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Congratulations – you’ve earned your degree or diploma! Now is the perfect time to take a few minutes to review this five-step post-grad tutorial that will help you get a solid financial start on your new life.

1. Manage your student loan For the first six months after graduation, you don’t actually have to make a payment but interest will accrue. Find out what your payment will be and include it in your budget. More is better but make at least the minimum payment each month. If you are unable to make payments, contact the loan provider right away.

If you have a Canada Student Loan, you may qualify for the Repayment Assistance Plan. If yours is a bank loan, you may be able to negotiate temporarily lowered payments.

2. Save for tomorrow with an RRSP Consider putting the power of compounding to work for you by contributing to investments held in a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) because investing even a small amount each month can build considerable wealth over the years. Plus contributions to RRSPs are deductible from your total income in the year in which you chose to claim the deduction. Another RRSP plus: If you’re thinking about buying a home in the future, the federal Home Buyers’ Plan allows eligible individuals to withdraw up to $25,000 for a home purchase from their RRSP without any immediate tax consequences.

3. Save smart with a TFSA Start a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). It complements your RRSP because investments held in a TFSA grow tax-free. Each year $5,500 of new TFSA contribution room is created and unused room carries forward. If you need access to your TFSA balance, you can get your money back out at any time, for any purpose, tax-free. However, there is no reduction to your taxable income for TFSA contributions.

4. Avoid high credit card debt Credit card interest rates can be 20% or more so limit their use. Try to pay the balance in full each month, and pay on time to avoid late fees and additional interest charges.

5. Develop a budget – and stick to it Include all unavoidable expenses such as rent and utilities and be mindful of discretionary expenses, such as travel, that you can control.

By the way, now is also the perfect time to incorporate these five first financial steps into an overall financial plan that will help you meet your personal objectives. Your professional advisor can facilitate your financial success by developing a financial plan for your unique situation.

This column, written and published by Investors Group Financial Services Inc. (in Québec – a Financial Services Firm), and Investors Group Securities Inc. (in Québec, a firm in Financial Planning) presents general information only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any investments. Contact your own advisor for specific advice about your circumstances. For more information on this topic please contact your Investors Group Consultant.