situation will be when you go to apply for jobs in the future, it's a good idea to get your hands on some recommendation letters along the way.

Who to Ask
If you're a student and have yet to hold a job, your best bet is to ask a teacher or professor who knows you well to write a recommendation. But if you've worked at all, even part-time, feel free to hit up your current or former supervisor to write a letter on your behalf.

If you're already part of the working world and have a good relationship with your manager, he or she is a great candidate to author your letter of recommendation. But don't limit yourself to your superiors; it’s perfectly acceptable to ask your colleagues to write recommendation letters as well.

When to Ask
Though it's fine to go back to former colleagues or managers and ask for recommendation letters, you may be better off requesting them while your working relationship is still going strong. Remember, it takes time to write a good letter of recommendation, and some companies ask for written references up-front as part of the job application process. If you have a letter on file, you'll be able to offer it up as needed.

Now if you're thinking it could be awkward asking your current boss for a recommendation, well, you're right. When approaching a manager, be sure to emphasize the fact that you're not looking to leave your job, but rather just want something on file that speaks to your work ethic and capabilities. A good manager will understand where you're coming from and will likely comply.

On the other hand, don't be surprised if your boss or colleagues turn down your request. Unfortunately, some companies have policies that prohibit the endorsement of fellow employees in writing.

What You Want Your Letters to Say
Ideally, any letter of recommendation you get should be as personalized as possible. The person who authors the letter may throw in some buzz words or clichés, and that's fine, but make sure the bulk of what's written doesn't come off as generic. A recommendation that reads like a form letter isn't likely to do much for your career. What you really want is an endorsement that highlights your best traits as an employee and shows others why it's a great idea to hire you versus someone else. If, for example, you're good at staying calm under pressure or managing multiple projects at once, those are the sort of things you'll want in a recommendation letter, along with specific examples that drive the point home.

Not Just on Paper
Your recommendation doesn't have to come in the form of a formal letter. Sites like LinkedIn are also helpful for sourcing and displaying recommendations.

Finally, don't discard older recommendation letters once you get new ones. A steady stream of accolades shows that your stellar performance is not just limited to a particular project or job, and if there's one thing hiring managers are big on, it's consistency.

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Whether you're currently looking for a job or want to increase your chances of finding one in the future, these days, a resume will only get you so far. While your resume is a great place to summarize your work experience, it's hard to capture your talent and personality on a single piece of paper. And, depending on your line of work, your resume may not be a true indicator of what you're really capable of doing. That's where online portfolios comes in.

Why Create an Online Portfolio?
An online portfolio is a great way to showcase your skills and accomplishments. While any type of professional can benefit from creating a portfolio, you should especially consider one if you work in a creative field. After all, it's one thing to say you're a great copywriter or web designer, but it's another thing to prove it by displaying your samples for the world to see. In fact, according to Workfolio, a company that provides products and services for professional visibility, 56 percent of hiring managers are more impressed by personal websites than any other personal branding tool, including standard resumes.

An online portfolio also gives you an opportunity to sell yourself as a person. Sure, you can list your experience on a resume, but you can't really get into detail. With a portfolio site, on the other hand, you can show off your work, but also the thought process behind it.

Furthermore, if you are looking for work (or simply want to keep your options open), an online portfolio can help you set yourself apart from the competition. Since only 7 percent of job seekers actually have personal websites, if you create one, you're sending a message that you take pride in your work and are willing to make the effort to market yourself accordingly.

How to Build Your Site
There are numerous platforms for creating your online portfolio. A few popular choices include:

  • WordPress: If you're looking to create an online library of your writing samples but don't have too many technical skills beyond that, WordPress is a good place to start. And it's free.
  • Carbonmade: If you're an artist or designer, Carbonmade is a great platform for displaying your creations. In fact, the site boasts over 900,000 portfolios to date. The only downside is that it'll cost you between $6 and $24 a month to maintain your portfolio depending on the number of projects you're looking to upload.
  • Coroflot: Want to show off your talent as an illustrator or designer? Coroflot hosts over 2 million images and publishes more than 150,000 new projects a month--for free. It also includes a job board.
  • Wix: If you're looking for a free, user-friendly website builder, try Wix. Wix is designed to help users create a professional looking website that is easy to update and edit. Plus, they offer user forums for troubleshooting tips.
  • Domain Hosts: If you already know what goes into creating a website and want to cement your site into the online realm then purchasing a domain name is a great idea. Simply having a .com address can boost credibility when showing off your portfolio. Average costs can range from $1.99 to $8.00 a month.

Crafting Your Site
At a minimum, your portfolio should include:

  • Samples of your work
  • Details about you--your background, your interests and your goals
  • A link to your official resume
  • Your contact information

When crafting your portfolio, be sure to:

  • Give it personality. Your portfolio should be anything but boring.
  • Make it user-friendly. Your site should be clean, organized and easy to navigate.
  • Avoid errors. Poor grammar and broken links can make you look sloppy and unprofessional.
  • Keep it current. Add recent samples of your work, and if your site includes a blog, update it regularly.

Yes, an online portfolio takes work. But it's also a fantastic opportunity to promote yourself and convince others that you're as awesome at your craft as you claim to be. And once you set up your portfolio, you'll most likely come to find that maintaining it is not only easy, but fun.

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If you want to get technical about it, my first roommate was actually my younger sister, and she and I butted heads on more than one occasion. But the first person I shared a living space with outside my parents' home or the confines of a college dorm was a rather interesting gal we'll call J.

I found J through an online listing for an open room in her two-bedroom Manhattan apartment. I brought a friend along to see the place and meet her, and we both agreed that she seemed nice and normal enough. Two weeks and $2,000 later, I was handing over last month's rent and a security deposit and moving into J's spare room.

The Beginning

Things seemed to be going fine at first. She did her thing, I did mine, and we generally didn't see much of one another since we both worked long hours. But that all changed somewhere around the 3-week mark when I had the audacity to invite a friend over for dinner at 8:00pm on a Tuesday. That's right: One friend, for a quick dinner at a reasonable hour. No sooner did she leave when J emerged from her room and went off on a diatribe about how inconsiderate I'd been, and that in the future I'd be obligated to obtain her consent before bringing guests to her--not our, but her--apartment.

For the next month, J's inner crazy really began to take hold, manifesting in a variety of scenarios so nuts you'd think I was making them up (but I'm not--sadly, this all actually happened to me). First she stole some of my medication out of our shared bathroom cabinet. Then she clogged up the toilet and left it for me to plunge. And eventually, she started making a habit of moving the living room furniture around without consulting me, often times barricading the door to my bedroom in the process.

Continued Crazy

On one occasion she left a punctured ice pack she'd been using on the floor to melt. Not wanting to make a scene, I cleaned up the mess and tossed out the torn bag. Later that night, she hollered at me for disposing of her property without permission and threatened to take legal action the next time I dared mess with her stuff.

The final straw was when I came home one Friday to discover that she'd rented out our couch for the weekend to make some extra money--money she had no intention of splitting with me. I told her I wanted to move out, at which point she informed me that if I did, I'd be in violation of the sub-lease I'd signed upon moving in. Sure enough, she was right. I was legally obligated to pay rent or find a replacement roommate who met her approval.

What I Know Now

I learned a lot of things from my first roommate experience—namely:

  • Get references before moving in with a stranger. If possible, try to find out why his or her last roommate moved out. Do some Google stalking to see if anything glaringly ridiculous comes up.
  • Set ground rules that are consistent and fair. You could even do a Leonard and Sheldon-style roommate agreement, albeit far less detailed and extreme.
  • When living with a crazy person, never leave your favorite ice cream unattended. Otherwise you may come home to an empty pint on the counter with a note attached reading "Needed more freezer space so this had to go. Next time check with me before taking liberties with storage."

Like I said: You can't make this stuff up.

Photo by Brandon O'Connor via cc.

Whether you're new to the job market or have been part of the workforce for more years than you'd like to count, the right recruiter can be a valuable resource when you're searching for work. A good recruiter can open doors to different opportunities, and some even offer guidance on all things job-related, from interview tips to resume suggestions. But unfortunately, there are some recruiters out there who don't have job seekers' best interests at heart. Since it's common practice for recruiters to work on a commission basis, some professionals in the headhunting industry have a tendency to aggressively push candidates to take jobs that aren't ideal simply to earn more money.

So how does your recruiter stack up? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Does he or she take your job requirements seriously? Your recruiter shouldn't pressure you to accept a lower salary than you're looking for, or a job with a much longer commute than you're comfortable with. He or she should also be mindful of other preferences, such as your willingness to travel or work overtime on a regular basis.
  • Does he or she push you to apply for jobs that don't match your experience level? Your recruiter shouldn't try to sell you on a position for which you're clearly overqualified. While it's true that many roles come with some administrative duties, your recruiter shouldn't try to hide these or convince you to ignore them. Rather, he or she should make sure that the job responsibilities in question align with your career goals.
  • Does he or she send out your resume without consulting you first? Some recruiters have a practice of blasting out resumes whenever a new position rolls in. Your recruiter should give you an opportunity to review a job listing and express your interest before submitting your resume.
  • Does he or she encourage you to lie on your resume or during an interview? It's okay to play up your skills, but lying about your experience or misrepresenting your qualifications is never a good idea. If your recruiter suggests or promotes lying, it's a sign that he or she is probably not the most honest individual to begin with.
  • Does he or she tell you where you stand? It's not uncommon for the same recruiter to submit multiple resumes in response to a job opening, but if yours already has a viable candidate in the works, he or she should be candid about that and let you know.

On the other hand, a trustworthy recruiter will:

  • Take the time to understand the type of job you're looking for.
  • Care about the reasons you left your previous job or are unhappy at your current job.
  • Prepare you for interviews and check in afterward to get your feedback.
  • Offer suggestions on how to improve your resume or skill set.
  • Be respectful of your time by not wasting it on openings that clearly aren't right for you.

Remember, a recruiter's job is to listen to what you want out of your next job and work to match you up with an appropriate opportunity. If you have reason to believe that your recruiter doesn't have your best interests in mind, you shouldn't hesitate to end the relationship and find someone else to assist with your job search. There are plenty of honest, talented recruiters out there, and finding the right one is the first step toward landing the job that's best for you.

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Graduation is coming. School's almost over. If you're like I was, you're thinking about three things:

  • Summer is coming.
  • I hope I don't have to plan any reunion ever.
  • Time to start saving for retirement!

Okay. Did I at least get two out of three? But if you aren't thinking about saving for retirement yet, you're not alone. According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 32 pecent of adults save zero percent of their income for retirement every year.

That's one out of every three people saving absolutely nothing for their future.

Don't be that one person. If you're not saving now, ask yourself why not. Is it because you don't think you make enough? A dollar a day can make Future You that much happier. Besides, you're not just saving up a bunch of money for the sake of having a bunch of money. You're figuring out how you want to live, and what it will take over the coming years to maintain that lifestyle, especially if you decide you'd like to work less later on, or not at all.

From investing in yourself to compounding interest to mini-retirements, here are some reasons why saving for retirement can make you better prepared for an easier, more fulfilling life.

  • Job Uncertainty. Saving for retirement means paying Future You a living wage, and not worrying (like 30 percent of adults) about being laid off or having your wages reduced because you're prepared.
  • Invest in Yourself First. Warren Buffett says the best investment you can make is investing in yourself. Planning for retirement is planning for your future self. Are you going to argue with the Oracle of Omaha?
  • The Life You Want. By thinking about how you want to live, you can figure out what kinds of savings you'll need to have at the point you stop working full-time.
  • Let Calculators Calculate. This list of calculators will make number crunching simple, for everything from compounding interest to retirement funds.
  • Don't Think Decades, Think Days. Investing a dollar a day, or $30 a month, can have impressive returns. Starting at 18, and being consistent, can set you up for a stress-free retirement.
  • Go the Roth IRA route. If you're under 18, your parents can co-sign, and you're off for the retirement races. Starting at 19 instead of 25 can lead to a difference of over $300,000 when you retire.
  • The earlier you start, the less it takes (percentage-wise). Wait until you're 40, and you might have to save 14 percent of your income to save as much as you want. Start at 25, save just six percent.
  • Learn from others. Two websites, Mr Money Mustache and Early Retirement Extreme, take retirement saving to the limits. With that, they offer helpful lessons and reader stories so you can see how others like yourself are saving for the life they want.
  • Seven years on, One year off. Rethink retirement as that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Stefan Sagmeister is famous in the creative and design world for his practice of taking sabbaticals every seven years.
  • Mini-retirements. Tim Ferriss advocates for the idea of using mini-retirements on a regular basis to energize and inspire you. Get into this regular habit and saving will become automatic.

Whether you treat retirement as a when-all-is-said-and-done deal, a spice to sprinkle along your life's journey, or something else entirely, know that by beginning to save now you will have much more control of - and get more enjoyment from - your life

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You studied for more hours than you can count. You combed through countless textbooks, wrote dozens upon dozens of papers and survived finals week many times over. And thankfully, all that hard work has finally paid off, because here you are, celebrating your college graduation.

Making it through college is a major accomplishment, and if you're lucky, family members and friends will acknowledge your achievement by showering you with heaps of congratulatory cash. Figuring out how to spend all that graduation money is a good problem to have, and here are some tips to get you started.

First, the Responsible Stuff
Sure, you'll be entering the working world soon enough, and with that will (ideally) come a steady paycheck. But unless you've already secured a job, it's hard to say how long it'll take you to find work. And if you're planning to live on your own once employed, you may find most of your money eaten up by rent and other monthly expenses. So if you've got a decent chunk of graduation money at your disposal, make the following smart moves:

  • Start or add to your savings account. Even if you're planning to live at home for the time being, you still need money on hand in case you encounter an emergency. And if you're planning to move out, you should have at least three months of expenses saved up before you take the plunge.
  • Put aside money for move-in expenses. Once you sign a lease, there's a good chance you'll be looking at first and last month's rent plus a security deposit all up front. Throw in the cost of movers and new furniture and you'll need a pretty decent amount of money just to get yourself situated.
  • Pay off a chunk of your student loans. Even if you've resigned yourself to making monthly payments for the foreseeable future, you may be able to shorten that payback period by six months, a year, or even longer.
  • Pay off your credit cards. If you racked up debt during college (and you wouldn't be the first), you now have a great opportunity to rid yourself of the looming dark cloud that is your credit card balance.
  • Put a down payment on a car. If you don't have a car but need one to commute, this one's a no-brainer. Similarly, if your current vehicle needs major repairs, better to tackle them now while you've got the cash.

And Now the Fun Stuff
You've worked hard to get through college, and you deserve to use at least some of your gift money for things that are just plain fun. So you may want to:

  • Take a big trip. Once you start working, you may find it difficult to get away, so now's the time to check one or two items off your travel bucket list.
  • Update your wardrobe. Dressing professionally doesn't have to mean wearing the same boring attire day in, day out. Treat yourself to some clothing that's as fashionable as it is functional.
  • Buy a new gadget. Tired of dealing with a phone battery that won't last? Need a new tablet or laptop? Here's the perfect opportunity to upgrade.
  • Give back. It's hard to put a price tag on that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from helping others. Consider making a donation to your favorite charity while you've got the money to do so.

No matter what you decide to do with your graduation money, just remember: It may be a gift, but you earned it. And that's reason enough to celebrate.

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